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Richard Branson Flubs a Question and Inadvertently Teaches Us How To Be Innovative

“If you only had 65 minutes left to live, how would you spend them?”

It’s an ideal question to ask someone like Richard Branson — a billionaire who has seemingly done and experienced everything in life without apology, and with reckless joy — jet skiing with models strapped to his back, flying around the world in a balloon, running a multi-billion-dollar empire that would empower him to change the world and inspire a new generation — yup, he’s done it all.

Mr. Branson’s answer to this question, sent to him by Roger Atkins as a part of the #ChallengeRichard quest, is deceptively simple and, for those who are patient and inquisitive enough to peel back the layers, offers a big clue about how to be a game-changing innovator:

“If I only had 65 minutes to live…

I would invite all my family and friends, including all the members of the Virgin family, and have a huge party wherever I was. If I was at home on Necker Island — perfect!

When it comes down to it, the things that matter most to me are my family, friends and home, plus the great work we’ve been able to achieve through Virgin, and having fun.

I’d invite my long-time friends Mike Oldfield, Peter Gabriel and The Rolling Stones to perform — in homage to the Virgin Records days that started it all. We’d dance on the beach, enjoy a few drinks, and feast on my wife’s shepherd’s pie.

I’d cuddle my grandchildren, laugh with my children, kiss my wife, and thank my mother. And when the time was nearly up, I’d toast everyone with a cup of tea (well champagne!) and say cheers to the wonderful times we’ve had together” — Richard Branson

Like quite a few people in the comments section on his post, I immediately questioned (and rolled my eyes at) the fact that Mr. Branson answered the question… well… incorrectly. You’d only have 65 minutes to live. There’s no way he can do all of that in 65 minutes! By not answering the question within the constrictions given, I thought to myself, he denied us a viable answer worth exploring (though his answer was still quite thoughtful and offered wise words on love, family and community).

And then, I snapped out of it and saw the beauty in Branson’s answer, beyond appreciating the love of family and friends. Branson’s answer about what he would do in the 65 minutes leading up to his death, teaches us a valuable lesson about how to be innovative in life.

I reread his answer. He couldn’t possible get all of his family (and Peter Gabriel!) together on an island in 65 minutes for a fond, music-filled farewell feast. But the reality is, he very well could do it. The augmented, holographic, and virtual reality technology that enables us to create worlds and to connect in ways we never were able to do before would not only enable him to do this, but it might create an experience that possibly even rival the real-life version.

This new, game-changing technology will, for the first time ever in our existence on this planet, allow us to create profound, immersive worlds and experiences with each other. But we need to first be bold enough to imaginethe impossible before we can create the impossible. We have to begin to answer questions without first considering the limitations (this is where ordinary thinkers differ from innovative thinkers).

If someone asked you, “What would you do if you had 65 minutes left to live?” and you immediately began to think of the limitations imposed by the question (lack of time, resources, etc.), chances are you’re not an innovative thinker, and you’ll come up with an answer that will cheat you out of what could be a profoundly moving experience in the last moments of your life (ie, how many people would want to go to the moon, climb a mountain, meet their favorite celebrity or, like Branson, gather everyone in they love for one last party?).

Richard Branson has never lived within boxed rules. Everything he has done or attempted to do seemed, at first, outrageous and impossible. The audacity of Branson (and innovative entrepreneurs like him), to answer questions and solve problems by considering the world of possibilities, instead of the perceived limitations, is what makes him exceptional at creating and implementing those crazy ideas. The reality is, because Branson dared to suggest that he could bring his family (and Peter Gabriel!) together on an island in 65 minutes, he very likely would make it happen — somehow.

On the 19th of this month, Richard Branson will be featured guest speaker at Imagination Day 2016 (we, at Served Fresh Media, are partnering with event producers Tribeca Film Festivaland The Hatchery). Branson and many other innovators in technology and business will be discussing the importance of embracing and nurturing ourimaginations in this era of virtual/augmented reality as a precursor to finding profound ways of implementing this new technology.

For most people, imagining a world without limitations is impossible. But this is the very challenge, and opportunity, being presented to us. Will we be able to allow our imaginations to create experiences that challenge our perceived limitations? That is the real question.

[Photo Credit: Richard Branson with friends and family, by Charlie Dailey]

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