Key ingredient to business success overlooked: Report
Senior executives are overlooking and underrating a key ingredient for business success, according to a new report that investigates the value of imagination in a corporate setting, including its impact on revenue.
Imagination as a learning toolThe report also contains results from an experiment to investigate whether imagination is an effective learning tool in a corporate training setting.
In the experiment, conducted in conjunction with the University of New South Wales, 26 sales executives were asked to complete a multiple choice test on product knowledge. Half of the participants then used traditional study methods to increase their knowledge, while the other half used their imagination.
The latter's instructions were as follows: "In order to learn the material, read it carefully and then turn away from it and see if you can imagine the concepts and procedures that you have just studied. For example, where a particular function is described, see if you can imagine that function yourself. If you can't, read the material again and try again to imagine it. Once you succeed in imagining the procedure or concept, proceed to the next module."
The imagination group's test results improved by 63 per cent, compared with 29 per cent for the study group.
Canon Business Imaging Australia director Craig Manson says the study proves that imagination significantly improves learning and knowledge retention in a corporate environment.
It also drives innovation and is key for organisational success, he says.
For his organisation, valuing imagination means giving workers "better access to knowledge and the freedom to offer visionary solutions to improve productivity".
Imagination as a revenue raiserWhile creativity and innovation are regularly heralded as ingredients for success that can make or break a business, imagination rarely rates a mention, the report says.
For example, many of the survey respondents had little knowledge of the association between imagination and revenue.
Fewer than half (46%) agreed imagination was related to a company's productivity, and just 38 per cent said it was related to revenue.
Imagination differs from creativity (creating something new) and innovation (creating something new for business).
However, using imagination to conceptualise a vision is an important part of the business improvement process, the report says.
In fact, the survey found strong links between companies that valued imagination, and those with high revenue. High revenue companies were more likely to say, 'We reward imaginative people in our company through promotion and pay rises' (45% of those with revenue of more than $100 million, versus 27% of those with less than $10 million).
Knowledge and imaginationThe report argues that imagination is firmly grounded in knowledge, so increasing an employee's knowledge can increase their imagination.
"Knowledge is essential, but using imagination to acquire knowledge may add considerable value," it says.
"In a fascinating finding, the percentage of companies that valued imagination more highly than knowledge rose along with the revenue of those companies.
"Of companies with annual revenues below $10 million only eight per cent valued imagination more highly than knowledge (92%).
"This rose to 11 per cent in the $10 million to $100 million revenue cohort and 15 per cent in the plus $100 million revenue grouping.
The survey also found that in organisations where imagination was a company value, respondents were more likely to see the link between imagination and knowledge, productivity and revenue.
However, when asked which trait was more important in their workforce, some 88 per cent of survey respondents chose knowledge over imagination.
The report concludes by urging the business community to recognise the intrinsic value of imagination and "take action to protect and promote one of the nation's most neglected natural resources".
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