Notes from an Imagination Advocate, Part Two


Image by Jane Hoffer

It’s always pleasing for an author who has written about an idea to see that idea reappear spontaneously in public discussions. I’ve experienced this pleasure with the “ICI Continuum,” a concept that Eric Liu and I include in Imagination First and that refers to this relationship: “Imagination -> Creativity (imagination applied) -> Innovation (novel creativity)” (20). In other words, imagination is conceiving of what is not, creativity is doing something with that conception, and innovation is advancing the form in question. Seems commonsensical, right? People are starting to think so, happily, but there hasn’t always been robust agreement on these issues. Continue reading

The Spark


Image by Manoj Vasanth*

One of the major points in three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L. Friedman’s March 21 New York Times op-ed column echoes an argument that Eric Liu and I make in Imagination First. Writing enthusiastically about the recent Washington, D.C., awards dinner honoring finalists in the 2010 Intel Science Talent Search—a competition that asks high school students to solve scientific problems—the journalist trains the spotlight on imagination. Continue reading

Helping Students Find Their Voices

Metaphorical Ways of Knowing: The Imaginative Nature of Thought and Expression offers tools for teachers to develop the imaginative use of language in their students with the goal of fostering thinking, expression, and discovery,” posits Lincoln Center Institute teaching artist Lynn Neuman in her review of this title from the National Council of Teachers of English. ”The book will help you help your students develop their own voices, but it might help you further your own as well.” Read Neuman’s full review on LCI’s Resource Center Blog.


Imaginative Justice


Image by Clyde Robinson*

One of my goals in writing for this blog is to convince readers that imagination is not some mysterious gift that only artists and a few other “special” individuals possess. In fact, we all have it, and it plays a role in every field and profession. My past entries have shown imagination at work in the arts and sciences, business, education, government, and religion, but recent news from California turns the spotlight on the justice system. “What?” you may ask. “Courts, cases? Where, in such a rigidly organized structure, is there room for imagination?” Amador Superior Court of Amador County, CA, has answered that question. Continue reading

Reframing Business


*Image by Olivia Vaughn

In a recent blog entry, I wrote about Malaysia, which has officially declared 2010 “the Year of Creativity and Innovation.” Evidence of the spread of the imagination movement has since turned up in another Asian country: India. The story, reported by Pradipta Mukherjee in the Business Standard, involves several high-powered CEOs and … acrylic paint? Indeed, Mukherjee describes an intriguing instance of the arts and business worlds coming into contact with each other and defying conventional expectations in the process. So how did 18”x24” canvasses find their way into the offices of 25 Indian corporate leaders? Continue reading

Imagination Goes Global


*Image by Germán Meyer

Much of my work on imagination—Lincoln Center Institute’s Imagination Conversations and the book Imagination First, for instance—focuses on the United States. As I’ve said many times before, I want to see an imaginative shift in American education, one that will foster a national workforce of creative problem solvers and bold thinkers. But we advocates in the U.S. need to be aware of initiatives taking place in the rest of the world, too; after all, imagination is a human capacity, not merely an American one. So it’s with great interest and pleasure that I bring to your attention some recent developments in Malaysia.

In the Malaysian newspaper The Star, Priya Kulasagaran reports that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has launched “Malaysia Innovative 2010,” calling 2010 “the Year of Creativity and Innovation.” Najib, like me, believes that this new emphasis is necessary if a country is to be economically competitive. But Kulasagaran also quotes an educator who, while agreeing that developed right brains are essential for success in the 21st-century marketplace, points out that “[c]reativity should not be seen as … a commodity, but a lifelong process of trial and error.” Eric Liu and I make the same argument in our book, Imagination First: far more important than innovative products and services is the development of a community of imaginative thinkers, an “ecosystem of possibility” (174). The article soon transitions into a discussion of the classroom. Continue reading

Notes from an Imagination Advocate, Part One


Image by Jacob Bigelow (1786-1879)*

As regular readers of this blog know, most of my entries have to do with things going on in the world—with people in various sectors whose careers and actions embody imaginative practice. But it seems appropriate now and then to retreat from the hustle and bustle, exciting as it is, in order to reflect on some of the major issues facing imagination advocates like me and my colleagues at Lincoln Center Institute. One matter I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the educational discussion centering on the STEM fields.

“STEM,” for those who don’t know, refers to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the fields arguably responsible for the most impactful advances in society. In recent years, the United States government has demonstrated its desire to promote STEM education in public schools and in colleges and universities. This makes plenty of sense; as the STEM Education Coalition explains on its Web site, these fields play a “critical role … in enabling the U.S. to remain the economic and technological leader of the global marketplace of the 21st century.” Yet, with all of the enthusiasm for STEM, arts-in-education proponents sometimes wonder, “Well, where do we fit into this picture?” Continue reading

Food for Thought


Image by Kelley Taghon

What does a former deli in South Bend, Indiana, have to do with imagination? More than you might imagine. Under the leadership of CEO and President Phil Newbold, Memorial Hospital has turned the space into what Gene Stowe of the South Bend Tribune calls “an energetic creativity classroom.” It still looks like an eatery—there are tables, chairs, and display cases—but the objective now is to nourish the right brain rather than the stomach. Open to hospital workers and organizations of all kinds, Innovation Café @ Memorial offers classes and workshops intended to promote imagination, creativity, and innovation. These delicacies are described in a “menu” that includes, for instance, appetizers such as “Pre-Visit Readings”; “Introduction to the Basics of Innovation” as a “Soup and Salad” course; a “Chef’s Choice” entrée of “Putting Innovation into Healthy Community Initiatives”; and a “Side Dish” of “Real World Stories.” Not to mention the “Yummy Desserts”! So how exactly does this unusual “café” function? Continue reading