I firmly believe that we already have an answer to our monumental economic problems—and it has nothing to do with changing the distribution of wealth. Nothing to do with public policy or even unemployment. It has everything to do with what made this country great in the first place — our imaginations.
You see, imagination is the single most powerful attribute we have. That creative spark is what led to leaders of industries creating brand new things never dreamed of before. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. They all had it. That powerful ability to imagine a future and then manifest it into the real world. A dream that became reality. And their imaginations, their dreams, created industry, created jobs, and made this country a leader in many ways.
We still have it. What we must do if we want to crawl out of the hole we’ve dug ourselves into is to stop worshipping at the altar of the almighty dollar and realize that creativity is our greatest resource. We need to nurture it. Find it. Develop it. We need to realize that storytelling, imagination and creativity aren’t things that are taught by teaching to the test. That questioning mind, that struggle to communicate and share ideas, is something we need to foster in our children and our workers if we truly wish to succeed.
Someone imagined we could go to the moon. It became a reality. Someone dreamed they could flip open a communication device (ala Star Trek) and not even 50 years later cell phones became a real thing. A flight of fantasy made flight in airplanes possible. Someone envisioned a day where you could hold a computer in the palm of your hand, and it’s here. Imagine what we could accomplish tomorrow, or next year, if instead of worrying about how to pound out better engineers or better financial managers, we concentrated on teaching those with imagination how to harness their gift — so that it could benefit us all. It would give those engineers something to create. It would create profits for those financial types to manage. It could create more jobs that we have employees.
And this is not just imagination in the arts, but imagination in science, imagination in math, imagination in industrial technology. We must dream it before we can create it. Someone has to have the creative spark to say, “Hey, what if….” Rather than shutting them down because it’s different or far-fetched, or has never been tried before, let them lead the way, because they see the path to our future.
Our innovative nature, our creativity, our ability to see the world in a different way and make it so, is the heart of what made America great in the first place. Don’t do it the way others have done, create your own path. That’s the American spirit. And if we want our children and our children’s children to have the a share in the American Dream, then we’d better recognize the power of imagination.
Albert Einstein said it best: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” And if a man as brilliant as Albert saw the value in imagination, surely we should too.
It’s 15 minutes long, but both inspiring and though provoking:
LeVar Burton The Power of Storytelling and Imagination from the Tools of Change Conference