Does imagination play a role in running a hotel? I hadn’t given much thought until I was invited to participate in a panel discussion put on by the City of Santa Fe Arts Commission, part of a nationwide series sponsored by the Lincoln Center Institute that looks at the importance of encouraging imaginative thinking in children. I was honored to be included with such distinguished academics as Eric Blinman, director of the state office of Archaeological Studies; Denise Johnston, associate superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools; conductor John Kennedy, artistic director of Santa Fe New Music; artist Dolly Naranjo Neikrug, principal of Santa Clara Day School; and Laura Mayo Rodriguez, a sixth-grade teacher at Nava Elementary School. The discussion was moderated by artist Peter Chapin, retired chairman of the Drew University art department and former director of the New York Art Semester.
I was happy to find that I had something to add to the conversation. Because it does take imagination to respond effectively to daily changes at La Fonda, and to keep the business of hospitality fun and engaging for both guests and employees. I find that the artistic environment of Santa Fe itself inspires me every day to think beyond the tried and true norms, to provide creative ideas to energize our staff. Rather than painting or playing music, I get a creative workout by gardening. Each plant I add contributes to a vision in my mind of how to add beauty to the world for all to enjoy. La Fonda is like that, too. Every solution or project contributes to a vision – but in this case it’s a shared vision. Our diverse staff, with their varied cultural backgrounds and experiences, contribute to collaborative solutions that really demonstrate the benefits of creative thinking. I believe this is the best example of how imagination is used in business: working together as a group to come up with creative solutions toward a shared goal. The Conversations, like the one I participated in, will culminate in America’s Imagination summit, to be held at Lincoln Center in July 21 and 22, 2011. The day-and-a-half-long conference will be attended by representatives from all 50 states, Imagination Conversations national sponsors and other elected officials, legislators, education experts, business leaders, artists, and scientists. The event’s centerpiece will be the presentation of an action plan for policy makers, educators, and community activists to put imagination at the forefront of our school curricula. To learn more about America’s Imagination Summit, visit the Lincoln Center’s website.