Book Smarts

What if—these two words strike fear in the hearts of many in our trade. We operate in an industry in which “the way we’ve always done it” and “the practices that have made us successful for 50 years” have framed our view for as long as most of us can remember. Effective? Maybe—back then, back when our business and our customers were predictable, back when everything was “normal.”

While most business owners today are quick to agree that innovation and creativity are essential to survival in today’s environment, few understand that both are rooted in imagination—the ability and willingness to conceive of what is not—to look at things as if they could be otherwise. According to Liu and Noppe-Brandon, in times like these imagination matters more than ever. More important, they believe that contrary to popular opinion, imagination is something we all can develop and cultivate—with practice. Bookstore shelves are loaded with trendy business books, each chock full of theories, concepts, and ideas. This book is different. This one is actually full of practical, actionable ways to expand our capacity for imagination. Think of it as an essential field guide for practitioners of possibility.

Imagination first begins by dismantling the myths of imagination—that you either have it or you don’t, that it’s some sort of mysterious, immeasurable entity or that imagination can’t be taught or cultivated. Then, the authors present nine concrete “capacities for imaginative learning”—simple steps we can all take to reach, touch, and expand our own imagination horizons. Contrast practices like “noticing deeply,” “embodying,” “questioning,” “identifying patterns,” “making connections,” “exhibiting empathy,” “creating meaning,” “taking action,” and “reflecting and assessing” with the traditional scientific method approach to problem solving we’ve all been taught, and new possibilities begin to take shape.

Finally, to support the efficacy of their beliefs, the authors present us with the real life stories of “28-and-a-half practices,” each designed to open our minds while helping us to reframe challenges and redefine potential. Each story is more inspiring than the last, telling tales from the worlds of education, business, and leadership. Titles like “Re-invent the Wheel,” “Think Inside the Box,” and “Swap Bodies” describe essential truths and present valuable lessons that are easily applicable to any industry—to any life.

This book is a must for anyone looking to grow and evolve with the new world business order. Taking the lessons of imagination first to heart will have you asking “what if” instead of feeling stuck with “what is,” while you reach new levels of success by looking at your business “as if” you were already there!