Imagination the forgotten key to business success

business man with clouds above his head

Imagination is one of the country’s most underrated business assets, a new report has found, coming in last place on a list of 15 workforce characteristics valued by employers.

The Imagination for Business report, published by Canon Business Imaging Australia, found imagination is key to organisational success.

“…It not only drives innovation, we’ve proven that it significantly improves learning and knowledge retention in a corporate environment,” Canon director Craig Manson said.

Canon commissioned a survey of 400 Australian business leaders to investigate attitudes towards imagination, knowledge and productivity, and found that while 46 percent of businesses believe imagination is related to a company’s productivity levels, only 38 percent believe it’s related to revenue.

Just 35 percent of businesses said they train people how to apply their imagination to their work, while 47 percent of respondents said they try to harness and share imagination in their workplace. Organisations who said they value and harness imagination were found to be the highest earning companies.

Canon has also partnered with the University of NSW School of Education to determine the impact of imagination. Under the partnership, research was conducted on Canon employees based on an experiment developed by Emeritus Professor John Sweller two decades ago. This landmark research Sweller conducted with students found that when presented with a procedure or concept to learn, imagining the procedure or concept achieves significantly better learning outcomes than conventional studying.

Canon then applied this research to the world of corporate learning and development. The same training modules were used, with participants asked to either study using conventional methods or imagine the concepts and procedures, resulting in a significant win for the imaginative.

“The imagination group’s mean score was 63 percent compared to 29 percent of the study group,” Sweller said.

Canon general manager of human resources Ian Flemington said as a result of this study, the company is changing the way it structures its learning and development programs.

“It’s relatively straightforward to implement, but delivers a huge return on investment,” he said.

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