“It is therefore crucial to find a way of routinizing, even bureaucratizing, the exercise of imagination.” (Section 11.1 IMAGINATION, p. 344)

This is a quote from the 9/11 Commission report but it is applicable to many scenarios especially in ‘Health and Safety terms.’ A great leader will use the collective imagination of a team to tackle problems and achieve the desired results.

Those who designed and built public buildings in the past used their imagination to create structures that are regarded as architectural masterpieces; part of our built heritage. Many unfortunately did not possess the imagination to envisage that people with disabilities would need to use these buildings and most have had to be redesigned subsequently.

Preventing disasters requires a fertile imagination. In 1989 the authorities in Hillsborough UK did not foresee the consequences of their actions/inactions at the Sheffield Wednesday stadium. 96 people died because no one had the imagination to foresee what would occur if more spectators were allowed to enter already dangerously full terraces. An example of this lack of imagination was displayed with the deployment of 150 + Policemen to form a cordon at the mid-field portion of the pitch, after the disaster. The police cordon was used to separate fans in order to extinguish a non-existent threat of violence. It would seem that the thought processes of those in charge were focused on bad behaviour (which admittedly was a feature of English football) and could not accept the evidence before their eyes that this was in fact a major incident caused by overcrowding that required an immediate emergency response. As few as five officers would have been sufficient to block the tunnel entrance to pens 3 and 4 and prevent the overcrowding in the first place.

A good ‘Safety statement’ requires the author to imagine what will happen in a ‘worst case scenario.’

European politicians are being forced to imagine what will occur in the event of a no-deal Brexit. It is difficult to envisage Europe post a “deal” never mind a “no-deal” situation but all eventualities have to be prepared for. It is informative in this context to examine the diplomatic efforts of Lord Castlereagh following the defeat of Napoleon by Wellington at the battle of Waterloo. Napoleon himself was astounded that having won, the British did not extend their rule over at least part of France; “The peace he has made is the sort of peace he would have made if he had been beaten.” John Bew in his biography of Castlereagh states that “Yet for the Foreign Secretary to become a conqueror now would have been to depart from the whole essence of his foreign policy to date; ……..much more important was the consideration of the ‘Balance of power;’ realpolitik.”  Castlereagh had the imagination to recognise that the method of cooperation among the great powers “the Congress system” was the vehicle by which the balance of power could be maintained in Europe and the method by which Britain’s future prosperity was best served.

Leaders should be capable of imagining the likely results of their actions and more importantly they should make use of the combined imagination of their team.

Those who are high achievers will have defeated their opponents in sport and will have succeeded where their competitors in business may not but they will have at all times competed with themselves in the first instance and imagined the fruits of their labours along their journey.