Just imagine! – Up Front

Recently, I had the privilege of participating in a national discussion sponsored by New York City’s Lincoln Center Institute, one of the world’s leading arts organizations that continues to push for innovation and fresh thinking.

I was invited to speak on a panel as part of Imagination Conversations, a nationwide series of discussions about imagination at the Manship Theatre. Our focus was to explore why imagination matters and how to develop imagination in our organizations. The program helps people to visualize new possibilities and build awareness of the power of imagination at work and at home—and, eventually, to make imagination an integral part of American education.

I especially enjoyed the session because I believe our imagination, creativity and ability to innovate in the emerging world of business and life will separate the winners from the losers. As I thought about and prepared for the conversation, it struck me that new ideas, fresh thinking and creativity have become the currency of success. Some people think that creativity is just for artists, musicians or people in marketing.

But think about this: most things in life have become a commodity. In the words of casino magnate Steve Wynn, “What used to draw a ‘wow’ 15 years ago wouldn’t draw a yawn today.” Thanks to the internet’s easy access and free online information, new knowledge is a readily available commodity. And with that, the bar keeps moving higher.

Imagination and creativity, however, cannot be made into commodities. Each new set of circumstances requires fresh thinking in that moment to find solutions to the ever-tougher problems we face. We need more creativity to solve problems in government, in the non-profit world, in business and in education. Our willingness to embrace creative problem-solving and new ideas is going to be the key ingredient to helping our community, our companies and our country continue to grow and flourish.

All of this talk about being creative got me thinking about the battle being waged in our state and right here in our own region. Everywhere that progressively thinking people work for change, it seems they can eventually count on hitting up against people living in the past. These people don’t get that globalization, rapid advances in technology and communications, changing population trends and the next-generation workforce have all made the past irrelevant. They prefer the status quo and want to kill new ideas. They prefer to criticize and dwell on problems rather than take risks and become part of the solution.

Despite those negative forces, thankfully, we have innovators, risk-takers and creative minds who are making an impact. As best-selling author Josh Linkner says, “Imagination is beating rigidity.”

I believe those who focus on imagining a better future for our city and their families—and then have the courage to take action—are leaving the doubt-mongering hordes behind.

We all have a choice. We can cling to the past and long for the good old ways. Or we can get on with creating, inventing, dreaming and winning. Imagine fresh reforms in our public school system, a balanced state budget and an influx of young creative entrepreneurs into our city who can inspire everyone here and help us stretch the current boundaries.

Some say I can only imagine, but the truth is, with some creativity and courage, we can make dreams come true. Still don’t believe me? Just ask Steve Jobs how much imagination and creativity went in to creating such innovations as the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. A few years ago Apple held a marginal 3% market share in the all-important PC industry. Now, he’s changing the world!

At their creative best

Speaking of creative thinking: every July, 225 celebrates the best dining, entertainment, shopping, destinations and personalities our community has to offer. This month marks the sixth annual Best of 225 Awards, and this year, you’ll find some new faces as well as plenty of hometown favorites. Our readers nominated and then voted for their favorites in more than 50 categories. Winning a Best of 225 Award means you’ve won loyal fans of your cuisine, cocktails, atmosphere and personality. In a city that loves having fun and savoring great food and entertainment, it takes hard work to consistently “deliver the goods” and become the best. Most of all, getting to this point required someone in your world who imagined what was possible, took the risk and committed to delivering a great experience day after day. So we salute our Best of 225 Award winners for their hard work, commitment to excellence and, above all, their imagination.More of 225 to love

This Best of 225 Awards edition is always our hottest issue of the year, and you can bet it will disappear as soon as it hits newsstands. (Then again, every issue goes fast—our most frequent complaint is, “Your magazine is so popular, the racks are empty as soon as they are filled.”) Well, if you’ve ever had trouble finding a copy, I have some good news. Beginning this month, we’re boosting our press run and adding a few more locations around 225. From now on, we’ll print 27,000 copies and distribute them free (as always) from 275+ racks around the city.