It's been more than 85 years since Albert Einstein remarked in an interview, "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."

He made this remark before mass interconnectivity was enabled through broad commercial aviation, the telephone, television, and of course, the Internet. Despite the passage of time, this statement is arguably even more accurate today. Knowledge is not only everywhere, but also increasingly easier to find.

Google has stated that its mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. As unwieldy as that may be, it is likely possible. Incidentally, devising this mission required imagination to comprehend such a task as a possibility. What is not possible, though, is to put our arms around and categorize imagination. For imagination is unknown and based on the future, and is therefore outside the realm of categorization.

It is vogue right now to be innovative, but I believe that imagination is even more powerful. The word innovate is derived from Latin roots related to renewed or altered. In other words, innovation is primarily based on improving something, which is of course critical. Imagination goes further. It is based on thinking of something that is not real--something that does not yet exist. Innovation moves us forward; imagination leaps us forward.

Take the airplane, for instance. It took imagination to envision the possibility that people could fly. Once human flight became a reality, innovation took over. Imagination, then, is a prerequisite for subsequent innovation in the aviation space and everywhere. Knowledge will serve as a stepping-stone for imagination in every domain.

As Einstein notes, knowledge is limited to a point in time; our imagination, though, is endless. Knowledge stops accruing at the point imagination ceases. That is, knowledge is dependent on imagination. As we look forward to 2020 and beyond, imagination will be the primary currency of value to organizations; knowledge will be relegated to a commodity. One that is easily searchable and accessible almost instantaneously.

To create an environment where imagination flourishes, leadership is essential. Leaders need to create a culture that rewards imagination and innovation, and they need to accept that failure will happen. A key aspect is thinking about the intrinsic rewards that imagination brings to employees. Here are 3 to kick-start you towards imagining more:

  1. Knowledge gets you through today; imagination brings you into the future
  2. Knowledge gets you facts; imagination brings you possibilities
  3. Knowledge brings you peace of mind; imagination brings excitement