Do we view imagination as a reaction?

Images Copyright Institute of Imagination

Do we view imagination as a reaction? Something that has to be ignited, evoked, or instilled? Over at the Institute of Imagination (iOi), Annie Duffield, Head of Marketing and Communications says, “imagination is a fundamental human skill, we need it”. At iOi, imagination is viewed as a muscle – something that is already active and can be strengthened through exercise.

iOi is a charity that champions the power and understanding of imagination and its benefits on wellbeing, skills development, learning and innovation. Although their audience is a mix of different age groups, most of their work is based around children and young people. Duffield says, “imagination has benefits beyond itself as a skill – it supports a huge amount of other things. Benefits for well being, benefits for innovation.” They’re currently in the process of building the iOi campus, a place for experiential learning for all ages, including hands on learning and the use of digital technologies.

Does London really need an imagination campus? “Imagination is the cornerstone of creativity and a lot of other skills that are now necessary, such as critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration” says Duffield. For most of us, it’s hard to pinpoint the last time we really used our imagination, but according to Duffield, “you don’t lose your sense of imagination as you get older, you just use it less”.

Images Copyright Institute of Imagination

Most jobs require employees to be creative, but companies rarely provide them with the tools to be able to do so. “We’re really passionate about it at iOi. We’re all about intergenerational learning. Children have a more innate sense of their imagination and they experiment with it better than adults do. Adults have been channelled through a process – education and work, and imagination tends to be more difficult. If you give people the time and space to exercise it, then they use it much more accurately”.

This is why iOi also run innovation sessions for businesses and workplaces – to give people the tools to be innovative. “We’ve been taught from a young age that failure is a negative thing,” she says, “iOi create spaces where the activities are free and open ended, so there’s no visible sense for failure.”

Whilst their campus is in progress, iOi currently run their workshops and events from their Imagination Lab on London’s Albert Embankment, where they invite people to drop in and be immersed. Duffield says, “imagination is something we need in our everyday lives and it’s something that’s becoming ever more important as the world changes at a rapid pace.” Find out how you can get involved here.


Institute of Imagination are partnering with Second Home as part of London Fields Unwrapped week. They will  be hosting a series of events for Family Day, sign up for free here.