Watching my two kids play, it’s striking how different they are. My younger son (4) turns everything into a make-believe game. Give him two sticks and suddenly they’re space ships. Give him a handmade car (which we built recently at the Halifax Art Gallery; it’s meant to be Jeff Gorvette from Cars 2) and he’s doing a race through the hallways of the place for an hour. His imagination is incredible.
My older son (7) has a great imagination as well, but he’s also much more practical and analytical. It makes sense because he’s older, but he’s always been that way. Give him two sticks and they’re two sticks; he may want to see how far he can throw them or whack them against a tree to see them break … but they’re still two sticks. If someone suggests to him that they’re lightsabers and we should battle as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, he’ll absolutely join in and participate … but he’s not creating fantasy worlds around himself. His practicality and analytical approach to things helps him solve puzzles, ask insightful questions, and stick with things that need resolving.
It seems to me that startup founders need a healthy dose and mixture of both imagination and practicality. One without the other makes you an incomplete founder and leader.
I think it’s possible to work on and train both your imagination and analytical skills. There are hobbies for example, that help with both. Take photography. It’s creative and imaginative, but requires a keen eye, technical know-how (if you get past basic cameras), and good timing. Drawing is another good example. On a personal level, I’m hoping to work on both photography and drawing this year. I’d like to take more pictures and learn how to take better ones. That’s part of the reason I’ve put my Instagram stream at the top of the blog; to remind and inspire me to keep taking pictures.
There are lots of ways that you can push yourself to be more imaginative and more practical at the same time. And that balance will help you be a more successful startup founder and leader.