Innovation and creativity may be the engine that will drive American business competitiveness in the 21st century, but without the fuel of inspiration, that engine will never turn over, author Andy Stefanovich says. And inspiration is ultimately the spark that innovation and creativity need for combustion.
But business owners need to understand that inspiration is not a bolt-out-of-the blue phenomenon. You can't wait around for it to strike like lightning and bail out your business with a blazing ball of new ideas for products and services. It doesn't work that way, Stefanovich writes in his new book, "Look at More: A Proven Approach to Innovation, Growth, and Change" (Jossey-Bass, 2011).
In very simplistic terms, inspiration is the operating system or platform that innovation and creativity work on. And finding inspiration requires practice and a healthy measure of the perspiration Thomas Edison credited for the bulk of his successful innovations. The goal is to court inspiration methodically and religiously and internalize it to make it part of your business's DNA, whether you're a sole proprietor or the head of a mammoth conglomerate, Stefanovich says.
Stefanovich's philosophy has been used by a number of real-world businesses. He is the chief curator and provocateur at Prophet, a strategic brand and marketing consultancy that has helped clients like GE, Disney, Coca-Cola, the U.S. Olympic Committee and Ritz-Carlton spur development of new products, build brands and audiences, grow market share and encourage workforce creativity.
"We've orchestrated creativity and innovation," Stefanovich said. "We forgot about the inspiration around us. Let's incorporate inspiration."
"If people in business can give themselves permission to hunt and gather ideas and inspiration, all that they've gathered will gel into greater solutions, renewed energy and purpose," Stefanovich said. "It's that simple."
For Stefanovich, that hunting and gathering are encapsulated in something he calls LAMSTAIH —Look At More Stuff; Think About It Harder (pronounced lamb's tie). LAIMSTAIH is the soul of inspiration, a process for inspiring workplace innovation.
But, he says, it's not some corporate add-on, or something that you have to carve out a special time or place to practice. It's a discipline that, like an operating system, works behind the scenes. And like all disciplines, Stefanovich said, it needs a supporting framework.
"Becoming an inspired individual is a rigorous discipline that requires practice," he said.
The 5 Ms
Stefanovich calls the framework for that practice the 5 Ms: mood, mindset, mechanisms, measurement and momentum. With those in place, you can create a hothouse for generating inspiration.
Mood, he said, is the attitudes, feelings and emotions that create the context for inspiration and creativity. The mood of your organization is your responsibility. To foster the right context, you need to create purposeful disruptions, ask provocative questions and make physical changes.
Mindset is the intellectual foundation of creativity, he said, the baseline capacity each of us has for getting inspired, staying inspired and thinking differently.
"Reverse your mindset; be counterintuitive," Stefanovich said.
Mechanisms are the tools and processes of creativity that help you engineer inspiration into the way you work and empower your organization to embrace the kind of behavior that fosters innovation.
Measurement takes into consideration qualitative and quantitative performance and provides individuals and organizations and critical feedback, he said. Measurements send a strong signal of what is important and where people should focus their passion and energy.
But we need to stop focusing exclusively on outcomes and look more at inputs, Stefanovich said. There is a direct correlation between the quality and quantity of what goes in with what comes out.
Momentum is the active championing and celebrating of inspiration and creativity that foster a self-reinforcing cycle for growing innovation , he said. Momentum in business is the same as it is in physics; a body at rest stays at rest, while a body in motion stays in motion.
The key is to not rely on the vagaries of serendipity, but rather to orchestrate inspiration methodically and make it omnipresent. But forget the magic handshakes and secret decoder rings.
"People don't want magic things," Stefanovich said.
What they want, he said, is an actionable roadmap that can help them make the practice of inspiration an inseparable part of the way they do business.
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Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.