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Why Imagination Is Key To Business Success

By Charles Hopkins Published 11/27/2007 | Entrepreneur
The average person thinks of a business person as either some kind of poker-faced accountant or some cherubic extroverted sales person.

You rarely read an article in the popular medium about an imaginative business person or often hear of one who is highly creative, artistic, and imaginative.

The popular concept of a business person espoused by the media is someone who is rather dull and linear in their thinking. They are referred to more often as "hard-nosed" and "practical." In fact, many business people themselves buy into this erroneous stereotype.

Yet imagination is the heart of business success. While corporations themselves may appear to be based on buttoned-down rules and regulations, the entrepreneurs who started them have all, without exception, been highly creative and imaginative. Those corporations that remain innovative and progressive still retain some themes of imaginative expression.

Napoleon Hill, in his perennially popular book, Think And Grow Rich, goes into great detail about the seminal role of imagination in business success.

He talks about two types of imaginative faculties: "synthetic" imagination and "creative" imagination.

Through synthetic imagination, a person arranges old concepts, ideas, plans, and business models into new combinations. Now while nothing new is created, the new pattern yields surprising results.

For example, the self-help grocery store where customers do all the work of shopping is now very familiar to us, and we can't even remember when things were different.

However, the original business model was to have people come up to the counter of a shop and present their list to the sales clerk who would then run around the store and fetch it for them.

Now, with the use of aisles, clear directional signing, and shopping carts, the job of a store is to keep it stocked and check people out.

In fact, even this idea of checking people out is becoming obsolete, with many stores now offering people the option to check themselves out. Thus, the customer does all the work. Pulling out and wheeling the shopping cart, selecting products, and checking themselves out, and carrying their own bags to their cars.

The result of this arrangement is that everyone is happier. The customer gets to be in control of their shopping experience and the retailer can handle many more customers.

The creative imagination borders on the mystical.

Here is how Napoleon Hill describes it:

"Through the faculty of creative imagination, the finite mind of man had direct communication with Infinite Intelligence. It is the faculty through which 'hunches' and 'inspirations' are received. It is by this faculty that all basic, or new ideas are handed over to man. It is through this faculty that individuals may "tune in," or communicate with the subconscious mind of other men."

An example of creative imagination is the invention of the original recipe of Coca Cola, which went on to spawn the entire soft drink industry.

Business, then, is far from being a game of conservative rule-playing. It is humming with imaginative ideas on how to serve the marketplace. This aspect of business is seldom mentioned in the media and we are often mislead to believe that creative and synthetic imagination is only the domain of the artist.

The business person, especially the entrepreneur, who starts to exercise more imagination, will notice many more ways to make money, creating new channels of supply and demand for the marketplace.