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leaps of imagination



How do you define imagination? To me, it’s the first step in bridging the problems we face and their solutions.

Imagine working on an app that would help users get out of debt because they’re making better informed financial decisions.

Imagine using technology that allows patients and their doctors to better manage their health.

Imagine creating a better umbrella all because you were stuck in the rain with a crappy one.

Problems are often the spark for developing innovative and creative solutions that improve the quality of life for everyone.

There’s a problem, however, that can hobble problem-solving. What it is? The “I can’t” mindset, which we all suffer to a greater or lesser extent. “I can’t” is often the hurdle that separates problem recognition and imagination. However, if we can get past “I can’t,” we enable wonder, curiosity, creativity and, sometimes, groundbreaking innovation.

4 ways to let go of “I can’t” thinking


The “I can’t” mindset is a hurdle we all can cross if we’re willing. Here’s four ways to shift your thinking.

  • Believe you can and then ask “why”.

If you believe you’re creative, that’s good because you’re going to need that creativity in learning to trust yourself. If that’s too big a leap, then start with trusting in a process that begins with “Why?”

If you’re stuck in the “I can’t” mindset, attack it with “Why?” Ask yourself, why do I feel stuck? Beginning with “why” can aid you in discovering the root cause of an issue. Why liberates your mindset because you put the factor that’s causing the self-doubt into perspective, which enables you to move on.

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how. ~Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher


  • Shift the way you see “The Problem.”

We usually perceive problems to be bigger than they really are, a reality that causes intimidation and avoidance. Learn to be sensitive to feeling intimidation, and train yourself to see problems as an invitation or challenge. Train yourself to keep asking questions. See problems as an opportunity to change your mind about what you think is possible.

Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced. ~James Baldwin, novelist and social critic


  • Ask “What if?”

There is a technique to asking “What if” properly.

Creativity is like a muscle that needs a workout routine. Start your workout with a silent warm-up ideation round of three minutes in which you write down as many “What if?” or open-ended questions as you can.

Now follow with by a round of team sharing in which each person takes a turn sharing their “what if” questions. Participants come up with ideas and solutions to the “what if” questions they hear and write them down. Repeat three times.

I advocate for written ideas so louder and more vocal people don’t have an advantage. A necessary ground rule for the sharing process is positivity. Show support for good ideas. Keep the vibe open and friendly with positive, affirming language.

Imagination is more important that knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. ~Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist


  • Manage the creative momentum.

While collective brainstorming and discussion can be fun while producing group bonding, there’s a more important takeaway, and that’s helping participants get out of their own way. They learn to grab and then distill the best ideas that are out there. Having too many ideas can be its own problem, so it’s important to determine the best ones.

The power of imagination created the illusion that my vision went much farther than the naked eye could actually see. ~Nelson Mandela, political leader and philanthropist

Embrace the power of imagination


By now, “I can’t” looks pretty ridiculous and unnecessary as an approach to problem-solving, doesn’t it?

Learning to not let an “I can’t” mentality stump you yields not only creative solutions for a single problem, but it also provides a general principle about using your imagination with which to address all problems … or, rather, opportunities.


Today’s guest contributor is Mona Patel, CEO and Founder of Motivate Design, a user-centered design agency based in New York City. In addition to helping clients and other Fortune 500 companies feel unstuck, Mona is also a teacher at Parsons School of Design.

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay





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