The gardening crew has arrived outside my office. I hear a clunk and a bump as their truck and trailer bounces into the lot. I watch for a few minutes, and I’m inspired by the efficiency. They quickly rev up the ride-on mower and begin trimming the edges. It’s like a well-oiled pit stop team — every worker knows his place. Someone hands me the bill and everybody leaves as smoothly as they came in.
In business, it’s important to be creative. Here are five sources of inspiration.
1. Your little idea book
The first place you can go for inspiration is where you record all your great ideas: the little idea book you keep close on the bedside table or in your handbag or business bag.
I often start my business-coaching clients with a gift: a small notebook only to be used for great ideas. Imagine if you had a list of the all those good ideas that kept you awake at night but you never got a chance to implement. Get a little idea book and take it wherever you go: assignment to assignment or business to business, and put the date and place next to each idea.
2. The usual suspects: colleagues, acquaintances, coaches
This is a place many managers and business owners find hard to go. As a leader, you need to be inspiring yourself and creating an environment that fosters innovation, creativity and entrepreneurism for your team. Allow time in meetings to share your vision and encourage others to be inspiring.
Get advice from the professionals you trust: your accountant, lawyer, marketing partner, mentor or business coach. Ask someone from a business you find inspiring to lunch and learn about how they drive innovation.
It is often lonely, challenging and difficult to find inspiration on your own. Professional coaches or mentors can really help draw your ideas out, break down obstacles and push inspiration to action.
3. Your workplace
Seeking inspiration can sometimes simply be a state of mind. Despite the advantages of being off-site, it is probably more likely you need to find inspiration in your normal place of work.
- Stroll around your workplace with the sole purpose of taking an introspective look at what is going on around you. Take an objective look at opportunities and efficiencies.
- Create an employee survey. Ask questions in a positive tone, and create conditions ripe for innovation and in-house entrepreneurs. There are plenty of free survey tools to seek inspiration from your staff.
- Brainstorm. Get the coloured sticky notes, white board and a facilitator, friend or staff member to lead the session. No idea is too big, too small or too crazy — just generate inspirational business ideas. Record every idea, rank them and implement at least one.
4. Go on a holiday
Create room for personal creativity to re-emerge. Look into a campfire. Watch the sunset. Go for a swim before breakfast.
- Make sure you have your business or job covered well so you and your family enjoy the break. You need to be free of the day-to-day phone calls and emails. Delegate.
- Have your little book handy — ideas will come by the pool, on the beach or while climbing that mountain.
- Look at other businesses while you are away from home, whether different to yours or similar. Note down anything that stands out, and talk to your team about the efficient coffee shop, organised tourist activities or incredible customer service you received.
- Go to a university you did not attend and stroll around the grounds before heading into the library or museum. Check the latest business magazines, textbooks or books on innovation and management.
- Read a book on an inspiring leader. If your business needs motivation to meet challenges, read about how someone else overcame their threats. Spend time in the bookshop and you will find something.
As with everything so far, it is extremely important to create a clear head and mind space so you are ‘in the zone’ to get inspired.
- Conduct an online, anonymous survey of your customers. Ask some simple questions, note the answers, and discuss it with your team, mentor or business coach.
- Use social media to find out what is trending in business. Who is the most influential person in your area of business, leadership or interest?
- Use social media to engage in meaningful discussions with someone on a different continent. What inspires them? What are their biggest issues and ideas?
- The most important thing is to record your inspirational ideas for future reference, be that in a little book or whatever method you choose. Lead by example. Rank and prioritise ideas, but don’t try too many at once.
Get some quick wins on board to inspire your team. Remember, to build an ecosystem that values inspiration, you need to reward and celebrate it, even if you are a one-person operation.
How do you find inspiration for your business? Share your ideas below.