Albert Einstein famously said – ‘imagination is more important than knowledge’.

In my interpretation of this is Einstein is suggesting that you need imagination to envisage the possibilities. You then need knowledge to test those possibilities.

Albert Einstein also said – ‘the true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination’
In my interpretation of this Einstein is suggesting that it takes more intellectual grunt to identify the possibilities than it does to test them.

I agree with him. Indeed, this may well explain why lateral thinking and innovation are so rare in our community.
Einstein was without doubt one of the more intelligent people of the last century, and in my mind he is worth listening to for that reason alone.

Why then do the authorities who run our education system not listen?

Our education system is almost entirely focused on knowledge and gives little attention to the development of imagination. Indeed, I would argue strongly that the socialising forces in our education system actually discourage imagination in favour of ‘accepted thinking’ and the propagation of ‘self-evident truths’, both of which are the antithesis of imagination.

Edward De Bono has on a number of occasions criticised western education systems for not teaching lateral thinking.

Professor Ken Robinson has frequently commented on the ‘industrial revolution’ nature of our education system and the propensity for western systems to crush creativity and discourage thinking that is out of the box.

In the USA creationists criticise the education system for teaching evolution a scientific view of the world that found its routes in the imagination of Charles Darwin and its substance from the research of many since him.
Why do we not teach lateral thinking?
Why do we crush creativity?
Why do we seek a socialised view of the world?
Why can we not see that all three are holding us back? Man has achieved great things, but would have achieved so much more if we actively encouraged lateral thinking, creativity and a non-socialised way of thinking.

We are being held back by small minded people threatened by change and individual differences. We are being held back by an education system that in turn is being held back by people afraid on imagination and the changes it can generate. We are being held back by conservatives and conservative thinking born of selfishness and personal fears.

We need more Einstein’s, more imaginative people who can see over the horizon and then use their knowledge to test the possibilities they imagine and discover.

We need to teach lateral thinking and encourage the changes that will follow even if that makes a few small minded conservatives feel uncomfortable.

We need to think big and through our education system to encourage all people to think big and then be prepared to live with the outcomes. Some of those outcomes will challenge us, but many more will deliver the great leaps forward that we need to address the big issues confronting our community today.

Only big, lateral thinking leading to imaginative innovation will solve world hunger, resolve the issues in the middle east, cure cancer, resolve unsustainable population growth and address the fact the economies based on perpetual growth are simply not sustainable.

We need to encourage lateral thinking, innovation and imagination above all else, and those who are frightened of them need to bow to the greater good. This, then needs to be reflected in our education system.


Just a Thought.


This issue will be discussed in detail on THE D. JOHN CARLSON NETWORK –

John Carlson is a behavioural scientist, strategic planner and lateral thinker focusing on branding, marketing, communication, personal advancement, business development and behaviour management.

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