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What Do Walt Disney, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Edison and Nelson Mandela Have In Common?

TruWood Interview – Two 23 Year Old Entrepreneurs With Social Conscience

Why Imagination is Important at Work

Walt DisneyWalt Disney loved to use his imagination. Walt regularly wrote things down in a rough form that in many cases later became reality–or the genesis for some other idea. He did research to supplement his ideas, and he found new ideas through regular meditation. He cultivated his imagination by always asking questions and by brainstorming with the people around him. What was the defining factor for Walt Disney? Simple: From a young age, he was always asking questions. He cultivated a strong sense of curiosity, followed his natural instincts, and worked hard.

When he was just four years old, Walt’s family moved to a farm. It was there that Walt learned to love animals and first became interested in drawing. But just five years later Walt’s father was forced to sell the farm. Walt worked throughout his teenage years on a paper route and in a jelly factory, and took a correspondence course in cartooning while still in high school. He landed a job with an advertising agency at the tender age of seventeen where he learned the tricks of the commercial art trade.

Walt experimented with cartoon animation and created what he called Laugh-O-Grams. Then he began making animated fairy stories. But when the distribution ran into financial difficulties, Walt lost everything. Picking himself up by his bootstraps, he moved to Hollywood, hoping to become a director. When that didn’t work, he refused to give up–instead, he returned to the drawing board. He and his wife, Lillian, who would be his lifelong partner, worked hard and sold enough cartoons and graphic designs to pay the bills.

Early in Walt’s career, in his scanty studio he often noticed mice in his garbage can and around the room. One of them, a little mouse Walt named Mortimer, was the cutest of all and very mischievous.  As Walt tried to imagine a possible cartoon series, he thought of that little mouse, and he decided to do a series about a mouse named Mickey. As part of the process, Walt developed a sound-and-action synchronization system that was later used in the production of all animated cartoons. Released in the theaters, the cartoon series became an overnight sensation. Mickey’s movies and comic books appeared in twenty-seven languages and became an enormous international success.

Walt created a whole host of animated characters that would become loved the world over. The rest is history as Walt blessed the world with his imagination and talents. And he didn’t stop with cartoons: Almost everyone has either heard of or been to a Disney park–a place that lives up to the sign at its entrance, proclaiming it “the happiest place on earth!”

Imagination is a gift given to every person–you simply need to find ways to stimulate it, use it, and let it serve you. Here are several ways to do that:

•   Be curious and ask questions–What does the best look like? Questions help produce answers. So ask! Who? What? Why? Where? When? How? Is it ethical and in line with your character? Then dream, dream, dream!

•   Collaborate and Brainstorm–Consider all options. Everything is game. Invite others to join in the creativity.

•   Use Mind-Mapping to stir your imagination and clarity.
•   Walk Away— Relaxation and breaks can help generate new ideas.

•   Write – Use a Thought Book to record your ideas, bursts of imagination, discoveries, thoughts, and dreams throughout the entire process of creating the best.

Weekly Action:
 1. Identify a challenge or opportunity in your personal life or with your team. Dedicate a certain amount of time to creating as many solutions as possible. Use a pen and paper to keep the ideas flowing.
2. From your ideas, choose the top one or two ideas and develop a plan of how you can implement those ideas. When developing a plan, think who will do what by when.
3. Read pages 147 – 163 in Becoming Your Best: The 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders to unlock additional ideas on how to innovate through imagination.

The power of brainstorming

At business school, we opened our minds to fresh approaches by studying past innovations and then discussing them in our study groups. This was a remarkable process because each student added something to our understanding. I learned that having different perspectives is critical to innovation–and that’s what brainstorming is all about.

Brainstorming is when ideas are created in a brief get-together with several individuals where every idea, from the ridiculous to the sublime, is encouraged and recorded. The goal is to create a moment where ideas can flourish. Each new idea stimulates other ideas; the goal is quantity. Ideas are recorded, and judgment of any idea is suspended so that new ideas can keep flowing. You can do this exercise at work, in your family, with a spouse, and so on. These are some of the basics steps on how to brainstorm:

1. Keep the group size at a manageable level; work in groups of two to ten.
2. Present a vision, problem, issue, or opportunity and start throwing out ideas.
3. Give yourself a time limit. Generally limit the brainstorm to ten to thirty minutes.
4. Try to eliminate all interruptions or distractions. Turn off cell phones.
5. Choose a scribe. If possible, use a large sheet of paper or dry erase board so that everyone can read what’s written.
6. Practice idea generation without judgment; do not criticize or shoot down any ideas.

Involving others in the imagination process significantly expands the quantity and quality of ideas, options, and solutions. In the right circumstances and environment, the results can be almost magic. For those who feel like they’re not “creative” or have no “imagination”, you’ll probably be surprised at the amazing ideas generated during a simple brainstorming session.

Weekly Action:
1. Brainstorm for solutions. As a group, choose an opportunity or challenge. This can be an individual issue, family issue, or something from your organization. Set a time to have a brainstorming session between 10 – 30 minutes. Identify as many potential solutions as possible.
2. Read pages 147 – 163 in Becoming Your Best: The 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders to unlock additional ideas on how to innovate through imagination.

How to grow through innovation

When you tune in to your imagination, it will help your business, your relationships with children and partner, and even your ability to overcome personal challenges. “Imagination” is one of those words that inspires us. Einstein claimed that it’s more important than knowledge. Things are created first in your imagination before they become a physical reality.

EDISONEvery inventor had to first imagine what they wanted to create. The Wright Brothers imagined flying and made it happen; Thomas Edison imagined the filament for the light bulb that made it burn for thousands of hours; and Henry Ford imagined making cars for every American, and the assembly line was born.
These technological breakthroughs were simply part of someone’s imagination at one point. Think of a time when you imagined an outcome and then it happened? You don’t need to be an Einstein or an Edison, but you do need to use your imagination to help you establish a vision of the future. Before starting any project, job, or new endeavor, first imagine what your desired outcome is. Then get busy making it a reality.

Weekly Action:
1. Close your eyes and visualize an outcome. Once you are in a relaxed state with closed eyes, begin to calmly imagine your intended outcome, whatever that may be. Create precise images in your mind of that which you intend to see materialize.
2. Take a walk in nature. Take a break from routines and expose yourself to the beauty around you–free your mind from “brain clutter.” Some of the best ideas come when you don’t think about them. Don’t force the issue, just let your mind consider different possibilities while breathing some fresh air. Remember, Edison came up with the filament for the light bulb while fishing!
3. Have a group brainstorming session. Tackle a project by first discussing ideas in a group of two or more people. Allow everyone to present ideas without criticizing them. Notice how other people’s ideas spark your creativity and get you thinking about ideas you might otherwise have missed.


old spice turn-a-round

High Speed Internet.
Space Travel.
Cars, Trains, & Airplanes.
Smart Phones.

How would you explain the 21st Century to a time-traveler from Medieval Times? It’s difficult knowing where to begin! Think about how far we’ve come, now think about the possibilities that lie ahead! Principle #8 is about possibilities. The possibilities of human imagination and creativity are endless. With possibilities come HOPE. There are solutions to problems. There are ideas waiting to be acted upon. There are many options available. This is the spirit of imagination.

Just like when 110 volts of electricity rush through a wire to ignite a light bulb when you flip the switch, solutions to problems are sparked when we turn on our imaginations. Wow, that is powerful! Your imagination can bring hope by giving you access to solutions, ideas, and options for resolving your challenges.

Here’s the Process:
1.You have a problem or opportunity.
2.You “flip the switch on” and use your imagination.
3.You find a solution and achieve brilliance!

Here are several ideas to help you “flip the switch:”
• Take a 30 minute walk outside and contemplate the issue.
• Set aside the issue for a few days and then resume work.
• Hold a brainstorming session with peers or associates.
• Start and actively maintain a “thoughts journal” to record your thoughts and ideas.

OLD SPICE HORSEOld Spice is an excellent success story. It totally redefined itself in 2008 through a brilliant and fun marketing campaign. As a result, it experienced an amazing and rapid 400% growth!

Prior to 2008, Old Spice was a struggling brand. It was associated with past and elderly gentlemen. In 2008, people at Proctor & Gamble recognized the problem, “switched on” their imagination, and found a brilliant solution! These people decided to completely rebrand Old Spice and give it a new, awesome name and attitude–“swagger”. P&G decided to target ages 12-34 (instead of elderly gentlemen) and compete with Axe. The new marketing campaign would be all about how Old Spice gives guys “swagger”–transforming them from nerdy wimps into strong, manly studs

This illustration shows the effects of the imaginative, creative campaign:

Weekly Action:
1. Identify a problem or opportunity and take a 30 minute walk. During the walk, contemplate possible solutions. Even if you don’t find an immediate solution, hopefully, you’ll have greater clarity and sense of direction.
2. Identify opportunities and write them in your thoughts book. A better future? A better school for your child? What opportunities lie in front of you? Now, “switch on” your imagination and identify ways to take full advantage of those opportunities.
3. Click Here and watch this famous Old Spice commercial. Consider the “off the wall,” and imaginative scenes that made this ad a success. Consider what “off the wall” solutions there are to your problems.