Potential: Revealed

Strategic Thinking, Innovative Ideas, Growth Marketing, and Revealing of Potential

Archive for perfection

Imagination

Albert Einstein once wrote that in science “imagination is more important than knowledge”. That’s a powerful thought. I suppose you might expect nothing less from an intellectual giant such as Einstein.

What resonated with me, as someone who often not only wants to understand but who finds fully understanding something (i.e., “knowledge”) to be particularly satisfying, is the caution it offered about seeing knowledge as the only worthy end (to some research you’ve conducted, a project you’ve managed, a business problem or opportunity you’ve worked hard on).

Further, in reading more about the context of Einstein’s writing this line, he is saying bluntly that science like many pursuits in life is really just a journey, full of unknowns and unfolding unendingly. At any given point in time there are many truths or facts that are well-accepted and proven but an infinite number more truths and facts that are quite unknown and sometimes seemingly unknowable. Particularly in science there are many areas of study that deal with phenomena that are not readily or directly observable.

Einstein,and other great scientists, made many of their most astounding breakthroughs using their imagination rather than getting stuck trying to understand the seemingly unknowable. They would imagine some alternative reality to what was known at the time, think through how this alternative world might look and how it might operate if it were discovered to be true, then go about experimenting, searching and testing as if the alternate view were indeed true. This gave them great freedom to work creatively rather than be confined by the “known”. As a non-scientist, for me at least, this was very revealing and refreshing – creativity and science go together! I think I thought before this that they were mutually exclusive.

I began to relate this to my work with business clients where we might be talking about a new product or concept, or a new approach to promotional marketing and other challenges where some facts are well known and many others are for practical purposes unknowable. In such a situation how do you proceed? Einstein would say, if I may be so bold as to speak for him, to first beware of investing all your time into trying to know everything. This is similar to the common advice to avoid “analysis paralysis”. He adds to this common wisdom a more unique point of advice: use your imagination and then be bold enough to just try it out! Experiment. Try. Fail. Try again with another approach.

This is of course no guarantee of success. Your imagination might fail you. But when faced with a big challenge, using your imagination can be a powerful tool to spur action and overcome inaction. At the very least, doing so will give you a taste of how Albert Einstein thought and that alone will be fun!

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Perfection

Recently I read an excellent blog by author Neil Steinberg called Pursuing Perfection which got me thinking about this concept (yes, concept) called perfection.

Neil gives examples of where “the perfect is not always so perfect”, such as Michael Jordan failing in the final seconds of a 1995 NBA playoff game, or a sphere of pure silicon created during a space flight that upon minutely close inspection has tiny (i.e., 35 nanometer) fluctuations. Small imperfection, yes. Imperceptible to the human eye. But a flaw nonetheless.

In addition he notes that handing out of a judgment that perfection has been attained – for example gymnast Nadia Comaneci earning the first 10’s in Olympic gymnastics history in 1976 – can be momentarily satisfying but fleetingly so. Since that day in 1976, scores of 10 are both more commonplace and questionably the mark of gymnastic perfection.

So, as I like to think about, write about, consult about “revealing and attaining your potential”, I wonder if perfection is the destination, or the journey? In light of the thought that arriving at perfection somehow then ruins it, I’m inclined to choose the journey.