Imagination an underrated business asset

| May 22, 2012

Imagination can be synonymous with daydreaming, but it is an underestimated asset in the business world according to a new report from Canon. Craig Manson looks at why imagination should be more highly valued.

The Macquarie Dictionary tells us that imagination is the ability to form mental images, sensations and concepts in a moment when they are not perceived through sight, hearing or other senses.

Despite research showing that organisations that value and harness imagination are amongst the highest earning companies, across the board, imagination ranks last on a list of 15 workplace characteristics valued by employers – which leads us to the question – is imagination Australia’s most underrated business asset?

There is no debating whether or not knowledge is king; however, knowledge only reaches its full potential when its full value is being used – which is where we believe imagination comes into the picture.

What use is knowledge without the freedom to imagine new ways to deliver innovative products, services and solutions? And what role does imagination play in learning and retaining knowledge in the first place?

In Australia, I am the Director of the Canon Business Imaging team and we recently published the report, Imagination for Business – taking an in-depth look at the role that imagination plays in business. The report details results of a survey of 400 senior executives from organisations throughout Australia, as well as an experiment supervised by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) investigating the efficacy of imagination as a learning tool.

Professors John Sweller, Paul Ayres and Slava Kalyuga, from UNSW, who designed the experiment, proved that in a corporate setting, when presented with a procedure or concept to learn, imagining the procedure or concept achieves significantly better learning outcomes than conventional studying. The imagination group in the experiment improved their results by 63% compared with 29% for the study group.

That imagination didn’t make the top five in workplace characteristics in the survey of senior executives came as no big shock; however, the fact that it was ranked last is cause for concern as we believe imagination plays a very important role in business and is key for organisational success. We would also argue that using imagination to conceptualise the creative or innovative output – the vision – is an important part of the business improvement process.

Craig Manson is the Director of Business Imaging for Canon Australia and is responsible for the sales, services and marketing activities for production print and office solutions. Craig has been with Canon for seven years and was the Managing Director of Canon New Zealand before relocating to Australia in 2009 to lead the Canon Oceania go to market strategy and Consumer and Business Marketing teams. Craig took over full responsibility for Canon Business Imaging on 1 October 2010.