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But Can You Outsource Imagination?

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Consider cultivating time to consider

One persistent problem in today’s workplace: no time to think.

Frank Lloyd Wright re-imagined this windmill in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

Frank Lloyd Wright re-imagined this windmill in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

Open floor plans contribute to constant interruptions, as do the barrage of meetings we file into and out of most days. Projects have fast timelines, which do not lend themselves to fully consider ramifications—so we default to action.

And as Curtis White might say: our deep involvement in (what seem to be) sacred institutional processes precludes us from using our imagination. The way we get things done—all those guidelines and guardrails—also serve as blinders, shuttling us down the same paths again and again. We stop seeing other ways to do things. Maybe we stop seeing that there are other things worthy of our attention.

As freelance copywriter, I see this all the time: friends and colleagues embroiled in their system so deeply they forget to imagine the larger issues having just as much impact. One of the great privileges of my work is to come alongside friends and colleagues to think through an issue from a different perspective. Of course, no one hires me to think (thought that sounds like the perfect job). They hire me to write stuff. But in the process of systematically going through their marketing campaign or explaining how a product works or working through the medical literature, new perspectives pop up. Things my client has not yet considered. Small tweaks to a product or presentation that make a huge difference in the outcome.

Though your workday may seem too tight to think through an opportunity or problem, isn’t it in your best interest to carve out the time to do just that? You can off-load many project tasks, but it takes fresh imagination—possibly sparked by an hour away from your desk—to see things differently. A fresh take can make all the difference in the world.



Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

July 29, 2014 at 10:13 am

Seth Godin: Send Yourself Fan Mail

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On Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Wright was a pioneer in using windows almost like walls, to bring the outside in

Frank Lloyd Wright was a pioneer in using windows almost like walls, to bring the outside in

There’s a fascinating chapter in Paul Watzlawick’s The Invented Reality (NY: Norton, 1984) on Self-fulfilling Prophecies. Those are the statements someone makes and then the world seems to change and grow into it. Watzlawick cited the situation in March 1979 when California newspapers made “sensational pronouncements of an impending, severe gasoline shortage,” which fueled (haha) an actual shortage. Looking back, there had been enough gas to meet the need, but the dire pronouncements changed buying behavior (people topped off tanks and hoarded gas) and so the shortage was born.

Watzlawick also cited the famous “Oak School Experiments” (eliciting the Pygmalion Effect) where teachers’ expectations of their students were tampered with using so-called intelligence tests. Though the students were actually picked at random, the teachers’ high expectations elicited stellar performance from the (purported) high-achieving students.

One of the more famous examples of self-fulfilling prophecy is that of Frank Lloyd Wright. Even before he was born, Wright’s mother was busy planning Frank’s architecture career and putting up images of great buildings in the baby’s room. And long before Frank had done any actual work he was boasting of his great career. He was one of the greatest boosters of his work as he reinvented himself several times and well into his 80s. Actually Wright’s story is even more interesting because he came from a clan where generations were known for resolutely going their own way.

And as we all know, Wright’s architecture turned out well—stunningly well. Pivotally well: much of what we know today of good architecture stems from Wright’s willingness to break with Victorian tradition and bring the outside in.

I like how Seth Godin puts it today (“The opposite of anxiety”): picture the compliment your seminar attendee will have after the seminar you’ve not yet done. See your product on the shelf at the local grocer—the product you’ve not yet completed. Write the fan mail from the person changed by the thing you’ve not yet done. In this Godin has a technique for getting at the emotional reward at the other end of your process—and it’s all anticipatory.

One need not be sold on the power of positive thinking to realize that what we tell ourselves—along with the questions that consume us—all have a bearing on where we go, what we do and who we become.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston


Written by kirkistan

August 2, 2013 at 8:06 am

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