“No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.”
– Edward Hopper
Innovation runs not on invention or skill, but on imagination. Imagination is the ability to construct in the mind that which is not perceived through sight, hearing, or any other senses. To truly create something new and innovative, that something cannot already exist in any real sense of the word.
Over the span our species existence, an overwhelming majority of paradigm-shifting innovations have relied on our ability to think differently, to re-evaluate current situations in a different light in order to imagine objects and systems (formerly out of our control or non-existent) that could make life easier, more enjoyable, and even more understandable. Think about the ideas that inspired the use of primitive tools, agriculture, religion, written language, art, poetry, our virtual systems of currency, governments, computers, the use of atomic energy, the internet.
It can be argued that “skillful invention” also plays a very large role in innovation and has enormously aided in the production, efficiency and implementation of new ideas and technology. Ultimately though, these kinds of innovation (excluding accidental discoveries) cannot exist without being originally inspired by the mind.
Although it is very unlikely you will conceive something as fundamentally thought-shifting as agriculture or the internet, it is important to remember (and I try to tell myself this) that hard work, dedication and skill will facilitate nothing of value without our most powerful tool, the imagination.