Inspiration is that magic elixir that enables us to be better. Without it, we would continue to just be what we currently are. It allows us to be cheaper, better and faster. It is how the better mouse trap is conceived and created. It is how we beat the competition at their own game. When we have it we can change the course of our business for the better. When we don’t we are forced to fall back on the plodding methodology of the current process. The good are always looking for inspiration. The great know where it is.
I was sitting waiting for inspiration to strike me so that I could start on my next article. I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Still nothing.
Regardless, I figured I had better get started. Since I was currently lacking it, I would examine it. What is inspiration? As usual, I started looking for it on Google:
the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.”
Okay. I now recognized that there is a link between inspiration and creativity. However, I was still waiting for it to hit me.
Then I remembered that it was opportunity that knocks, not inspiration.
I decided that if I was going to be inspired enough to write something worthwhile, I was going to have to go look for it. It wasn’t just going to come to me. At least this not time.
Normally both current and past business events have a way of bubbling up within my psyche to enable me to look at them and share them here. Sometimes it is easier than others. Sometimes, not. This time however, no luck at all.
There are a great many things going on both in business and on the global stage, and in the past I have tried to capture some of these ideas and concepts, and both the current and past events associated with them. But none of the ones that I looked at seemed to resonate with me.
I don’t know if it was the World Cup entering the final stages (since I would not consider myself a real fan), or the NHL draft and ensuing free agency (since I would consider myself a real fan), but “it”, whatever it is, just wasn’t there. I would get a line or two into an idea and then become disenchanted, or uninspired.
This sad state of affairs is not the normal situation for me. Those who know me will be the first to say that I will usually have something to say about almost anything. It is far more difficult to get me to refrain from commenting than it is to get me to say something.
I am fond of quoting Ron White, the Texas based comedian, who once said when he was being arrested:
“I know I have the right to remain silent. I just don’t have the ability to remain silent.”
I think he has actually said it multiple times, since it has become a part of his stage act, but I think you get my point.
This time however, I just couldn’t find something that felt worthwhile to share here and comment on.
What I was missing here was that I was thinking that inspiration was something that came from without. It either “came” to you, or you went looking for it. In general, at least for me, I don’t think that this is the case. And, I think that for the most part it is probably not the case for most others as well.
We have a tendency to think that the event, action or activity that triggers our inspiration, is the source of our inspiration. I don’t think this is the case at all. It is merely a trigger. Something that causes us to take what we already think, know and feel, and bring it to the surface and recombine it in a new way.
Inspiration actually lies within.
Steve Jobs said:
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it. They just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”
I think too often we rely on external queues for our inspiration. We want to follow the process for something that by its very nature does not lend itself to process.
We in effect, are trying to schedule our spontaneity.
And what we should all know by now is that “the process”, actually almost any process, does not lend itself to spontaneity, creativity or inspiration. Process is designed to reduce risk and replace judgement. Both of which are required for inspiration.
Getting back to Steve Jobs for a moment. He was recognized as one of the most inspired people in business. He “knew” and “saw” how his products should be, well before they were ever created. He demanded that they meet his inspirational expectations. He anticipated and created markets, instead of chasing them.
But don’t confuse being inspired with being inspirational. By all accounts, Jobs was not a particularly inspirational leader. The quotes regarding his management style range from:
“…It is well-known that Steve Jobs could be arrogant, dictatorial, and mean-spirited….”
“…Steve Jobs is … a man who shouted down colleagues at meetings, was visibly impatient and dismissive of others’ contributions… and yet he is lauded as perhaps the most successful entrepreneur of his generation….”
I guess this means that you can act this way as long as you are right. But be wrong, just once, as Jobs inevitably was, and that behavior will come back to haunt you. This was seen when he was ousted from Apple.
As we know, he would eventually come back and experience even greater success.
So where did Jobs’ inspiration come from?
With a personality such as his, I think it obviously came from within. He made the connections intuitively and then drove the technologists, and the rest of his team to fulfill them. He was inspired, but he was not inspirational.
Every analysis and business review, seems to confirm this. He was an anomaly as a business leader. He did not lead his team. He drove his people. He demanded of his team. He invariably used the stick, instead of the carrot.
Most of us do not have the option of behaving the way Jobs did. But we can learn about inspiration from him.
He was able to make the intuitive connections that enabled him to see a better way of doing things. To see new products that would be needed and wanted, before others, including the prospective customers. To step outside of the current processes and procedures to make those quantum improvements.
It came from within him. The triggers were the current way things were done, and the current products that were being provided. He didn’t particularly try to make the current products better. He tried to make something else.
He looked at the way things were to establish a baseline. He looked within for his inspiration regarding what he thought they should be in the future.
I don’t really want to get to philosophical here. I was just trying to find the inspiration for a new article topic, and got to thinking about where inspiration came from. When I got to thinking about it enough, it then hit me, and voila, I had my new topic and article.