Tuesday, April 8, 2008

How to inspire

I was at an innovation conference today and had a chance to attend a lunch hosted by Dan Pink. A question came up about how companies and their leaders can inspire their customers and employees.

There was an answer given (with less than perfect confidence) but I found it, well, uninspired and thus, forgot it.

Here's my answer: be yourself. First you'll need to strip away the years (likely decades) of other people and institutions confusing you about who and what you are. Your parents, other family members, friends, celebrities... all have spent a lot of time trying to sell you an image of who and what you need to be. It is all wrong. You need to be you. And the world needs you to be you as well. As you peel away the harmful effects of the socialization process make sure to distinguish between influences designed to civilize you so that you can live amongst others and influences designed to rob you and the world of your uniqueness (or mojo). This isn't about a return to nature red in tooth and claw. It's about finding the melody of your soul and how it can be harmonized with the worlds in which you live.

Once you can peel away some of the accumulated detritus of an acculturation process that prizes conformity, you can look for the real you. What are you good at? What do you really enjoy? What makes your heart sing? And how can you make other people's hearts sing? What is it that makes you you?

If you can figure this out and act on it, you will inspire others. You will inspire them because they all yearn to be free of the crushing soul-destroying burden of conformity. You will inspire them because they all want more authenticity in their lives. You will inspire them because a person true to him or herself is far more productive than one who expends mental energy carrying and battling a persona that is alien to their true nature.

I should point out that I think this is all totally consistent with Dan Pink's thinking. Go read his new book "The Adventures of Johnny Bunko."


Jeremy said...

First off, ditto on Bunko (full disclosure: I consult for him) but I do love the book. ;-)

On the question of inspiring change, it's a good one, but "being yourself" may not be the answer. Some folks, starting at a young age, I think, are just better suited to changing (call it Darwinism) than others. It's no different in the workplace.

Being a 'change agent' when you are surrounded by those whose livelihoods depend on protecting the status quo, is far from easy and the system is sometimes set up to spit you back out.

Nonetheless, I think you are right in saying that you need to be true to yourself, if only to feel at peace.

When all is said and done, perhaps that authenticity is what will inspire others?

Adam said...

I totally agree Jeremy. I should be clear: I was talking about how to inspire people, not how to inspire them to change. Perhaps a small difference, but, I think, an important one. And I believe inspiring them is the first step in inspiring them to change. Then there are all the hardnosed factors like financials...

I also agree that some people are better at this than others. But this just begs the question: why? I believe this is partly that some people are just better at being authentic than others. Perhaps the socialization process didn't work as well on them. Perhaps they have some innate inner strength.

Anyway, I do think that in this world of too much market research, too much polling and not enough decisiveness, we need to see more people who believe in something are can impress that belief in the hearts and souls of others.