Money Doesn’t Inspire

inspirationSome people in the corporate world still believe that people work for money.  But with a growing number of examples of people doing all kinds of work for free, it’s getting more difficult to adhere to that view.  Take Wikipedia, for example.  According to Wikinomics, by Tapscott & Williams, Wikipedia is the largest encyclopedia in the world, with over 4,000,000 articles in over 200 languages.  It has over 1,000,000 registered users, and 100,000 of them have contributed 10 or more entries.   Five thousand volunteers do the bulk of the tasks involved with running and growing this global encyclopedia, and there are only 5 paid employees in this company.

Brilliant business pundits puzzle over the motivation for this kind of mass collaboration, muttering something about revenues and profit.  Meanwhile millions of music fans spend hours obsessively uploading, downloading, mixing and mashing content in a creative frenzy, fueled by artists who encourage their fans to remix their music as a way to expand their notoriety.  Still some business brainiacs scratch their heads and wonder how this can possibly be good for business.

They just don’t get it.  These people do all of this “work” because they’re inspired to do this.  In fact, it’s not “work” for them, it’s an avocation.  They are doing something that they are passionate about.  And they’re doing it with a fervor that a project leader would give their eye teeth to have in their team members.  How can we create this kind of inspiration in our team?  One way is to create some kind of story that gives meaning to your project.  People working at a drug company are not developing a drug for approval, they’re saving people’s lives.  People developing solar power are not cranking out a profitable power-generation product, they’re providing a sustainable source of clean power to the people of the earth.  People creating an entertaining movie filled with gratuitous violence are enabling people to escape from life’s demands and enjoy themselves for a couple of hours.  Every team’s purpose can be re-interpreted to focus on the benefits that they are providing to others.

Another way is to be inspiring, regardless of the menial nature of the project you’re leading.  Let’s face it, sometimes IT systems need to be upgraded and ditches need to be dug.  Regardless of the nature of your project, being inspiring on a daily basis is a tough job.  Afterall, project leaders are human beings, too, subject to the same frustrations, exhaustion and despair that the rest of the team experiences.  How are we going to inspire our teammates if we’re hanging on by our fingernails?  In short, we can’t.  So priority #1 is to inspire ourselves.  Since you can’t afford to wait for inspiration from outside sources, you’d better be self-inspired.

How do you stay inspired so that you can inspire others?  I’ve got my own strategies and tactics, but I’m feeling an undeniable urge to have some collaboration here.  Maybe we can’t yet get 100,000 people contributing to this blog, but I think we can get a half dozen, right?  And I’m so committed to YOUR involvement that I’m not going to share my thoughts on staying self-inspired until at least 6 people comment on this post, contributing their ideas of how to stay self-inspired in the whirlwind of a project.  Looking forward to hearing what works for you!

– Kimberly Wiefling, Founder, Wiefling Consulting, LLC and author, Scrappy Project Management (Japanese translation due out July 1, 2009)


12 thoughts on “Money Doesn’t Inspire”

  1. User Avatar

    OK, you guys waited me out. We didn’t get comments from the 6 people I asked for, but we got 5, so I am officially giving you all a B- for under-participating. But I’m still going to share some of my favorite tips in answer to the question “How do you stay inspired so that you can inspire others?”

    1. Time is never wasted in my bathroom. I have inspirational sayings, my big, huge, outrageous goals, and a handwritten “note to self” that all remind me of my best hopes and dreams for myself and the rest of humanity.

    2. I receive a “Quote of the Day” from my good buddy Pay Obuchowski. Sign up here if you have a hankering for a daily dose of inspiration from one of Silicon Valley’s most insightful coaches.

    3. People send me inspiring stories. I don’t know why, I guess I just seem like a person who needs to be inspired. For example, one friend sent me a story about a community in Hawaii that was told their main road couldn’t be repaired for less than $4M USD, and it would take 2 years. They all got together and finished the job with donated time and materials in one weekend. If you don’t have friends who send you stories, go looking for them yourself on the world wide waste of time. It’s full of GOOD news, too!

    4. I hang around with people who inspire me.

    5. I talk with a playful child.

    6. I imagine the result as already achieved, and feel, REALLY FEEL, how it will FEEL to be looking back on on this challenges and hardship and smiling with satisfaction, knowing we did it anyway!

    7. I practice the “Attitude of Gratitude” by thinking about how fortunate I am, how I live like a king on this planet where so many don’t have clean water to drink, sufficient nourishment, a clean, warm dry place to lay their head at night, a place to call their home, decent medical care, the ability to walk through their neighborhood safely, meaningful work that unleashes their highest and best, and family and friends nearby to share the journey.

    And sometimes I just imagine what the world might be like if I, and every idealistic dreamer like me, just gave up all at once and let it all go to hell. That makes the fire in my heart burn plenty bright to light the way for others.

    Stay Scrappy! – Kimberly

  2. User Avatar

    I once worked for an executive team that had a company-wide meeting every month. Each of those meetings was an hour long.

    The first half an hour was a progress report on the executive team’s goals for that month. They invited suggestions from the rest of the company, and some suggestions made their way into their list of goals for the next month, quarter or year. What a great way to communicate with the rest of the company ! It was great to see that our voices were being heard.

    The next half hour was “cool idea showcase time”. Employees were encouraged to think up and work on a “cool idea” which they could then showcase in the company-wide meetings. We would usually get to see/hear one or two “cool ideas” during each of these meetings. Employees would prepare presentations and/or demos. Very quickly, creativity and productivity went thru the roof.

    Now that’s leadership !

    1. User Avatar

      Wow! Way cool! According to psychologists, human beings want to feel significant, important, competent and loved, and giving them respectful attention and showcasing their work is one way to meet these very human needs. Thanks for giving us hope that there are such corporate environments out there!

  3. I went on a tour last week with some of my staff and looked at our 10M antenna that communicates with the satellites we are flying, and witnessed a pass in the operations room. It’s amazing how quickly a satellite can get from northern Canada to south of Mexico.

    Your post here is timely Kimberly. It occurred to me how tedious and mundane our work can seem, even when we are working with really cool stuff. It’s all about perspective.

    I needed a little perspective myself.

    Josh Nankivel

    1. User Avatar

      OK, bring on the cynics! Money is just paper that has been blessed by the treasury gods! Hold up a post note and hold up a $20 and what do you see? Two pieces of paper! I once asked a friend “If anything were possible what would you instantly create for yourself?” He said $1,000,000 dollars cash. Then I asked him “What would you buy with it?” He had no idea. He looking at me and blinked blankly and said “I never thought of it.” Sheesh! No wonder people can never get enough money.

  4. User Avatar

    Gosh, yes, meeting real customers and coming face to face with their pain and how your project relieves their pain is inspiring as heck! When I was repairing analytical products at HP long ago one customer was in tears because they had samples of human blood about to expire and the instrument to run the analysis was down. They didn’t want to have to ask people to come in and give more blood, and were at their wits end. Being able to fix the problem for them and explain how they could prevent the problem in the future made me feel like a hero!

    Get out there and swim in the customer’s fishbowl – very inspiring indeed!

  5. User Avatar

    Wonderful topic, Kimberly! I just love being inspired by great leaders and there is nothing better than being able to work on a project where I feel like I am contributing to the greater good. A great way to inspire a team that generally works well is to tap the ‘voice of the customer’. Send your team out early in a project to meet with customers, both established and potential. The customer is left with an impression that your team really cares and wants to solve their problems, and the team is left with a lasting and vivid image of a real live customer who will enjoy the fruits of their labors. The only problem is getting Marketing to allow product developers anywhere near a paying customer ;-).

    That’s four! Can I submit another?

  6. User Avatar

    Great story, Doug! One of my all time favorites. The meaning we associate with the facts and situations of our lives creates our reality more powerfully than so-called “reality”. Instead of bemoaning monthly travel to Japan for my consulting practice, I say “I’m working with a team of passionate and committed people to transform the Japanese economy for the better through shifting the mindset of Japanese business leaders, for the greater good of the whole planet and the problems that these companies are uniquely positioned to solve on all of our behalf.” Maybe it’s a crock of doo-doo, but it makes me feel much better to frame my work in Japan this way! (and less tired) And lately I’m helping to facilitate the kick-off of the Open Kilowatt Institute with executive direct Matt Foley, dedicated to opensource development of clean, efficient and affordable energy that power every home from their rooftop. It’s way cool to think we’re making a difference! Gets me out of bed in the morning.

  7. User Avatar

    Perhaps one key to being inspiring is to be inspired.

    Thinking back on people that inspired me, I think it wasn’t so much any conscious act — it was more of an infection.

    They inspired me with a skip in their step, a twinkle in the eye, and gleeful laughs as they pursued something “cool.” I just couldn’t help but want to get in on it.

    Of course, not all projects were intrinsically cool. On the other hand, even in those situations the inspirational leaders always (well, almost always!) found some kind of cool challenge.

    So, find cool things that inspire you and your behavior will be more contagious than the flu.

    alan tsuda
    Achieving Tangible Results

    1. User Avatar

      So true, Alan! One of my favorite inspirational sayings goes “If you don’t have contagious enthusiasm, whatever you DO have is ALSO contagious!”

      One source of inspiration for me this past year has been working with you in Japan. I love seeing you bring marketing and finance to life in a highly interactive and engaging experience, not at all the boring lectures I grew to expect from my university days.

      Springing sprightly through my day, Kimberly

  8. User Avatar

    A man walked past 3 workers laying bricks. He asked the first one, “What are you doing.” He responded with a puzzled look, “I’m laying bricks.” Moving on, he asked the next worker, “What are you doing?” To which he resonded with a smile, “I’m building a wall up perfect and straight.” On to the third he asked “What are you doing?” “I’m building a magnificent cathedral where people will come from all around to worship God!”

    Kimberly, ask me what I’m doing on the right day and I’ll say, “I’m helping to build a team of people who give themselves to collaboration and cooperation such that the solutions we are building are at least 3 times better than it would be on our own.

    What are you doing today?

    Doug Bedinger – Consulting for Results – “Helping individuals, teams, and whole organizations become more effective, more efficient, and more human in their pursuits.”

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