In his classic 1937 book Think and Grow Rich (download pdf of entire book), Napoleon Hill contrasts creative imagination with synthetic imagination:
SYNTHETIC IMAGINATION: Through the faculty of synthetic imagination, one may arrange old concepts, ideas, or plans into new combinations. This faculty creates nothing. It merely works with the material of experience, education, and observation with which it is fed. It is the faculty used most by the inventor, with the exception of he who draws upon the creative imagination, when he cannot solve his problem through synthetic imagination.
CREATIVE IMAGINATION: Through the faculty of creative imagination, the finite mind of man has direct communication with Infinite Intelligence. 1 It is the faculty through which ‘hunches’ and ‘inspirations’ are received. It is by this faculty that all basic, or new ideas are handed over to man.
The American Psychological Association is treading very carefully in this definition:
Imagination — the creative kind and one of the seven creative powers — enables us to foresee, in the immediate or more distant future, possibilities for enriching the world or a particular piece of it with value, meaning and joy.
Creative imagination: The faculty by which new, uncommon ideas emerge, especially when emergence does not seem explicable by the mere combination of existing ideas. The operations of the creative imagination are sometimes explained by the interaction of dormant or nonconscious elements with active, conscious thoughts.
Creative and synthetic forms of imagination: each has its place
Sometimes a modest idea is all that’s required. The answer lies inside us and we just need to bring it to the surface by means of synthetic imagination. In the workplace this is usually achieved by means of brainstorming or some other diverge–converge ideation method.
Synthetic imagination is sufficient for producing a modest idea. But when a breakthrough idea is required, one that is potent (showing significant value generation potential), inspired (as if a gift of the gods), and fitting (the peg fits the hole), the answer is unlikely to reside inside us, waiting to be unearthed. Instead of working outwards from our inner world, we must start in the outside world and work inwards. The power of Conceptualisation can then deployed to originate a concept that will generate the foreseen value, meaning and joy.
While the Synthetic Imagination is the one which will be used most frequently in the process of transforming the impulse of DESIRE into money, 2 you must keep in mind the fact that you may face circumstances and situations which demand the use of the Creative Imagination as well.
Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich!
2. See next quote.
Riches cannot always be measured in money!
Money and material things are essential for freedom of body and mind, but there are some who will feel that the greatest of all riches can be evaluated only in terms of lasting friendships, harmonious family relationships, sympathy and understanding between business associates, and introspective harmony which brings one peace of mind measurable only in spiritual values!
The Epistemic Value of Imagination, by Eshaan Agrawal, on The Classic Journal website
Imagination and Creativity in Organizations (pdf; 22 pages), by Neil A. Thompson, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands
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