Thursday, March 29th, 2012
SYDNEY, 29 March 2012: Despite correlations with higher earnings and better learning outcomes, imagination is one of Australia’s most underrated business assets, according to new research.

Despite the fact that organisations that value and harness imagination were also the highest earning companies, across the board, imagination ranks last on a list of 15 workforce characteristics valued by employers.

Published by Canon Business Imaging Australia, the report, Imagination for Business, states the case for adding imagination to the managerial tool box, detailing results of a survey of 400 senior executives from organisations throughout Australia, as well as an experiment supervised by the University of NSW investigating the efficacy of imagination as a learning tool.

For the first time, the UNSW experiment proved in a corporate setting, when presented with a procedure or concept to learn, imagining the procedure or concept achieves significantly better learning outcomes than conventional studying. As a result of the experiment, Canon is instigating changes to their existing learning and development programs.

Mr Craig Manson, Director Canon Business Imaging Australia said, “Imagination is key for organisational success. It not only drives innovation, we’ve proven that it significantly improves learning and knowledge retention in a corporate environment.

“There is no question that people and their knowledge are the most important assets organisations need to build and protect. For Canon, Imagination for business means giving our people better access to knowledge and the freedom to offer visionary solutions to improve productivity,” said Mr Manson. “However the research uncovered a wider trend of ‘imagination neglect’. I’d urge every business leader to review the Imagination for Business report and review the research findings for themselves,” he said.

Key findings from the survey were as follows:

Imagination is one of Australia’s most underrated assets.
- When asked to rank a list of 15 workforce characteristics, imagination was given the wooden spoon – tying with ‘tenacity’ for last place.
- Only 36% of Australian businesses said they train people how to apply their imagination to their work.
- Less than half of all respondents (47%) said they actively try to harness and share imagination in their workforce.
- Forty-six per cent of organisations believed that imagination was related to a company’s productivity levels but only 38% believed that imagination was related to a company’s revenue.

Imagination is linked to revenue.
- Organisations that said that they value and harness imagination were the highest earning companies.
- High revenue companies were more likely to say that ‘We reward imaginative people in our company through promotion and pay rises.’ (45% of those with > $100 million, versus 27% of those with <$10 million).

Imagination is also underrated in the learning and development space.
- Only 36% of survey respondents said they train people how to apply their imagination to their work.
- Less than half (47%) said they try to harness imagination in their staff through training and workshops.

Proving the link between imagination and better learning outcomes.

As part of the research, Canon and the University of NSW conducted an experiment which proved for the first time that engaging employees’ imagination during training sessions improves learning outcomes.

The experiment was developed by Emeritus Professor John Sweller at the University of NSW, Australia. An expert on Cognitive Load Theory, Professor Sweller conducted landmark research two decades ago, proving what he termed the ‘Imagination Effect’ – when school children were presented with a procedure or concept to learn, imagining the procedure or concept achieved better learning outcomes than conventional studying.

Canon engaged with UNSW to investigate the role of imagination in the adult world of corporate learning and development.

Using the same training modules with instructions either to study in the conventional manner or to take time to imagine the concepts and procedures, the results showed a clear win for the imagination group.

“Participants that engaged their imagination during the learning process improved their scores significantly compared to their colleagues who simply studied the training module in the conventional way. The imagination group’s mean score was 63% compared to 29% per cent of the study group,” said Professor Sweller.

“As a direct result of the imagination for business project, we are changing the way we structure some of our learning and development programs and how we ask employees to engage with the organisation’s knowledge capital. It’s relatively straight forward to implement, but delivers huge return on investment,” said Ian Flemington, General Manager Human Resources, Canon Australia.

To download the report and content from the UNSW experiment, see from 29 March 2012.

Contact Profile

Canon Australia

Canon is the world’s leading imaging brand that actively inspires with imaginative ideas that enable people to connect, communicate and achieve more than they thought possible through imaging solutions for business and consumers. Canon’s Australian R&D company, CiSRA, develops and exports digital imaging technologies for use in Canon products worldwide. Canon has ranked among the top-four US patent recipients* for the past 20 years, and had global revenues of around $US46 billion in 2011. Canon Australia also operates Canon Finance Australia, which offers one-stop shopping for customers wanting leasing or finance services. For more information, visit,,,
* Based on weekly patent counts issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office
Tara Mills
P: 02 8281 3214
M: 0415 506 014


Imagination, business, productivity, training, education, science,



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