Imagine Voraciously Webinar Transcript
Rick Bailey was recently invited to lead a webinar about his recent book, Imagine Voraciously, by Bay Path University’s Center for Higher Education Leadership and Innovative Practice (CHELIP). In the webinar, Rick highlights some of the takeaways from the book and offers insights to encourage your own voracious imagining. You can watch the recording here.
Hello, everyone, and welcome to our July leading edge thinking and higher education webinar. We are so excited for today’s webinar. I think if you are like me, coming out of the pandemic, I’m feeling a very strong need to ignite my own sense of creativity and imagination. And personally, I cannot think of anyone better to lead us in this process today than our presenter, Rick Bailey.
I am thrilled to welcome Richard Harrison Bailey, who goes by Rick Bailey. Rick is the founder and principal of the higher ed marketing consultancy agency RHB. He has 30-plus years of experience in not-for-profit marketing. I have been a client of Rick and his team in two different institutions. I can tell you that he is one of the best, if not the best marketing professionals that I have worked with. He and his team really have a gift in terms of getting inside your institution, and figuring out what makes you tick. He’s also spent a good chunk of his life and career in thinking about Coherence: How Telling the Truth Will Advance Your Cause, which is the title of his first book and his recent book, Imagine Voraciously, is a wonderful, wonderful resource. And it’s something that we all need now coming out of the pandemic more than ever. So with that, Rick, we’re so excited to turn it over to you to learn from you and to imagine voraciously together over the next hour.
Thanks so much, Melissa. And Jen, are we good on our screen?
Great. Thanks. So grateful for the invitation to be with you today, and I appreciate your joining me for this webinar. I’m really glad you’re here and I look forward in this next hour to getting inside your head a bit. If you’ve ever seen the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, you’ll remember a great theme song written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley called Pure Imagination. Some of you might even be humming that right now. In the song, Willy Wonka sings about the bliss of a life of pure imagination. And he sings, “Living there, you’ll be free if you truly wish to be. If you want to view paradise, simply look around to view it. Anything you want to do, do it. Want to change the world, there’s nothing to it.” Your imagination will take you to places you likely have never been into adventures you may have never dreamed.
So let’s begin by using your imagination right off the bat. Let’s start with this exercise. I want you to imagine a color; just get a color in your head. Just see only color. You can choose one you like, but it might be one you’ve never seen before. Create a blank canvas and just cover the canvas with your color. You got that? You may need to relax to the point that it’s all you see in your mind. If you can do that, you’re using your imagination. Now, I would like you to park that color in your head somewhere, just stash it somewhere for a minute. So Melissa told you I wrote a book this last year—actually she helped to inspire it. But it came about because the last 20 months or so have taken a real toll on all of us. And early at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I wrote a post called “The Next Best Thing” in response to the cause of what sounded like panic from our higher education clients, and they were very concerned about what to do in light of the pandemic.
For most of these callers, the thing that would have been great was the return to normal, whatever normal was for them. But things at that time were anything but normal. The disruption to normal caused them a ton of concern. And of course, we wanted to offer expert recommendations to find the next best thing to do going forward. And even though every client has different challenges, they all needed reminders of some basics, so I suggested five important and viable things to do. The first of which was to keep your eyes open, that is stay alert, watching for both dangers and opportunities. The second thing was to imagine voraciously or use the precious time of the disruption to think newly and differently. The third thing I suggested was not to cut off your nose and I offered that as a caution to administrators who are slashing budgets out of fear. And they were tempted to reduce their budgets in areas that they probably should not. A lot of times they were taking big chunks out of marketing—that was the wrong moment to do that. As leaders, I encouraged them to keep spirits bright because part of the leader’s responsibility is to provide support and motivation to the team. And finally, I suggested that they prepare for extreme pivots knowing that normal was being severely challenged, and it would likely require immediate and substantial change.
But of those five, the phrase I used, “imagine voraciously” seemed to strike a chord, and a few folks suggested I write more about that. The topic and message seemed timely as a ray of hope when hope was pretty scarce. And I’ll talk about that a little bit more when I suggest that the word voraciously was intentionally chosen to address this particular time. But as we begin, I think it’s important for us to understand what imagination really is.
Imagination is a bit mystical and difficult to describe, but science is helping us better understand what goes on in our brains. And what science sometimes does best is to tell us what something is not. And with that in mind, let’s look at some misinterpretations about our imaginations. First, it’s probably not left or right brain power, it’s all-brain. You’ve likely heard the claims that suggest whichever side of your brain is particularly wired as a priority leads to the type of thinker you are, or worse, determines what you should do with your life, whether or not you’re going to be an accountant or an artist. But as science has learned, our brains are networked to connect in all sorts of ways, from various parts and hubs of our brains. The use of our imagination crosses all of them repeatedly.
Last year at RHB we invited a neurologist to speak with our team about the research she and her team were doing to map the movements of neurons through the brain to determine patterns, particularly when deviant behavior is present. And you might wonder what that has to do with imagination. But Dr. Jane Yap is measuring capacity for coherence, a topic that is, as Melissa suggested, very dear to me, and how we connect dots of meaning. Her findings are illustrating that our brains are wildly active, and not necessarily given to left or right side in priorities.
Next, it’s not just for the uber-emotional; you’ve probably also heard someone say that creative people are more emotional. So when you describe someone with a vivid imagination, you’ll assume they’re more in touch with their feelings. And this, too, is proven to be untrue.
While those with some effervescence may enjoy their imaginational adventures more, you don’t need to be overly emotional to activate your imagination. Here’s good news, it’s not exclusive; use of your imagination is for almost everyone. There are some people who struggle with imagination, and I’m going to talk about that in a few minutes. But for the most part, you can count yourself among those who have a high capacity for imagination. And this piece is important: imagination is not reality, but it’s sufficiently powerful to reshape your sense of reality. Imagination is a powerful tool that can alter your sense of reality, it can affect what you taste, or smell, your sense of time, your ability to recall events and their sequence. It’s influential in your sense of what is real, but it’s not the same as reality. Nor is it the same as creativity. I’m going to explore those differences a little bit more in just a minute. But I’m going to first start talking about what imagination is.
Imagination is mental imagery, or your ability to practice mental imagery. Cambridge University neuroscientists have arrived at the most accepted definition of imagination as “conscious simulation that can impact perception, cognition, and emotion.” It’s a succinct description. But think about a time when you’ve used your imagination. In all likelihood, you can identify how your imagination changed what and how you perceive circumstances, what you understood, and how you felt. Let’s say you imagined your next birthday party, perhaps you could visualize the cake or who would be present at the party or whether you’d be surprised. You might have come to terms with an awareness of your age. And you may have been elated, or thrilled, or maybe even a little depressed by the thoughts of it. Your imagination is at work shaping your sensibilities apart from a real experience.
A minute ago, I told you that imagination and creativity are not the same. Imagination is serendipitous, it just happens. I’m going to tell you how you can train it, but it is pretty serendipitous. The beautiful thing about it is there’s no why question imposed on it; there are what questions but not why questions. It’s free, it’s free-reining, there are no boundaries, you can go where you wish, anytime you wish, it’ll take you outside your reality. But it has no side purpose. Creativity, on the other hand, is a result of your imagination. It has a purpose, it has reason. It’s real, it has a frame. It’s intentional, has boundaries. It does ask why, because it’s purposeful. And it’s generally accompanied by some motivation that is outcome driven.
So let’s say you have a picture in your head. One of my peculiarities is that I hear full orchestral scores of songs I’ve not heard before. This happens a lot to me on an airplane. I don’t know why, but that’s where my imagination takes me. But I can hear a whole score inside my head. Now seeing an image or hearing a new song is my imagination at work. If I chose to sit down and paint that picture, or write the score to the song, that would be creativity. Can you see the difference? But here’s the important thing to know, imagination comes first, I would have to “hear” that before I just drop it down (on paper). Now some of that may happen more simultaneously for some than others, but imagination comes first.
Let’s try this. Earlier, I told you to imagine a color. I would like you to take that color from wherever you parked it and bring it back. And now choose an animal and apply that color to the animal. It doesn’t have to be the color of the animal (as you know it in your reality). Just think of an animal, take the color that you had before and now cover that animal with that color. Getting the color in your head and the animal in your head is imagination. But applying that color to the animal in this instance, is creativity because I gave it to you as an objective assignment. So if a blue flamingo popped up in your head, without the prompt, it would more likely be imagination. But since I told you to do it, it’s creativity. These are closely connected things, but imagination comes first. And If I told you to model what you saw in your head with play dough, that for sure would be creativity.
The nuances are subtle, but I think you get the point. So, you know a little bit about imagination and I want to talk about why we need to use it voraciously. I love this word, it’s a great word. It’s like another word I like very much too; veracious—that’s about truth telling. As Melissa suggested, it’s also one of my favorite topics. But these two are not the same.
Voracious comes from the Latin root vovare, which means to eat greedily. You’ve heard that expression before right? Maybe applied to me, “Oh Rick, he’s a voracious eater.” You might also be a voracious reader, one who seems to constantly be picking up books of all types to read. But vovare is where we get our word devour, and carnivorous, and all the other vorous words like herbivorous or omnivorous, or frugivorous, or graminivorous or piscivorous. All of those are our ways of describing how we might eat greedily. You know what all of those are? First one’s herbs, then people who will eat anything are omnivorous. Frugivorous if you like fruit, gramini is if you eat grass and piscivorous is if you’re committed to fish.
But all of those words come out of that vovare, to eat greedily. Another meaning of that word is “very eager;” it’s a similar expression and you can see the connection there. Now, here’s what’s awesome about your imagination. It’s never really depleted, there’s always more, which is why you can, and I believe you should, use it fully and greedily. Just try to use it up again. I’ll speak in a bit about the value of feeding it but, we can’t deplete your imagination. Your imagination will lift you, help those around you and create better circumstances when you use it fully, particularly when times are bleak. When disaster strikes, your imagination can help you break free from chains of what seems like limitation. Your imagination will lead to the creativity necessary to see your way out of or through the difficulty. Remember, imagination comes first. So if I need to be creative, my imagination needs to be engaged voraciously in order for me to arrive at workable solutions.
Have you ever been frustrated when describing something that doesn’t exist to someone who just doesn’t get it, who can’t see what you see? What did you try to do to help them envision what you could clearly see? And if you have a response that you want to share with us, be sure to use the chat.
I told you earlier that imagination was fairly universal. There are some people who struggle with imagination. And let me identify two groups that scientists have studied. One is a small group of the population that suffers from aphantasia. They’re simply unable to derive mental pictures. So when they’re redoing their homes, and their interior designer suggests that they picture a wall of wisteria blue, they just can’t. And despite a designer saying, “can’t you just see this?”, they can’t; they don’t have that capacity. The other group is almost the opposite, and this is also a small portion of the population. But those with synesthesia—(say that 10 times real fast)—their imaginations are so vivid, that they connect sound with color or associate shapes with math equations, or may even experience the sensation of touch when hearing a particular instrument. They’re over imaginative. And those are two deviations from the norm, you may find yourself in one of those groups.
I like this quote from Picasso: “Children seem to have a keener imagination than adults.” And their sense of play and time for it are more pronounced. So let’s go back to a time when you were a kid, for just a minute. What did you pretend as a child? Do you remember? Again, if you feel so inclined, feel free to share that in the chat. Why is it, do you think, that children seem to have an easier go at imagination? Why does it seem effortless for a child to imagine something? I think there are at least three reasons.
Childlike wonder is fed by three primary things.
One is freedom, and that’s because typically, children are unbound by adult concerns. Of course, some children face horrible circumstances that rob them of this freedom. But generally, children have schedules that are open, they have less responsibility, and they usually have fewer commitments that require their attention. So they’ve got freedom to mentally explore.
Second, with children, we tend to encourage the use of imagination in a way that we don’t with adults. For example, we allow children to play dress up or pretend to be other characters or use dolls to act out their imaginings. We emphasize reading to them and storytelling, and we introduce new images and ideas that feed their imaginations. We don’t do that so much with adults.
And the third is this sense of happiness that most children experience. Now, I’ve mentioned earlier, there are children whose circumstances are truly dire and they don’t enjoy this level of happiness. But for the most part, children are more inclined to a happy outlook. And that release: it’s time to wander without worry. All three of these factors almost seem out of place with adults. We don’t let adults wear costumes of all sorts for playtime. And we don’t let them work to disencumber them from responsibilities. In fact, we lock people up with responsibilities or burden them with difficulties. They’re faced with all kinds of challenges and as we mature, that means that the opportunity and the mindset for imagination is thwarted. And I think they’re also thwarted by three things.
One is a sense that we adopt some untruths. Like, we can’t do that, or we’ve never done it that way, or that’s too expensive, or there’s not enough time. And when you hear enough of those lies, you have a tendency to believe them. And consequently, you don’t allow yourself to occasionally even imagine something different. Likewise, related to that is fear if your imagination wasn’t encouraged, or you were chastised for having wild ideas, or you were one of those kids that everybody said, “Well, their imagination’s really vivid.” You can develop a fear of not being socially accepted, or worse, criticized.
So here’s some wonderful news. Your imagination does not need to be shared with anyone, it’s private. It’s a gift to yourself that you can nourish and exercise without anyone elses knowing. And that’s just fine.
And the third factor that thwarts imagination is failure. If you’ve had experiences that suggested your imagination was weak or ill appropriated, you might feel a sense of failure that tends not to make you want to repeat it.
So remember, the difference between imagination and creativity: you can have a vivid and active imagination, with no responsibility or purpose. So feel free to let your mind go. All of those obstacles have to be overcome for you to enjoy the gift of your imagination to the fullest.
Did you come up with some things that you pretended as a child? When I was a kid, we played kick the can and all kinds of things. But if I could get the neighborhood organized, we’d play secret agent. I grew up in the middle of the Cold War, so spying was a big deal. And so we would play secret agent and organize the kids around the block as agents.
And the other thing that’s weird—I haven’t found anybody else who played this on their block—but I’d organize the neighbors to be an ad agency and we’d find some kids to be “clients” and some to be “creative types” and we’d set up buckets on broomsticks to serve as spotlights so we could take photos. It was great. The kids didn’t know what we were doing, but it was fun. So, when’s the last time you devoted any time to pretending? You don’t do that very much. You need to. And I want to talk about how you can feed your imagination, how you take care of it. This might be what your last 20 months have felt like. In order for your imagination to take off, you need some good rest, particularly after a year and a half like you’ve just been through. Space and freedom, remember, are hallmarks for healthy imagination, and rest delivers on both of those. You need downtime, away time. You have to allow for those if you intend to be your best imaginative self.
The other thing you need is will. You need some determination to make better use of your imagination. You can wait for your muse to kick in, but that will only occur if you desire it, too. You can stop that, thwart it by will. Your control of your mind and body can obstruct effective use of your imagination. But you can also lasso your mind and body to more effectively use your imagination.
And the third thing I think you need is a good diet. And while I’m a huge advocate of good snacks—I think good snacks are always a good idea—I’m not talking about food for your body. I’m talking about feeding your mind and soul. And let me suggest three ways to improve your imagination diet.
The first is to shake up your routine. We get addicted to ruts: they’re easier, we get our tires aligned with the ruts and we almost don’t have to think about it, we just go where others have gone before us. But that’s also a lazy approach. A bit of disruption will force you to pay attention especially to your imagination. So when there’s disruption, you’re required to think differently. No longer mindless, disruption requires full engagement and there’s value in that.
Secondly, I encourage you to take adventures. We learned early on when we started our firm that our team needed prompts to get out of our routines and so we introduced Crew Advance to our calendars as a way to break free of our ruts. We would do Crew Advance once a year. And you may have something similar with your team, but you might call it a team retreat.
We think, and thought then, that “retreat” sounded like we were going backwards away from the action and we didn’t care to do that. Instead, we intended to invest in breakaway activities that would promote breakthroughs. We wanted to go forward into new territory. So we planned our outings that included adventures like horseback riding in Texas Hill Country, or deep sea fishing off the coast of Florida or mountain hiking in Arizona or sailing in a pirate ship in Lake Erie or bourbon tasting in Kentucky (a particularly good one). These past two years, we’ve had to do this virtually because of the pandemic. So we’ve taken virtual trips together. Not long ago, we went to Prague to learn about how the pandemic of the 14th century was managed, and how healthcare worked in the 14th century in Prague.
We also went to Portugal to see street art. And I would encourage you to take adventures with your team to inspire imaginations by feeding it with new stuff. Speaking of new stuff, you need to absorb as much as you can. You just can’t squeeze anything out of a dry sponge. Wherever you can absorb, do it. So for example, let’s say you really enjoyed comic book art, and maybe that’s your exclusive art intake. So you’re really familiar with classics like Jack Kirby or Will Eisner. But if that’s all you had to go on, your imagination wouldn’t take you much further outside that. And you would miss some of the other delightful ways that comic art is expressed. You’d miss the dynamism of expressions from Gaudi, or Hadid, or Degas, or Klimt, or Calder, or Seurat, or Miro, or Grabuschnigg. All of those would feed your comic interest, but would served to inspire your imagination for something new. So step out of your familiar, it’ll help you imagine voraciously. What I’m encouraging you to do is to be a greedy eater.
Alright. Remember that color you had in your head a few minutes ago. You applied it to an animal. I want you to apply that same color to everything in the room around you. Imagine your computer, that color, your keyboard, your desk, your pencil, your stapler, your walls, cover the windows with that color. It might take a minute to get there. But use your imagination fully to capture a different way of seeing. Work on this and I’m going slowly here so you’ll spend some energy doing this. You’re going to go back and forth from reality to your imagination. You might even be staring at your computer and see the computer in real time and in real space, and with the color it was manufactured with, but your imagination can paint that a different color and you can see that in a different way. As you glance around the room, keep your imagination going by covering each item with color.
The value in exercising like this is that it trains you to more easily drift in and out of your imagination. And you use your imagination as a tool for problem solving. Think about the next committee meeting you’re part of. Without anyone knowing, you can engage your imagination, freeing your mind to take you to new places. That could be really fruitful in the work before you in that committee meeting. But you can go to a private place, practice your imagination, while you’re in real time. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. And remember, if we’re imagining voraciously, because imagination comes first, we can then apply it creatively. One way we’ve tried to help the RHB team in transferring between imagination and their work assignments was to host Great Fridays. The name Good Friday was already taken, so we adapted, called it Great Friday.
Once a month, we’d invite a guest artist, a writer, calligrapher, a chamber ensemble. A guitar player, a screen printer, a sculptor, someone who devoted their time and energy to creativity. We’d move the furniture in the office around to create a bit of stage area and our chairs, we’d assemble little rows, so we could be in the audience. And then for 20 or 30 minutes, our guests would demonstrate their creativity by performing. We agreed with every guest that while we wanted them to show us what their talent was, we especially wanted them to talk about it with us after the performance. We wanted to learn how they use their imagination and creativity. How did they exercise and become proficient? What had they learned about using their talents imaginatively? What were the transferable lessons we could learn as a team?
One of them I remember was a chamber ensemble, who talked about how they converse with their eyes while they’re playing, so that they can stay together in tempo, in rhythm, and in their dynamics as they played and in their breaks when they played. And we learned a lot from watching a chamber ensemble play to teach us how to work together as a creative team. Those hours with artists outside our area of expertise were some of the best-invested hours of the month. So I’ve given you some ideas about how to exercise your imagination, and if you want spontaneous imagination, you can exercise to make your brain more readily receptive to imaginative stimuli. But you do need regular practice. Here’s that chamber music image I was looking for a minute ago, sorry.
I want to revisit this question in closing. Why this book? And why now? I think they must have a word–There’s some organization that must select the word of the year and my vote would go for unprecedented. How many times did you hear that word or someone started a comment with “these dire days” or “in this challenging year” or “in this time of challenge or distress” or… but I heard the word unprecedented more often than any other. Unprecedented means unknown, as in: it’s never happened before. And those that used that word unprecedented probably discounted the plague of a century ago. These months have been really new to us, and this period of the last 20 months have challenged us, disrupted us, in ways that have forced us to think differently. And because we had no experience with this, we didn’t really have a protocol for what to do. Which is why clients were calling with a bit of panic, to ask us what we should do.
I believe that our imaginations are our greatest asset and defense in unprecedented times. If we’re facing new experiences, a well-oiled imagination can kick in to do the work of seeing possibilities not yet experienced. Our imagination serves as keys to the unknown, and our imagination fuels creativity. We need people like you to help us move forward. We need people like you willing to engage their imaginations to prompt creativity in problem solving. Which is precisely why I encourage you to exercise your imagination. This last exercise may take a little bit of time so you might even want to do a screencap of this slide so you can think about it later. And I hope it encourages you to engage your imagination fully to address some questions.
Let’s say you’re a founder of a college or university, Imagine what that feels like. Imagine your first day. Imagine how you might draft a mission. Imagine how you might shape a curriculum. Imagine what was happening in the world around you that would prompt you to think about studying at college. Or imagine the market conditions at the time that would help you figure out what you want to do differently than anybody else. Imagine your enthusiasm for the effort. And imagine your dreadful fears about the undertaking. I think stepping into that experience will serve you well, particularly if you’re marketing your institution and think about why you’re here. And how you might tell your story and your history in a way that’s relevant.
So fire up your imagination. I think we’ll all be better for it. So my invitation is for you to imagine voraciously. Thanks so much for joining me today. It’s a pleasure to be with you. I hope you’re encouraged to exercise your imagination to its greatest capacity. I wish you the best as you lead through unprecedented times. I think we have about 15 minutes, so thanks so much and Jen, I’ll turn it back to you and see if there are any questions.
All right. Thank you, Rick. That was amazing. I am happy to take some questions. As Rick mentioned, we encourage you to type any questions you may have or just some comments or share in the discussion into the questions box, which you should see there on your GoToWebinar panel. And I will read them aloud and Rick should be able to answer them. If there’re any other questions about, like, logistics of the GoToWebinar platform, I should be able to answer those, as well. So I’m going to turn my webcam off just for the time being and will read aloud those questions just from the audio. Okay, Rick, here comes one. What are other favorite imagination exercises of yours?
We do an awful lot of different ones. I think, finding ourselves in other places, one of the things we do is, take your chair, where you’re sitting now and move it in your imagination to another spot in the room. Before you do that, look carefully at your current surroundings, get a sense of where you are and what’s in front of you, beside you, above you, below you, just take it all in. And then mentally use your imagination to shift to a different spot in the room in your chair, your body in your chair, go to another spot in the room. And sit there and imagine what you’re seeing now that’s different. Same stuff in the room, but you’re seeing it from a different perspective. And try to imagine what you’re looking at. For example, right now, I’m seated in front of my computer. But if I could imagine myself moving six feet to my right, I have to think about what I would see there and I wouldn’t… My computer would be off to my left, but I’d be staring at a blank wall.
And I’d have to think about where the desk was in relationship to my chair. I’m closing my eyes, because I’m trying to imagine that. What’s to the left of me now? To the right of me will be a wall and in front of me will be a wall. And I can imagine myself sitting in that spot. I think when we work at it, this is a great thing to do outside by the way, get in your favorite lawn chair and try. A little more interesting than doing it in your office, but transferring yourself to a different spot, and imagining what you’re seeing, will help you particularly in your problem solving as you’re trying to get perspective about somebody else’s point of view, or some other circumstance. That’s also great when we’re in an unprecedented time. What would I be doing six months ago, before a year and a half ago, before the pandemic versus what I’m doing now? And how do I transfer those things? How does my perspective help me arrive at creative solutions? I also encourage you to flip through the book, you’ll find a bunch.
All right, great, thank you. A little follow up to that: what benefits are there, if any, of allowing your body to move in response to imagination? Imagining yourself leaving a meeting a presentation and allowing your body to mimic or mime what you imagine yourself doing?
Yeah, I think that’s great. That’s awesome. Even when you’re preparing for a meeting, I think getting up, if you’re going to stand to speak, stand to speak. It’s a little bit like going back to that sense of childhood where we encourage children to act stuff out. We typically don’t do that for ourselves or for our colleagues. But I think there’s great value in immersing ourselves in an experience like that. So dress the way you’re going to dress, stand if you’re going to speak. Try those things out. I think that your ability to picture how things are going to go puts you in a mindset and a frame for what you can anticipate. I think those kinds of pre-experience imaginings make us more successful in the moment.
All right, excellent. Another question, can you give us some recommendations on how to convince our colleagues who may be reluctant to participate in these exercises that they’re a good thing to do.
That’s so interesting, because at RHB we’re in the middle of a consultation with a group that’s helping us understand our customer experience better. And with every lesson, there are exercises that were given. And the one we were given last week, this just doesn’t sit right with me and I’m trying to imagine doing it with our team, particularly virtually. And I kept being the resistor saying, “This isn’t going to work. Let’s not do this.” And we’re going to do it on Thursday and so it’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out. We’re going to quote Shakespeare together, but in sequence, and with different emphasis. So we’ll see how that goes. But it’s easy to just say, “Oh, we can’t do that as a team, we’re not going to do that, I’m not going to try.”
Your job as a leader is to try, I’ve had some miserable failures along the way. There are a couple of doozies that I’ve proposed to the team that I still get teased about 15 years later. But I encourage you to try, and I encourage you to get everybody to participate. Start small, do something that’s not too invasive at first, but work your way up. I think you’ll find more receptivity than you probably can project at this point. But bring everybody along with you and explain why you’re going to try something. I think you’ll have more success if you talk about what it is you’re trying to achieve and why it’s important for everybody to participate. Common problem.
Thank you. How do you address the challenge of unprecedented times being a time where imagination is most needed, but yet it can be hardest to take the time for it or be intentional about it with so many other stresses, etc?
Yeah, right. Right. That was part of my counsel earlier to say, particularly in an unprecedented moment, you’ve got to make sure that you’re feeding your imagination. And again, part of that is getting rest. And there’s no time for it, so you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to carve time for rest. That’s when you need it most. You also need will. But then feed yourself, feed your imagination every moment you get and feed the imaginations of your team. In those unprecedented moments is when you deliberately need to take a creative break with your team. Take an hour to do a virtual experience; we’ve had a lot of success doing Airbnb experiences. They only take an hour. They’re not horribly expensive. And you can go somewhere around the world. We’re going to do one in a few weeks with a beekeeper in Portugal. And at this point, I don’t know what beekeeping is going to do to feed us, but I’m pretty sure it will. And even the planning of one gets everybody encouraged and excited and they look forward to it. So you may not feel like you have an hour, but that investment of an hour will pay incredible dividends. I’ve watched it so many times that I’m a huge advocate.
Okay, great. Thank you. I’m just reading a couple of these questions, making sure some of them are ones we’ve already answered. Rick, can you share a practice or two with us, that you do to keep your thinking fresh?
I am a voracious reader; I like being exposed to lots of different things. So one of the easiest ways for me to take in different information is just to read all kinds of things, things that I may not think I’m interested in. Different artists or different ways to make things or different periods of history, or particularly I find biographies or autobiographies pretty fascinating. And I’m trying to read as many different kinds of things as I can. An easy one, I used to do this all the time was window shop, and be a retail investigator. And just, I didn’t have to buy anything, I just wanted to see what products were out there, and how they were presented to me. That’s been a little bit difficult during COVID. But prior to that, just taking something in, go to the art museum. Take a walk around the grounds of park. Walk around your community. One of the greatest things about COVID is that I discovered all kinds of neighborhoods I’d never really paid attention to, been to places here in Indianapolis I’ve never been before. Because I took a walk and take a walk. All of those things will feed you. Any place that you can gain a new experience is healthy.
Okay, excellent. We have time for just a couple more questions here. Rick, what power do you believe imagination has over changing the future?
I don’t think the future will change without imagination. And somebody’s imagination is going to influence it. Whether it’s somebody flying in outer space, to show us what could happen for a couple of minutes, or whether it’s somebody showing us how to create an electric vehicle, all of those things come out of somebody’s imagination and I think it’s imagination that is the driver for the future. And I don’t think we’ll have the future we want without you using your imagination shape it.
Awesome. Thank you. So I encourage folks to put in additional questions or comments that they may have. Right at this time, I’ve got one more official question, but we’ll give a few minutes for anyone still typing. Rick, if people want to follow up and talk to you about this, how can we contact you? And how can we get the book?
rhb.com. And drop us a note. You can write directly to me, if you wish, at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can hook you up with a book. The book isn’t on Amazon, my book on Coherence is on Amazon, but we haven’t put Imagine Voraciously on Amazon yet. I think we’re going to have to, but for now you can get them directly through RHB and you can grab our email from there, or fill out a little form on there and just tell us you want to book and we’ll get one to you. I think they’re $24.
Can I jump in here? And just first of all say thank you, Rick. This has been an incredible, incredible hour and I have the book and it’s a wonderful book to do with other people. So the way you have designed the book with the questions it makes for a— to the questions about how to inspire others or involve others with the book itself is a great vehicle for doing that. So I think you must have had that in mind, right?
I was hoping teams would be able to make use of it. And we found that to be true where people are asking for multiple copies for their teams, so that they can work through the questions and the exercises together. And they’re using them for team meetings.
Yeah. Well, it’s a great vehicle for that. The other thing, I love the story you shared about, when you were a little kid, and you used to organize the kids in the neighborhood, to do an ad agency. I did the same thing, you and I would have been great pals. I didn’t do an Ad agency, I set up my garage as a school. And I went out and rounded up the neighborhood kids and I made them come to my garage school, and I was the head of the school and so it is going back to that. And what triggered this for me was reading Richard Branson’s comments after his incredible spaceflight. No matter what you may think of Richard Branson, his ability to honor his imagination throughout his entire life is a great example. And he talks about how when he was a little kid, this was in his head, he had this dream of going into space and it took what, 70 years, but he never let go of the dream. And wow, look at where it wound up.
Yeah, I was interviewed a few weeks ago, and somebody asked me that question about what I played as a little kid. And I said, secret agent, ad agency, and architect. And I said weirdly, I think I’m doing all of those things now. So those things I pretended, became reality for me even before I knew that was truly possible.
Yeah, yeah. Oh, gosh, it’s so powerful. And we lose sight, right? Growing up, some of that stuff gets punched out of us, but to go back and take the time to think about who we were as kids, and find a way to reconnect is so powerful. So, wow, well, thank you so, so very much. I mean, we could go on and on, we could have you here for weeks, learning from you. But I highly encourage folks to get the book as a next step, and to reach out to you for— if they want to have a dialogue or just involve you in their own efforts. So, Jen, is there anything else? Any other questions before you do your ending?
I don’t see any additional questions. I think I’ve gotten to everything. If anyone, there’s ones that I’ve missed that I’m just not seeing, go ahead and type that into the chat. But I think I’ve gotten to everything.
Okay. All right. So we’ll turn it back to Jen for the ending here. And again, Rick, thank you so much for sharing your imagination with us today.
Thank you, Melissa. It’s been a pleasure.
All right. And thank you all for staying with us today.