Imagination allows us to explore other possibilities and through this process, we evolve our understanding.
At some time in the past, a hairy visionary decided he’d had enough of eating off the floor and wondered what it might be like eating his lunch sitting down. His imagination then offered up a number of hypothesis – a large flat rock perhaps or a branch growing at a suitable height and after a few experiments the dining table was duly invented!
Inventing the first table no doubt took trial and error, but more crucially, required imagination to even entertain the idea. Other animals don’t have this facility so haven’t progressed as humans have. Animals deal with the world as it is, humans deal with the world as it might be.
Einstein famously acknowledged that “Imagination is more important than knowledge…” His Theory of Relativity was realised when he imagined himself as a photon travelling at the speed of light . From this feat of imagination he understood the nature of the universe which only later proved to be true through mathematics.
Yet the idea that we use imagination to get to real truth is often viewed with suspicion within marketing. A lot of clients don’t like the idea that an insight is arrived at through a leap of faith. Instead they’d prefer insights to simply it self-evident through the data set before them. Yet the truth is, real insights only EVER surfaces via our imagination. If we arrive at one in any other way it’s more likely to be a simple, rational, linear conclusion than an insight. An insight requires us to take that ‘leap of difference’.
Even with mundane marketing problems, insights come to us via imagination. We shouldn’t be afraid to use it…