Monday, July 14, 2008

Imagination Before Reason

“Reason can answer questions, but imagination has to ask them.”
-- Dr. Ralph Gerard

Dr. Ralph Gerard was devoted to scientific inquiry his whole life. Gerard had a mighty mind and terrific energy that he used to continually ask and answer questions of scientific inquiry. Gerard epitomized creativity. He used his imagination to envision new questions. And, new questions always lead to new answers.

I recently facilitated a visioning session for the American Choral Directors Association in Oklahoma City. Their leaders from all fifty states gathered to discuss the future. I led them through a day-long imaginative process not to find answers, but to discover new questions to ask. It takes courage and creativity to discover what the new questions that will guide your thinking should be. The leaders of ACDA showed tremendous imagination and courage and enthusiasm.

I always start this process by helping groups develop their external awareness, within their industry and within the culture at large. Organizations must be internally focused with budgets, projections, and personnel issues, but it is imperative that they are also externally aware. This process requires you to hold the vision and the strategic tactics and details in your minds and your decision-making all at the same time. It is a new demand upon our well-worn skill sets, but this synthesizing skill, or as I described it to the choral directors, the skill of symphony, is one that can be cultivated.

Once you have the right questions, the answers come. Using our well-practiced skills of logic and pragmatic reasoning, the answers come more easily than you think initially once the right questions are excavated.

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