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Imagination for Courage, Creativity & Change with Beth Comstock

Beth Comstock’s mission is to understand what’s next, navigate change, and help people and organizations do the same. By cultivating a habit of seeking out new ideas, people and places, she built a career path from storyteller to chief marketer to GE Vice Chair.

In nearly three decades at GE, she led efforts to accelerate new growth and innovation, initiated GE’s digital and clean-energy transformation, seeded new businesses and enhanced GE’s brand value and inventive culture. As President of Integrated Media at NBC Universal, Beth oversaw TV ad revenue and new digital efforts, including the early development of hulu.com.

Beth is a director at Nike, trustee of The National Geographic Society and former board president of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian National Design Museum. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in biology.

Her first book, Imagine It Forward, about summoning courage and creativity in the face of change, was published on September 18, 2018.

As the pace of change increases exponentially, we’re all going to be searching for ways to solve problems we’ve never had before. Today’s guest Beth Comstock—one of America’s most successful businesswomen, author, and a previous leader of innovative change in her role as Vice Chair at GE—is here to tell us why our imagination and creativity are powerful and essential tools to build a new future for ourselves.

Fear can hold us back from making the most of our imagination, as can an unhealthy attachment to safe, familiar routes. So many people don’t take that first step towards making the idea they have in their heads a reality because they’re afraid they won’t be perfect or successful. But as Beth tells us, embracing uncertainty and learning as you go is the only way to move towards growth and success.

In this episode, we’ll explain why imagination, creativity and white space are so important, and why creativity isn’t just something to be done in your free time. We’ll discuss why so many people don’t use their imagination to its full potential, how to cultivate imagination and the importance of vision and story in achieving your goals for a brighter future.

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"If failure is not an option, then neither is success!"

Beth Comstock

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  • Imagination is our innate humanness—it’s about creative problem solving, taking leaps of faith and pondering new potential futures.
  • Imagination gap: companies are too focused on the here and now, efficiency, productivity and the short term—don’t make time for thinking ahead to consider good and bad possibilities, and our focus on data is squeezing out imagination and humanness.
  • Scheduling in white space: time to be creative, let your thoughts wander.


  • Creativity sometimes scares people, is considered something to be done in free time, yet we’ll be entering an age of AI where all we will be left with is our human creativity and imagination—yet we’re not training people to use them.
  • People can be afraid of their power, and afraid of what it means if they do use it.
  • Some people are convinced they’re not creative or have been told they’re not.
  • People don’t give themselves permission to use their creativity.
  • The idea is never as good as the concept in our head, or once we get it out in the world.
  • Don’t make the attempt because of perfectionism, or a fear we won’t be successful.
  • A quick way to jump into using your creativity: give yourself permission to try one small thing.


  • Avoid overscheduling kids—give them time to think!
  • Avoid feeling the need to figure it out for them, and the need to give them an answer.
  • Give them a problem and ask them to figure it out—go through the messy process of making mistakes.
  • Every time you stimulate your kid in coding, give them a creative exercise in a different area (e.g. critical thinking, problem-solving, ethics).


  • Qualities we can cultivate: creativity, imagination, strategy.
  • The strategy is important: we’re in a time of crazy change especially within technology, so how are we going to solve problems we’ve never had before?
  • Story: do we want to live our lives on autopilot? The United Airlines pilot who was qualified to fly the plane without autopilot—one of the few pilots left who was certified to do so.
  • In school, we’re taught what to learn, but not taught how to learn, or important skills like critical thinking, problem-solving decision-making, focus, concentration accessing flow states.
  • Quote from Quincy Jones: “I didn’t have any problems, I had puzzles.”


  • Create a vision for yourself: your vision is a story you’re telling yourself about where you’re going, and story can be powerful to move you forward.
  • Don’t forget to recognize where you’ve come from.
  • Recognize it’s an aspiration—you may not get there, but where you’ve been will help you to get there
  • Take small deliberate steps
  • Test and learn—just start, and learn along the way!


  • Remember: if failure’s not an option then neither is success!


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