Return on IMAGINATION (the better ROI)

Growing up, my mom always said I had more imagination than brains. Until I was about 25 I thought that was a compliment.

Now that I’m in my early (very early) 40’s, I realize that she was right…and I’m glad.

If I had any brains whatsoever I would have never started sparkspace. If I had any brains, I would have thrown in the towel after not paying myself for the first two years of my business, and I would have definitely turned in my keys when the economy decided to deal us all a dirty hand this year.

My imagination won’t let go, though. I believe sparkspace has a bright future. I believe it might actually outlive me (and I plan on living for a long, long time).

I believe you have a bright future, too. I’ve decided that you can’t see the future with your brain. You have to use your imagination. Einstein was right when he said your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions. But, sometimes you have to shut down your brain in order for your imagination to function properly.

You see, your brain believes in something called ROI – Return on Investment. Everything you spend your time and money on HAS to have an intended return, preferably financially, before your brain will say, “ok, do that.”

There’s nothing wrong with wanting that kind of ROI, but don’t focus so much on that ROI that you forget about the BETTER ROI – Return on IMAGINATION.

When was the last time you did something just because it was a really cool idea that might make the world a little more fun or creative?

The first week of summer, my kids built “houses” in their rooms. They stole every blanket, sleeping bag, and beach towel they could find and they built very elaborate tent-like structures in the middle of their rooms. The planning, design, and engineering that went into this project would have made Frank Lloyd Wright proud. This was no silly pursuit to them, they took it very seriously. They actually slept in their new domiciles for several days.

And they did it all just for the heck of it. And they ENJOYED the heck out of it. All their friends came over to see our little shanty town. My kids are now architecture legends in our neighborhood.

Think you can’t exercise a little Return on Imagination in your business? Think again. It’s probably exactly what you need right now.

I’m not saying to throw your financial obligations out the window. I’m saying sometimes you’ve just got to do things that make your business more interesting, unique, compelling, fun, crazy, or just not so darn BORING.

An example for our business is Free Coffee Friday. We’ve got the time, we’ve got the space, and coffee is an affordable giveaway. We’re really not expecting Free Coffee Friday to be any kind of financial salvation. We’re doing it, honestly, because we just thought it would be a really cool thing to do. Fun for you and fun for us. It’s a win-win.

Think of something you could do this week that has little or nothing to do with ROI (the typical kind), but has everything to do with ROI (the Imagination kind). Here’s the thing: don’t think too much about it, just do it. In other words, turn off your brain, and turn on your imagination.

I’d love to showcase companies that take me up on this challenge. Send me a note telling me the cool things your company does “just because.” I’ll share your stories with the world.

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