Originally Published January 27, 2016
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will get you everywhere else.”
I have this Albert Einstein quote posted at the base of my computer screen. It is a great reminder, every time I glance down from my screen, that new possibilities for mission impact come from the ability to see a future that is beyond our current points of reference — you know, those “realities” that we allow to box us in and constrain our thinking. Those realities are fine if you want to travel from A to B, to carry out tasks as assigned by another, but what about those of us who see a whole alphabet of ways to extend our mission reach? We will never get there by following the A/B logic.
I’m not saying that A/B logic is bad, in and of itself. We use a lot of it in our organization to ensure we consistently meet or exceed the expectations of our current programs and services. And many organizations plug along just fine living within the parameters prescribed by others, or that they themselves have developed, to achieve an intended goal. My point is, the same actions that allow you to achieve one well-defined goal will not get you to another aspirational destination. If you have a big hairy audacious goal, you’re going to have to set the rule book and paved road aside, because those things won’t get you to “everywhere else.”
Charting the route to “everywhere else” is a key function of leadership. While management is about systems and processes and consistency, leadership is about embracing change. (Which is not to say leadership is more important that management, it’s not; it is simply a different focus/skill set.) Many organizations, and leaders, get so mired down by the logic of what “we have to do” that they never raise their eyes to the horizon to consider a different landscape. I believe part of a leader’s job is to look up, see your “everywhere else” destination, and start building roads to get there.
Sure imagination involves risk, but so does logic if it limits your ability to fulfill your mission. Good stewardship is about making the best use of the resources before you to have the greatest impact, not taking the “safest” bet. If you can fulfill your mission by logically moving between point A and point B, great. For others of us, our mission requires us to look beyond the logic of A to B, and imagine the possibilities open to us . . . everywhere else.