Only 38% of Australian business leaders believe imagination is linked to revenue but organisations who value imagination are the highest earning, according to a report published last week.
The report, Imagination for Business, was published by Canon Business Imaging Australia. It includes a survey of 400 senior executives from organisations throughout the country.
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Respondents were asked to share their views on the role that imagination plays within their businesses, and how it relates to productivity, people management and revenue.
The survey reveals only 46% of businesses believe imagination is related to a company’s productivity levels, while only 38% believe it is related to revenue.
However, one of the key findings of the survey is that imagination is linked to revenue – organisations who said they value and harness imagination were the highest-earning companies.
For example, high-revenue companies were more likely to say, “We reward imaginative people in our company through promotion and pay rises”.
Surprisingly, organisations in the retail sector were significantly more likely to rate the value of imagination, and to identify imagination as “crucial in our industry sector”.
According to Canon, the survey confirms imagination is key to organisational success.
“[Imagination] not only drives innovation… It significantly improves learning and knowledge retention in a corporate environment,” Canon director Craig Manson says.
“Imagination for business means giving your people better access to knowledge and the freedom to offer visionary solutions to improve productivity.”
But overall, when asked to rank 15 workplace characteristics, imagination tied with “tenacity” for last place. Topping the list were communication skills, a hard work ethic and passion.
According to the survey, less than a third (31%) of companies said imagination is “one of our company values”. These companies were more likely to recruit and reward imaginative people.
Respondents who identified imagination as one of their company values were also more likely to identify knowledge as a company value, suggesting the two are seen as complementary.
The percentage of companies that valued imagination more highly than knowledge rose along with the revenue of those companies.
Of companies with annual revenues below $10 million, only 8% valued imagination more highly than knowledge.
This rose to 11% in the $10-$100 million revenue cohort, and 15% in the plus-$100 million revenue grouping.
Only 36% of businesses said they train staff on how to apply their imagination to their work, while less than half (47%) actively try to harness and share imagination in their workforce.
Companies that list imagination as a company value are more likely to use visualisation techniques in their learning and development programs (80% versus 66%).
However, only 57% of the sample said they measure the effectiveness of learning and development programs.
Meanwhile, 82% would consider changing the way they train their employees “if it was proven that engaging imagination in the learning process… made learning more efficient and effective”.
In addition to the survey, Canon partnered with the University of NSW School of Education to determine the impact of imagination in the learning process.
The experiment involved members of Canon’s business imaging sales team participating in an e-learning program.
Participants were split into two groups and completed multiple choice tests on product knowledge before and after the e-learning program.
The imagination group was instructed to use their imagination to learn concepts and procedures about a product, while the study group was instructed to use traditional study methods.
All participants were asked to assess how difficult they found the e-learning program and how much effort was needed for the multiple choice test after completing the e-learning program.
According to the data, the imagination group achieved higher learning gains with less effort, indicating that the imagination strategy was a more efficient learning strategy.