It takes a special kind of vision, a special kind of imagination.
A few years ago, golfing “tragic” Greg Ramsay got together with Bridport farmer & entrepreneur Richard Sattler. The two looked at a wild north-west coastal area of sand dunes, swamp, and grassland and somehow saw in it a world class golf course.
Even more amazing is that Sattler, the farmer on whose land Barnbougle Dunes now lies is said to have had very little previous exposure to golf. Still, the two together walked the land and as Ramsay encouraged Sattler, the imagined golfers from all over the world gathering together in this remote location to tackle what right from the beginning was envisaged as one of the world’s best golf courses.
As I wrote previously, the result is nothing short of astonishing and the reality now lives up, in every way, to the scene imagined several years ago.
That kind of imagination, or vision is something special. The capacity to construct an alternate reality, or a possible future in ones mind is a powerful gift. To hold something in the mind’s eye, turn it over, tumble it around, see if it will work or not, taste, smell, feel.
Imagination is truly one of the prime gifts of leadership. We cannot create a different future without first imagining it. I wrote a while back about Einstein saying something similar.
Related to the value that imaginative, visionary leaders bring an organisation is the capacity to draw imagination out of others. All of us, asked the right questions, and given sufficient space can start to exercise our imagination. Not all of us can look at a wind-swept sand dune and imagine Barnbougle Dunes into existence, but all of us can contribute to re-imagining our community, our organisation, our networks. Even just a little at a time.
Drawing imagination out of those who don’t believe they have any is a challenging task. It requires creating safe space, granting permission, blessing with encouragement, positive response to those first stumbling steps, the willingness to create and explore ideas freely and cooperatively. Often it also requires some seeds, stories of a world different to that already known in order to help start the creative juices flowing.
One of the most rewarding conversations I’ve had in Tasmania happened over an informal afternoon tea with a group of elderly ladies as we contemplated the future of their small and struggling church. Over a couple of hours, and fueled by lots of scones with jam and cream, we dug deep and discovered plenty of hidden desire for their community, and a wealth of untapped imaginative talent.
Practice imagining, and practice drawing the imagination and vision out of those around you. The future depends on it.
By the way, Ramsay and Sattler haven’t stopped imagining. Barnbougle Mk 2 (I think it’s called “The Lost Farm) opens late 2010, and if anything, its even more amazing than the original. Once imagination is unleashed, there is no stopping it.
Lessons from the golf course is a continuing series of reflections