Greetings. This past week, during one of our Team Learning Adventures, I took twenty executives from one of the companies we work with to a new exhibition on invention at the National Museum of American History. The exhibit, titled "Invention and Play," provides a wonderful and hands-on understanding of the innovation process and the role of play in sparking new thinking. In the process it profiles some remarkable inventors and ideas including:
Newman Darby, inventor of the "sailboard" and the sport of windsurfing.
Sally Fox, inventor of naturally colored cotton.
Luis Alvarez, Nobel Prize winning physicist who received more than 40 patents and is best known for his invention of a radio distance and direction indicator.
Stephanie Kwolek, a DuPont chemist who invented kevlar.
And Garrett Morgan, inventor of the gas mask, the "caution" signal in traffic lights and a wide range of other innovations. While Morgan had only a formal sixth grade education, he was an avid learner and had a special gift for invention, solving problems and fixing things that would lead to a successful business career in his hometown of Cleveland. Upon hearing of the deadly Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City, he invented a safety hood and fire protector that he would use in 1916 to rescue two men from a tunnel fire under Lake Erie. He also invented a three-color traffic signal that provided guidance to vehicles coming into an intersection. When asked about the secret to his success in coming up with important innovations, Morgan's niece replied: "Some of these things just came from closing his eyes and using his imagination."
Which begs the question: "How often do you find time to close your eyes and imagine a more compelling solution to a problem your company or organization is facing?" Or simply take the time to imagine a new and powerful idea that might make a real difference in the lives of your customers. In the press of our in-box and day-to-day responsibilities, most of us rarely take the time to imagine.
We win in business and in life when we use our imaginations. And sometimes all we need to do to get started is close our eyes.