A mother once asked Albert Einstein how to raise a child to become a genius. Einstein advised her to read fairy tales to the child.

“And after that?” the mother asked.

“Read the child more fairy tales,” Einstein replied, adding that what a scientist needs most is a curious imagination.

Imagination is important not only for scientists, but also for anyone looking for new and better ways to do what they’re already doing. And who isn’t in favor of that?

Imagination is what keeps the engine of a good salesperson crackling with vitality.

Your imagination can take you to plenty of places you’ve never been. But if you haven’t used it for a while, try these ways to awaken your imagination:

Ask Questions. What if I shake up the order of my presentation or even make such simple adjustments as changing the graphics in my PowerPoint? When I go to my chief competitor’s website, what one product or service feature do I admire most, and how much will it cost me to build in an option equally as good?

Take Risks. You might admire the way a whiz in the engineering department constantly comes up with new ideas. Invite that person to coffee and ask how he or she does it. Start a project–like beefing up product quality control for outsourced components–that will require you to learn new technical skills.

Be curious. Read different business news sources on the Web in the morning. (There are dozens!) Try an exotic ethnic restaurant your #1 client has been raving about. Read that book recommended by the college prof you most admired. Talk to someone who has served in a combat zone or in the thick of a humanitarian relief mission, and imagine yourself in that situation.

Expect the unexpected. Instead of lamenting that things didn’t turn out exactly as you planned, figure out how the surprise results might be even better. Entrust a younger colleague with editing a sales pitch, and you find a breezy new way to present your case to Gen-X customers with shorter attention spans.

Build a model without instructions. Take a pile of Legos and see what you can create. Play with Play-Doh. Make a food sculpture. Choose a color and note how many objects are that shade. Get on your hands and knees and look around from a child’s point of view.

Mackay’s Moral: Imagination’s one and only rule: If you can imagine it, you can do it.


About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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