Fengbin (Kathy) Zhao

learning designer, Beyondinno Design

This conversation is closed.

How can imagination lead to innovation?

What are the relationships between learning, inspiration, imagination, creativity, and innovation? How can imagination lead to innovation? What factors might play a role?

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    Oct 8 2011: Imagination is mother of Innovation
    • Oct 8 2011: Very very well argued.
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      Oct 8 2011: Hi Salim,

      This is an interesting metaphor. However, it would be also interesting to mention that Janet's 'Take imagination seriously' might imply that: Imagination is indeed important, but only taking imagination seriously can create a necessary condition for innovation.

      With writing this, I think of another metaphor: Failure is the mother of success. I never doubt this metaphor before. But now, I might want to reconsider it.
  • Oct 15 2011: A small and easy imagination exercise I teach: take two random objects and mix them, do many mixing iterations, until you get one that makes you smile - sign that you manage to surprise your left brain - then find an application, any, to this last funny mix. Eg. airplane is the result of mixing a bird with an engine. hope it is useful, (thanks for posting the question)
  • Oct 15 2011: Creativity is an individual phenomena, Innovation is a team effort, imagination spawns both. Methodical imagination, disciplined imagination (these are not oxymora), is the core process of innovation. Imagination can be enabled, learned, developed, enticed by a proper environment and then should be applied to any successful innovation endeavor. See the "can" (not the usual case, today) and "should" (no other way) of the previous sentence. I keep looking for ways for the "can" part, how to enable people to be more imaginative and for the "should" part, how do you apply this better in the work process? Will welcome any ideas. Yes there is a sprouting "Innovation science" in time it will become more useful.
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    Oct 12 2011: One cannot create something new or unheard of without an imagination
  • Oct 8 2011: Imagination is the intuitive leap between prior exposure to objects, ideas, experiences and knowledge; and the vision associated with solving a new problem, synthesizing a new idea, or otherwise creating something new. New experiences provide new insight and perspective to apply to the creative process. Innovation might be an application of one of these intuitive leaps to something existing, perhaps re-arranging things to solve a new problem. I see innovation as bounded by some existing set of circumstances. I see imagination as being unbounded.

    Perhaps sources of imaginative inspiration might be trying to define one sensory experience in terms of another, such as a painting inspired by a song or a sculpture based on the memory of some event.

    Factors in the ability to innovate or imagine include emotional state of mind and ability to focus, powers of observation, sensitivity to environment, natural surroundings, quality of senses, and life experiences.
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    Oct 8 2011: I agree with Salim that curiosity is the mother of innovation. Imagination comes next to Curiosity before innovation.Imagination lets one give a face, a form, a base to the curiosity.By imagining any idea we can see in our mind itself whether it will work or what we get if we do something like that..
    Even when we are collaborating on something we are giving the idea a base to be worked on which is common to the team.Imagination provides a base for the innovation to happen.
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    Oct 8 2011: Also, I can't help but thinking of invention as a very individual effort with a very concrete result. e.g.: Phonograph (record player), Edison; radio, Marconi...
    On the other hand, innovation looks to me more like collaborative work or team effort, with wide and open ended repercussions, as in TED or the internet.
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      Oct 8 2011: Hi Karina
      Maybe you're bit wrong to think invention to be something of the individual.
      I saw the day before yesterday a nice documentary on BBC4 about the early days of electricity.
      They played around with electrical effects for over almost a full century before someone started to make it into something useful. A lot of people were involved to make it from the secret of freak shows into a kind of battery. That’s when they thought that you could maybe do something with it.
      In the effort to reach new frontiers also a lot of inventions are done on the way as a kind of by-product.

      Even in prehistoric times you can see little improvements over a long period that lead from one thing to another.
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        Oct 8 2011: Hi Frans,
        Collaborative innovation is an important tag in TED. The discovery of DNA structure and many other stories on discovery (find out something that is already exist) and invention (create something that is new) remind me that collective solving problem is very important.

        Why did Leonard Da Vinci initiate many projects, but could only finish a few? There could be many reasons. I guess that one reason was that he lacked supports.

        Steven Johnson's Talk on "Where good ideas come from"

        Janet Echelman's "Take imagination seriously"

        all invovle this theme: collaboration matters in the process of innovating.
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          Oct 8 2011: Kathy,
          collaboration is indeed as you say helpful and seeing the questions from all angels, from inside and outside.
          More important though is to get a kind of intimate relation with the subject. Most innovations in history came from people that had a lifelong and intense connection with a tool, system, craft and had an inspiring moment of insight about how to do it better more easy or effective. The work for an inventor is to do the same in a fraction of that time.
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          Oct 21 2011: Kathy, If you read Gavin Menzies on the fleets of Zheng He, the explanation is that Chinese technology disembarked in Europe and triggered a "great leap forward" only first called the Renaissance in the 19th century.

          In short, Da Vinci got his hands on the ideas, toyed with them and never considered them anything more than pleasant Sunday afternoon distractions: there was never any depth to his vision into technology for the simple reason that he was NO technologist.

          Artist, yes, but technologist: NO.
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    Oct 8 2011: Hi, Salim! Great question!!!

    (Wikipedia) "The term innovation [...] generally refers to the creation of better or more effective products, processes, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society. Innovation differs from invention or renovation in that innovation generally signifies a substantial positive change compared to incremental changes."

    So, as we discussed in another conversation, it may have to do not just with "thinking out of the box", but with an entirely new approach, from idea-origination to development, sharing and final product.
    An example could be, the new and upgraded PC on one hand, versus a Mac product (Air, Book, ipad, ipod, itouch, iphone) Steve Jobs, the Da Vinci of the 21st century...
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      Oct 8 2011: Hi Karina
      I love to use Wikipedia whenever I encounter something unfamiliar. Wikipedia is a place that can lead me to somewhere.

      However, sometimes when I search something in my own field: something about learning design, I am not a big fan. Why? Wikipedia depends on people's contribution to each entry. The premise is: people with good knowledge about a subject matter contribute in Wikipedia. But this premise is not always true.

      Even in traditional professional journals, we can see how people disagree with each other. How can we assume that whose knowledge is more valid? The same thing is true for Wikipedia: How can we assume the current version of an item, at the moment of being seen by me is more valid? Even than previous versions?

      It is interesting that you mention the difference between invention and innovation, what about discovery. An opinion is that innovation is a broad term, which including invention and discovery.
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    Oct 7 2011: I think imagination is where innovation asks the question "would it not be better if?" I believe that imagination is where creativity leaves the premise of the mind and moves on the way to creativity and then to creation or innovation. Maybe inspiration is the kick start for imagination and then the process takes off from there. Imagination left in the mind is really fantasy. In education we need to stop trying to turn every kid into the next college professor and kick start the imagination at all levels of education up until high school seniors.
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    Oct 7 2011: I hope to add a few theme into this conversation: The Creative Spark, and I can only add the link here:

    http://www.ted.com/themes/the_creative_spark.html
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    Oct 7 2011: Janet Echelman's talk is titled as 'taking imagination seriously'.

    I am inspired and informed by her in a few avenues:

    1. Transform old use of net to modern ways
    2. Transform something "you look at" to something "you get lost in"
    3. Look for new material
    4. Build relationships with those can help
    5. Create new software
    6. Janet's 'building nets' in TED after the talk was posted: her persistent communicating with people in TED.