At the 99U conference in New York City, Tina Seelig, the Executive Director for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, explained Thursday that the most important component of innovation is imagination.  Obviously, dealing with the daily grind of running a business, you may not be focusing on building up your imagination. But Seelig said both imagination and innovation can be fostered in a few simple ways.

Look at things from a new perspective. According to Seelig, we often allow our imagination to dwindle as we age. One of the way we do that, is by asking ourself constraining questions such as: 5 +5 = ?

“There is only one right answer. Really creative people don’t look at the world like this. They look at problems through different lenses and they reframe the problem,” said Seelig. Instead, creative people ask questions like this:  ? + ? = 10

Reframing the question this way, opens up the parameters and allows for inventive answers. 

Think of failure like this. Even under pressure, you must not be afraid of failure, said Seelig.

In fact, you should look at failure as research. You can always gain knowledge from unexpected results. This way your employees won't fear being innovative, just in case things don't come out the way they are expected to. 

Think of company culture as background music, suggested Seelig. If it's daunting like music in a horror movie, it can evoke anxiety within your employees. However, if the music is cheerful, it can encourage creativity and fuel imagination.