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Summary
Ideas are the new currency for sustainable careers. We can no longer simply apprentice our way over the years to master a profession or trade. Now, by the time we master some new technology, skill or system, it all changes. You can’t leave your imagination at home when you leave for work. Start asking yourself the how-can-I-do-this-better questions. Look for new markets and innovative products and services. Pay close attention to the problems that “bug” you. Make curiosity your watchword and be receptive to ideas that will make-a-difference. By unleashing your curiosity, you open your imagination to seek out solutions to existing problems. Open your eyes and notice things, however unrelated to your immediate problem they may seem and let your brain connect the dots.


About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph. D.
, is Founder and President of MasteryWorks, Inc., - a leading Career Development consulting organization offering innovative solutions to large and mid-size companies, including Baylor Health Care, Brown Forman, Northrop Grumman, Reebok, Bayer, Sprint, Sodexo, Sandia National Labs, and CapitalOne. MasteryWorks, Inc., provides enterprise web portals, training, consulting, e-Learning, and an assessment framework for employees and managers. For more than thirty-five years, Dr. Farren has been a passionate leader around complex issues redefining the workplace. She envisioned the current workplace climate fifteen years ago, when she published a cornerstone compendium on career development, “Who’s Running Your Career: Creating Stable Work in Unstable Times” (Bard Press, 1997). Through MasteryWorks, Inc., she oversees solutions that create the foundation for impact-filled “career conversations” - centered on increased contribution, performance, and fit. She is the leading authority of strategic approaches which consistently deliver employee engagement and retention goals for her clients. In her current series, “Facing Changes of the Next Decade,” Dr. Farren describes the most important characteristics of Sustainable Careers.

Visit www.masteryworks.com or contact Tom Karl, Executive Vice President, for more information - or (703) 256-5712


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Facing Changes of the Next Decade. . .
Challenge Your Imagination and Curiosity - The 2nd Characteristic of a Sustainable Career
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.


“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
—Albert Einstein


illustration

We live in a time when the tools for our imagination appear to be infinite. Information is at our finger tips.Introduction
Does your current job challenge your imagination? Give you reasons to ask, "What if" questions? Make that little voice in your head keep ringing, "Wouldn’t it be better if…" or whisper in your ear, "There’s got to be another way." Sustainable careers that face the changes of the next decade will most certainly challenge your curiosity, questioning, and imagination. Jobs that call for unimaginatively routine, repetitive tasks will eventually become obsolete or, as author Dennis Gunton says, "Anyone who can be replaced by a machine [will] be."

Ideas Are the New Currency
Writer Amy Fries advises us to start bringing our imaginations to work. She writes, "In this brave new world, ideas [will be] the greatest currency. We will face the equivalent of all the milestones of the 20th century, including world wars, creation of the automobile, sequencing of DNA, rise of the Internet, etc., in a single week by the year 2025." She expects "dramatic changes to keep coming at an ever-accelerating rate." See http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-daydreaming/201011/bring-your-imagination-work

This means you can’t leave your imagination at home when you leave for work. Start asking yourself the how-can-I-do-this-better questions. Look for new markets and innovative products and services. Make curiosity your watchword and be receptive to make-a-change ideas that will make-a-difference. Fries advises us not to "wait around for someone else to assign you the job of coming up with better ways to do things. Be attentive to your [ideas] and associations, write them down as soon as you can, keep a record, explore and develop those that seem worthy, and then share them when you’re ready." Amy Fries, Psychology Today, November 6, 2011.

Curiosity, imagination and creativity will drive organizations and careers to new heights, by quenching the world’s insatiable thirst for a continuing stream of novel ideas and innovative products. We live in a time when the tools for our imagination appear to be infinite. The ability to work with a myriad of people across disciplines and cultures opens our imaginative processes. Success belongs to those on the cutting edge, who can make things happen – who ask "why" or "why not".

Three Essential Elements to Organization Creativity
  • Leadership. Curiosity, imagination and creativity start at the top. Leaders create and support freedom that results in imaginative exploration.
  • Culture. Organizations that intrinsically establish and value a culture of innovation, creativity and imagination will break through to new markets, products and services.
  • Risk. Curiosity and imagination drive innovation and innovation inherently when acted upon presents risk or failure. The greater the innovation, the more risk for the innovator and the organization. Great risk is often accompanied by great failure or incredible success.

One Woman’s Imagination

See http://www.echelman.com/denver.html
Janet Echelman is a perfect example of someone the Nobel Prize winning biochemist, Albert Szent-Györgyi had in mind, when he said, "Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought." Janet Echelman never studied sculpture, engineering or architecture. After college, she was not accepted to art school, so she painted on her own for ten years until she received a Fullbright to paint in India for exhibition. However, her paints never arrived in the small fishing town near the exhibit. Echelman went for a walk along the beach one day, watching the fishermen bundle their nets into mounds on the sand. "I’d seen it every day, but this time I saw it differently—a new approach to sculpture, a way to make volumetric form without heavy solid materials." She collaborated with local fisherman and space age engineers to make a net of a million and a half hand-tied knots and created a soft surface sculpture that revealed every ripple of the wind in constantly changing patterns for thousands to see. Her innovative sculptures first appeared in the redesigned waterfront of Porto, Portugal and then the historic City Hall Plaza in Philadelphia. Her 230 foot long work hung off the Denver Museum of Fine Arts as a massively exciting sculpture for the Biennial for the Americas. She is currently adapting sculptures to buildings in Times Square, New York. Her innovative methods to build sculptures at skyscraper scale around the world have opened new and brilliant artistic horizons. See http://www.ted.com/talks/janet_echelman.html


Why Are Imagination and Curiosity So Critical to Sustainable Careers?
We can no longer simply apprentice our way over the years to master a profession or trade and then teach a next generation our carefully acquired skills and knowledge. Now, by the time we master some new technology, skill or system, it all changes. Why is imagination such a critical component of sustainable careers? It is the stuff that supplies the world with a continuum of novel products and services that make our lives easier, our world better and our careers stronger. Careers requiring thinking and imagination are unlikely to be outsourced, automated, rendered obsolescent, replaced by computers or robots and -
  • Imagination keeps us alive and exploring and questioning;
  • Questioning generates learning;
  • Questioning often challenges the status quo and brings about new options;
  • Curiosity generates questions that create new theories, approaches, products, etc.;
  • Imagination and creativity are needed to solve problems; and
  • Imagination and curiosity generate ideas that improve the quality of life – transportation, economy, health care, education, etc.

Get in Touch with Your Creative Side
More often than not, we simply serendipitously stumble upon ideas and onto some unforeseen event that turns on a light bulb for us. This appears to be what happened with Janet Echelman, leading her to a totally new field of volumetric sculpture. Of course, it helps to have the training and background that enables you to see something others have not seen. Whatever the product or service, a successful project or company starts first with curiosity - asking the “what-if” questions - that seed a vision. Then unrelenting work hopefully will move the vision to reality. By unleashing your curiosity, you open your imagination to seek out solutions to existing problems. Einstein thought the most important ingredient to creativity was to “never stop questioning." Open your eyes and notice things, however unrelated to your immediate problem they may seem. Let your brain connect the dots and lead you to novel solutions.
  • What is a problem at work that’s been bugging you?
  • Why does the problem persist?
  • What would things be like if the problem were solved?
  • Who has an investment in solving or resolving the problem?
  • What are 2-3 things you can do to move in that direction?

On the other side of every problem is a recommendation that can begin the resolution. Creativity and imagination occur when needs or problems are seen in a new way, a vision or new possibility is imagined, resources are aligned and people have the passion and persistence to take the steps and come up with creative ways to make the problem disappear or the new possibility to emerge.

Sometimes, imagination and life collide into one another in the most unexpected places. For example, the prolific Israeli inventor, Yossie Gross’ son was treated by a noted ophthalmologist for a bee sting in his eye. While they were treating his son, Gross learned that there was a particular incurable eye disease that blinded millions, called "macular degeneration." There are currently some 3.6 million Americans aged 40 and up who are legally blind.


A bionic retina is activated by special eyeglasses, transforming light into an electrical impulse that stimulates the neurons to send images to the brain.

Gross dreamed up a bionic retina, which he designed to restore full sight, by replacing the damaged photoreceptors with artificial ones. He found "a better way" of pairing electrodes with living neurons in the eye to create bionic sight for the vision impaired, using nano-technology. The implant device, about the size of a grain of rice, turns into an artificial retina that melds to the neurons in the eye. It is activated by the wearer using special eyeglasses, transforming natural light into an electrical impulse that stimulates the neurons to send images to the brain.


What Is Your Imagination Quotient (IQ)?
Here’s a little test to see how you, your work and your organization stack up dealing with creativity: YES NO
1. My daily work provides me with many opportunities for creative problem solving.    
2. Trends in my industry are well known and people are rewarded for creatively addressing them.    
3. My leaders and managers foster an environment of curiosity and imagination.    
4. My organization is known for having a culture of innovation and imagination.    
5. I usually ask, “Why?” when faced with policies or procedures that don’t make sense to me.    
6. I often have brainstorming discussions with colleagues about better ways to enhance our work.    
7. I am given the freedom to find better ways to do my work or succeed in a project.    
8. Do you trust that little voice in your head that says, "Wouldn't it be interesting if...”    
  Total – Yeses Total Nos    


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