Think of Yourself as a Pioneer

“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.”Albert Einstein

Do you think of yourself as a pioneer? If you don’t, you probably should.

Traditionally, we have reserved the respected and revered “Pioneer” title for individuals who have demonstrated the initiative and courage necessary to overcome distance and personal hardship to brave unfamiliar lands. It is only recently we have begun to think of pioneers as exploring the boundaries of imagination, and even still, typically this honor is reserved for those working in technology and science. But is this limited view of what defines a pioneer accurate?

We can easily argue that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were pioneers. They, and their like, opened new intellectual and social frontiers forever changing how we work and interact, laying before us infinite possibilities for the path forward. However, it will be you and I who help to define how those possibilities are realized. It was not the first individuals who moved to the West Coast who imagined California, it was those who followed that validated the vision of the new frontier and ultimately defined what would become California. So, while the major pioneering innovators made headlines, it was our collective imaginations that made the difference. We are the ones who implement and evaluate and, therefore, validate the idea. It is you and I, with our value judgments and our tenacity, who ultimately define how future generations will live, work and play.

In our cover story, “Investing in Engagement,” Erica Kemp shares how a growing company, Credit Union 1, imagined, embraced and ultimately validated a new vision for employee engagement. The challenge that Credit Union 1’s leadership faced is one common to many of today’s businesses. How does a company embrace and engage a remote workforce? How can it reduce the perceived distance remote workers feel from their coworkers and company?

In 2005, Credit Union 1 implemented a new vision in conjunction with the construction of its new corporate headquarters. Through their endorsement and financial commitment, Credit Union 1’s leadership imagined a new path forward further validating recent innovations in collaborative technologies.

With the goal set, it was now up to Erica and her team. Regardless of the innovative potential of the technology or the level of investment and support on the part of leadership, success would ultimately be defined by Erica and her team. Their approach to change management, process improvement and their innovative and creative mindset would serve to implement the company’s vision; she and her team would not only define success but would define how they get there.

As Erica and her team discovered, an innovative and pioneering idea is no more than a virtual baton. It may start with an individual’s imagination, but it must ultimately be passed forward and incorporated into the collective imagination of future pioneers. Any progress associated with the idea will ultimately be the result of the aggregated imagination, courage and tenacity of those who chose to actively endorse the idea and move beyond the status quo.

So, the next time you are faced with a challenge, stop for a moment and realize that it is imagination that overcomes obstacles and courage that embraces change. These are the traits that define a pioneer.