In my family growing up, I was always the art guy. Today, I make a living painting pictures, telling stories and writing books.
My younger brother Dan was the science guy. He now works for a cancer hospital analyzing and improving “systems,” or something structured and boring like that.
I always saw us as complete opposites, which is how I think most people see art and science.
Yes, my brother and I are different, but I was also decent at math and enjoyed doing experiments in chemistry class. Meanwhile, he had a pretty good drawing talent that went under the radar. Today he collects Pearl Jam posters because he appreciates the art.
I was so locked in to looking at the difference between us that I never noticed the connections.
Artists are thought of as free-spirited, open-ended, and subjective. Scientists are often viewed as analytical, precise, and objective.
But Science is not cold, rigid, and unfeeling. Art is not some frivolous, fluffy extra. Believe it or not, they are connected.
Curiosity and Imagination are the parents of both art and science.
The same curiosity and imagination that is present when an artist creates a new play, sculpture, or piece of music is present in the best scientists as well. We imagine space travel, and curiosity asks, “How can we make that happen?” We imagine a world without cancer, and curiosity asks, “What hasn’t been tried on this particular strain?” Curiosity asks, “How can we become more energy independent?” and our imagination gets to work on thinking up a whole bunch of possible solutions, ranging from the far-fetched to the less so. Sometimes solutions are hidden within an idea that seems completely preposterous.
This painting was inspired by my first trip to Vancouver, and by a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein: “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
Imagination is often seen as a peculiar skillset of children and the pastime of daydreamers. Mildly amusing, but hardly practical for a self-respecting adult. Too often, our imaginations fade as we grow older. We stop asking questions and dreaming big. We reward the rule-followers. We search for and obediently follow the the best practices.
But in a changing world, what worked before will not get us to where we need to go. There is no roadmap. No formula. No step-by-step manual to help us succeed tomorrow.
The well-worn paths we’re used to treading now only lead us astray, to a world that no longer exists.
So what now?
We must stop looking at science and art as opposing forces.
We need to realize that we are all artists. Working in paint, charcoal, or clay is not required.
And likewise, we are all scientists. Even if we don’t wear lab coats.
If you are stuck, or have a sneaking suspicion that things could be better in your life, your relationships, or your organization…you are right.
The way forward is to imagine a better reality, the future we wish to create. And then we tinker our way there, by trying things that might not work and using what we learn to guide our next steps — even small stapes — forward.
Imagination. It’s not just a plaything for children.
Dust yours off. It can take you to some pretty amazing places.