Recently I was reading about the Global Seed Vault (aka the “Doomsday Vault”), which is positioned on an icy mountain between Norway and the North Pole. It contains more than 930,000 varieties of food crops, acting as a huge safety deposit box of all the world’s 13,000 years of agricultural history. As these seeds are a precursor to food currency, it got me thinking about the seeds for business currency, and the one I believe to be most valuable is the seed of IMAGINATION.

In my last blog I discussed how to step away from indoctrination and into imagination, and now I want to explore why developing and nourishing imagination is the most important thing leaders can do within the current business landscape, as well as practical steps to do so.

Within my many years as a leader in various organizations and as a leadership coach to high-level executives, there are a few findings I’ve learned about imagination in the workplace:

  1. It is contagious. For organizations void of imagination, it’s difficult to start the grow process. For those with deep, embedded cultures of imagination, it spreads like wildfire.
  2. A stagnant workplace is the result of a lack of imagination. The culture (and its people) begins to shrivel and dive even deeper into indoctrination.
  3. It takes a conscious effort/ignition to fire up imagination. It doesn’t happen by happy accident.

But enough gloom (like the mention of a Doomsday wasn’t enough)! There are ways to ignite imagination, resulting in elevated business currency which, in turn, leads to personal currency.

  • I’m not suggesting a daily game of hide-and-seek or breaking out the G.I. Joe collectables, but there are realistic ways to add more play to your work (and home!). Put a ping pong table at the office and have Friday tournaments. Plant a big puzzle in the break room for everyone to contribute. Start your virtual meeting with 10 minutes of fun trivia. These small actions go a long way, and once they are embedded in your culture, the flow of imagination will follow.
  • We all know laughter feels great. The aftermath of a good, cackling, belly laugh can feel like an exercise high. Laughter is also scientifically proven to increase endorphins in the brain, decrease stress responses and soothe tension. Long term health benefits include improved immune systems, pain tolerance, personal satisfaction and overall mood. In every interaction with your team, make it a point to add humor. It’s an easy team building strategy that reaps big rewards.
  • MEANINGFUL DEBATE. The new model of effective leadership must hold enough space for meaningful debate where participants leave the conversation knowing they still belong. These interactions are different than arguing or getting political; they allow imagination to ignite by being open to seeing a topic in a different way. It moves the brain from the “it can’t” to the “what if?”

The pace of the world is speeding up daily. The earth is literally spinning faster than ever and recently recorded its shortest day on June 29, 2022 (CBS News). The need for imagination is critical and time sensitive. What tools will you use to plant a garden of imagination to become the best leader and team possible?