This section is from the book "Applications of Psychology to the Problems of Personal and Business Efficiency", by Warren Hilton. Also available from Amazon: Psychology and Achievement - Applied Psychology 12 Volume Set.
T HERE is another type of imagination from the purely reproductive memory imagination of which we have been speaking in this book.
There is also Creative Imagination. Creative Imagination is more than mere memory. It takes the elements of the past as reproduced by memory and rearranges them. It forms new combinations out of the material of the past. It forms new combinations of ideas, emotions and their accompanying pulses to muscular activity, the elements of mental "complexes." It recombines these elements into new and original mental pictures, the creations of the inventive mind.
No particular profession or pursuit has a monopoly of creative imagination. It is not the exclusive property of the poet, the artist, the inventor, the philosopher. We tell you this because you have heard all your life of the poetic imagination, the artistic imagination, and so on, but it is rare indeed that you have heard mention of the business imagination.
The fact is no man can succeed in any pursuit unless he has a creative imagination. Without creative imagination the human race would still be living in caves. Without creative imagination there would be no ships, no engines, no automobiles, no corporations, no systems, no plans, no business. Nothing exists in all the world that had not a previous counterpart in the mind of him who designed it. And back of all is the creative mind of God.
Mind is supreme. Mind shapes and controls matter. Every concrete thing in the world is the product of a thinking consciousness. The richly tinted canvas is the physical expression of the artist's dream. The great factory, with its whirling mechanisms and glowing furnaces, is the material manifestation of the promoter's financial imagination. The jeweled ornament, the book, the steamship, the office building, all are but concrete realizations of human thought molded out of formless matter.
Mind, finite and infinite, is eternally creative and creating in the organization of formless matter and material forces into concrete realities.
Says Max Muller in his "Psychological Religion": "The Klamaths, one of the Red Indian tribes, believe in a Supreme God whom they call 'The Most Ancient One,' 'Our Old Father,' or 'The Old One on High.' He is believed to have created the world - that is, to have made plants, animals and man. But when asked how the Old Father created the world, the Klamath philosopher replies: 'By thinking and willing.' "
We get what we desire because the things we desire are the things we think about. Love begets love. The man who is looking for trouble generally finds it. Despair is the forerunner of disaster, and fear brings failure, because despair and fear are the emotional elements attendant upon thoughts of defeat.
Behind every thing and every act is, and always has been, thought - thought of sufficient intensity to shape and fashion the physical event.
Mind, and mind alone, possesses the inscrutable power to create.
Your career is ordered by the thoughts you entertain. Mental pictures tend to accomplish their own realization. Therefore, be careful to hold only those thoughts that will build up rather than tear down the structure of your fortunes.
Creative imagination is an absolute prerequisite to material achievement.
The business man must scheme and plan and devise and foresee. He must create in imagination today the results that he is to achieve tomorrow. He must combine the elements of his past experiential complexes into a mental picture of future events as he would have them. Riches are but the material realization of a financial imagination. The wealth of the world is but the sum total of the contributions of the creative thoughts of the successful men of all ages.
With these principles before you, you can plainly see that the creative imagination must be called upon in the solution of every practical question in every hour of the business day.
Consider its part in two phases of your business life - first, when you are contemplating a radical change in your business situation; second, when you are seeking to improve some particular department of your business.
In the determination of how best you can better yourself, either in your present field of action or by the selection of a new one, take the following steps: (1) Pass in review before the mind's eye your present situation; (2) Your possible ways of betterment; (3) The various circumstances and individuals that will aid in this or that line of self-advancement; (4) The difficulties that may confront you. Having selected your field, (5) Consider various possible plans of action; (6) Have prevision of their working out; (7) Compare the ultimate results as you foresee them; (8) Decide upon the one most promising, and then with this plan as a foundation for further imaginings, (9) Once more call before you the elements that will contribute to success; (10) See the possible locations for your new place of business and choose among them; (11) Outline in detail the methods to be pursued in getting and handling business; (12) See the different kinds of employees and associates you will require, and select certain classes as best suited to your needs; (13) Foresee possible difficulties to be encountered and adjust your plans to meet them; and, most important of all, (14) Have a clear and persistent vision of yourself as a man of action, setting to work upon your plan at a fixed hour and carrying it to a successful issue within a given time.
There is excellent practical psychology in the following from "Thoughts on Business":
"Men often think of a position as being just about so big and no bigger, when, as a matter of fact, a position is often what one makes it. A man was making about $1,500 a year out of a certain position and thought he was doing all that could be done to advance the business. The employer thought otherwise, and gave the place to another man who soon made the position worth $8,000 a year - at exactly the same commission.
"The difference was in the men - in other words, in what the two men thought about the work. One had a little conception of what the work should be, and the other had a big conception of it. One thought little thoughts, and the other thought big thoughts.
"The standards of two men may differ, not especially because one is naturally more capable than the other, but because one is familiar with big things and the other is not. The time was when the former worked in a smaller scope himself, but when he saw a wider view of what his work might be he rose to the occasion and became a bigger man. It is just as easy to think of a mountain as to think of a hill - when you turn your mind to contemplate it. The mind is like a rubber band - you can stretch it to fit almost anything, but it draws in to a small scope when you let go.
"Make it your business to know what is the best that might be in your line of work; and stretch your mind to conceive it, and then devise some way to attain it.
"Big things are only little things put together. I was greatly impressed with this fact one morning as I stood watching the workmen erecting the steel framework for a tall office building. A shrill whistle rang out as a signal, a man over at the engine pulled a lever, a chain from the derrick was lowered, and the whistle rang out again. A man stooped down and fastened the chain around the center of a steel beam, stepped back and blew the whistle once more. Again the lever was moved at the engine, and the steel beam soared into the air up to the sixteenth story, where it was made fast by little bolts.
"The entire structure, great as it was, towering far above all the neighboring buildings, was made up of pieces of steel and stone and wood, put together according to a plan. The plan was first imagined, then penciled, then carefully drawn, and then followed by the workmen. It was all a combination of little things.
"It is encouraging to think of this when you are confronted by a big task. Remember that it is only a group of little tasks, any of which you can easily do. It is ignorance of this fact that makes some men afraid to try."
Suppose, now, that instead of making a radical change in your business situation, you are simply seeking to improve some particular department of your business.
In commercial affairs men are the great means to money-making, and efficient personal service the great key to prosperity. In your dealings with employees do not be guided by the necessities of the moment. Expediency is the poorest of all excuses for action. Have regard not only for your own immediate needs, but also for the welfare and future conduct of your employees. It is part of the burden of the executive head that he must do the forethinking not only for himself but for those under him.
Perhaps the man you have under observation for advancement to some executive position has all the basic qualifications of judicial sense, discrimination and attentiveness to details, but you are uncertain whether he has enough imagination to devise new ways and means of doing things and developing business in new fields. If you wish to try a simple but very effective test along this line, you can adopt the following standard psychological experiment, which has been used at Harvard, Cornell and many other colleges and schools.
Let fall a drop of ink on each of several pieces of white paper, letterhead size. This will make irregular blotches of varying forms. Let the subject be seated at a desk and ask him to write briefly about what he sees in each blotched sheet, whether it be an animal form suggested by the outline of the blot, or anything else that comes into his mind while looking at the black spot. The principle involved here is the same as that involved in seeing pictures in a flickering log fire or having a vision of past or future events by gazing into a crystal. In any of these cases, it is not the blot, the fire or the crystal that produces the vision, but the creative imagination that recombines old elements into new forms. The number of images suggested to one by certain standard forms of ink-blot when compared with established results is a measure of his imaginative ability.
In the choice of a location for your factory or store, you must foresee its future traffic and transportation possibilities. In passing upon a proposed advertisement you must get inside the head of the man on the street and see it as he will see it. In the purchase of your stock of goods you must gauge the trend of popular taste and foresee the big demand. In your dealings with creditors you must plan a course of action that will enable you to settle the account to your best interest at their request. You must find a way to collect from your debtors and at the same time hold their business. And so in a hundred thousand different ways you are constantly required to use creative thought in laying every stone in the structure of your fortune.
Do not understand us as saying that imagination, as the term is popularly used, is all you need. There must be also action, incessant, persistent. But creative imagination, in a psychological and scientific sense, begets action. Every thought carries with it the impellent energy to effect its realization. Use your imagination in your business and the action will take care of itself. Given imagination and action, and you are sure to win.