Imagination may be the life blood of innovation.  Unfortunately, many of us see imagination as something that is best left to children.  We may think of imagination as six-year-olds slaying dragons with sticks or spending time in a world of make believe.  As we get older we leave this world of fantasy and enter the “real world.”  In the real world we tend to deal with the pressing issues of the day and work through them.

How does this affect our ability to innovate?  Edison may have said it best when he said, “Inventors must be poets so that they may have imagination.”  It is interesting that he did not say that they “may be poets,” that “it would be nice if they were poets,” or “you would be more a more effective inventor if you were a poet.”  Edison didn’t say any of those things.  He said, they “MUST be poets.”  Imagination is a must for innovation.

So how do we apply this in our quest to be innovative?  If we do the following three things we can apply our imagination in our innovations.  We need to think, we need to dream, and then we need to do.

Thinking is not always an easy step.  Truly thinking deeply and taking time to examine the situation is a skill worth enhancing.  Edison stated it this way, “All progress, all success, springs from thinking.”

Here is the step where we use our imagination, where we dream, where we explore ideas in our own minds or with the help of others.  We have to look beyond the numbers and beyond the facts into the world of possibility.  “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’” —George Bernard Shaw

Action often separates those who lead from those who follow.  Many may dream, but can we turn the dream into reality?

One of the best examples of putting these three steps together is the first manned mission to the moon.  Just a few years before, in the 1950’s, a trip to the moon was the stuff of science fiction, not science fact.  Hundreds of innovations were necessary to accomplish this feat.

In a speech given on September 12, 1962 at Rice University in Houston, Texas, President John F. Kennedy inspired a nation with his imagination, his vision of what could be.

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone and one we intend to win.” – John F. Kennedy

In our pursuit of innovation we may not get to the moon, but we can think, dream, do and inspire those around us.

For the Full Text of President Kennedy’s Speech Click Here