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Imagination

fingers behind backCross
your fingers behind your back and you know what you have done even
though you cannot see it with your eyes. That’s because of proprioception, the ability to tell
where our body parts are and what they are
doing through the body’s internal feedback via muscles, joints, and
tendons.

It’s a physical phenomenon, but not a mental one. We don’t have this
same
self-awareness when our mind takes a posture, creates a concept, or
makes an assumption. We construct ideas and then we see them as real,
not for the self-generated creation they are. That’s why questioning
assumptions is so important and
can lead to breakthroughs.

Chris Argyris developed the Ladder
of Inference
as a tool in 1990 to
make this process visible. To get an idea of how the ladder works,
start from the bottom of this diagram and work your way up:
Chris Argyris Ladder of Inference

Because of the above reflexive
loop
, we often get trapped in our assumptions.
We start selecting the data we let in based on the beliefs we have
constructed. This makes us progressively more isolated, reinforcing our
perceptions and assumptions while filtering out anything that does not
jibe with our current worldview.

There are great and wonderful ways to counter that tendency:

  • Meet unusual people and listen carefully to how
    they put their world together
  • Take trips to foreign cultures and let the
    differences in – especially those that are unsettling
  • Grapple with difficult, complex issues –
    especially those that push you out of your comfort zone

Of course, there are masters of innovation. These are people dedicate
themselves to breaking free of the reflexive loop. They hunt down
unusual, unorthodox, and innovative ways of looking at the world. They
develop and wield their imagination passionately, the way
others pursue scuba diving, gardening, travel, or growing a
business. They make it a point to grow new thoughts, find
connections where others see paradox, and suss out the patterns hiding
in plain sight.

HeraclitusHeraclitus (535-475 BC) was perhaps the
first who was well known for his pursuit of unorthodox insight. His
philosophy revolved around change
as the way of
the universe.

It was he who gave us such timeless epigrams as:
* You cannot step
twice into the same stream

* The way up and
the way down are one and the same

* Unless you expect the unexpected,
you will never find the truth.
* It is by changing that things find rest.

He was
a self-taught man. When quizzed on the source of his wisdom he famously
said, I searched into myself.

What is the most powerful tool in your kit to change our world for the
better? It is what you find when you search
into yourself,
your imagination. This is your unique ability to
conceive something new to dedicate time, energy, and resources toward
bringing into existence.

So, what will you
imagine today? What new idea will you midwife?


May 2011 eventSpeaking
of being up front… Join me May 12 & 13 in Wash, DC, for this very
amazing and unique event. These two days, hosted by
Steve Denning and me, will be dedicated to remaking the management
mindset; that is, reinventing business, government, education, and
health. Attendance is limited to a small group of 30 participants and
seats are almost sold out! Only 2 left!!!...
All information is here.