Imagination and Knowledge

Innovation management is one of the core courses we are studying this winter. We discussed Schumpeter’s models about Innovation and it got me thinking about imagination and knowledge. So here is a post about the famous quote “Imagination is more important than Knowledge”.

2567525416_ac4a55fbe2From creative scientists to ordinary accountants (adjectives can be switched), from exciting cinema to dull museums and from theologies to theories, throughout our development as species, we have relied on a blend of imagination and knowledge. Evidently, both are important. What then is the relationship between them, if any?

Knowledge is a person’s range of information; mankind’s unique ability to use language and the explosion of information technology has meant that the knowledge can, be shared, stored and transmitted through time and space. Knowledge can, because of the flexibility of physical symbols, be broken and rearranged in numerous novel combinations. It is this act of recombination that underlies the power to imagine. While every living organism can put together random combinations of stored experiences (i.e. dream), it is only human beings who possess the unique capacity that helps them solve problems, anticipate change and conceive alternatives – Imagination serves ‘life enhancing’ purposes.

It might be incredibly tempting to favor imagination over knowledge; after all, like Einstein said, “imagination is colorful, creative and anti-authoritarian”, while knowledge (a.k.a. reality) is bleak, dull and black & white; knowledge binds us, sometimes, to oppressive existence. However, apart from fueling imagination, knowledge also controls it. If Imagination is the path during our journey, Knowledge is the map which guides us and warns us about the approaching cliffs. Our view about whether imagination is more important than knowledge depends upon whether we prefer an exploration or a guided tour. Let’s just say I prefer an exploration.

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