Don’t Wait for a Stroke of Brilliance

By Andy Stefanovich, author of Look At More: A Proven Approach To Innovation, Growth, and Change

We have a tendency to think of inspiration as the proverbial lightning strike — one of those things that just happens, that you can’t engineer. But that’s a pretty limited characterization.  There are actually three different ways that we get inspired: by delight, by design, and on demand. Let’s take a closer look.

  • Inspiration by delight.These are the purely serendipitous moments we’ve all had at one time or another. You’re suddenly moved by a scene on the street, the beauty of nature, or the shockingly wise words of a child. You didn’t plan for it, but you were in the right place at the right time. Understanding the physiological and mental dynamics at play during moments of pure surprise and delight is critical to channeling inspiration toward a specific objective.
  • Inspiration by design.This is when you intentionally put yourself in a situation where there’s a higher likelihood of getting inspired, such as going to see an art show or taking a class with a brilliant teacher. Unfortunately, we often limit ourselves to finding inspiration from relatively few sources —museums, theaters, classrooms, and so on. But if you keep working at it, you can expand your capacity for finding inspiration in other, less obvious places. The inspiration you need for your business isn’t necessarily going to be where you might commonly look. And although you can’t predict the outcome of inspiration by design, you can predict the cost of not seeking out inspiration: your thinking will grow stale, and you’ll drastically limit the possibilities before you.
  • Inspiration on demand. Like it or not, in our daily business lives we sometimes need inspiration on a moment’s notice, but don’t have the time, resources, or permission to hunt for it. This is like on-demand TV: the entertainment industry built a model around how people want to watch TV, archiving it because we demand to view it on our own terms.

Focusing on each kind of inspiration makes all three of them a stronger influence in your creative process. For example, the more you seek out inspiration by design and the more you practice inspiration on demand, the more likely you are to be fully aware when you’re inspired by delight. You’ll also be better able to apply those elegant moments of inspiration to your own life and work.

Some people might argue that you can’t create serendipity, but over the last two decades, I’ve learned that you can indeed push yourself and your team to unforeseen insights and meaning with a combination of openness and a little faith. So even though I can’t teach you how to get lightning to strike where and when you want it, I will show you a number of techniques and perspectives for whipping up a storm of inspiration, creativity, and innovation. Once you experience the power to look at more stuff and think about it harder, you’ll be able to give others a taste of this process and create an army of empowered and inspired individuals who will help your organization find new avenues for growth.

Reprinted by permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from Look At More: A Proven Approach To Innovation, Growth, and Change, by Andy Stefanovich.  Copyright (c) 2011 by Andy Stefanovich.  All rights reserved.

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