Keynote Address: The Inspiration Continuum

Andy Stefanovich kicked off the evening with a terrific keynote exploring five points on what he calls the “inspiration continuum,” a recognition that inspiration requires rigor and different inputs to fuel different types of thinking. These points are:

  1. Serendipitous
  2. Recreational
  3. Abstract
  4. Targeted
  5. Cultural

Serendipitous refers to unplanned disruptive connections that turn out to be pretty good. He gave the example of his wedding where a minute before it was to begin, his uncle stood up and told everyone to get to know each other. At first, he and his soon-to-be wife were thinking disaster. Now their families go on vacation together. “Authenticity is the new celebrity of today.”

Recreational is intentionally releasing the mind from routine. It provides the fuel to see things differently. He takes a sabbatical every five years where he is able to reset his mode of thinking and discover new things because he is looking at the world differently when he is away from work. Some of our best ideas come when we’re thinking about something completely different.

Abstract refers to collisions and connections between various ideas in your head. For example, some Disney creatives took a trip with him to the Hollywood Cemetery where they began to reflect on a life well lived. They were there to gain fresh insights on a virtual theme park for 13-year-old boys. They ended up concocting an amazing plan to send them to the moon that the executives actually bought into.

Targeted is to think in terms of what your point of view is—how do you change the world in a way that is different from everyone else? Most executive chefs stand near the exit to the kitchen to see the food going out. Thomas Keller, a widely regarded executive chef of French Laundry among others, stands instead to watch the dishes coming back in. He wants to see how people reacted to his food.

Cultural is when the inspiration becomes a way of life. After family and faith, what is your center, your passion? And more than that, what is your passion in action? What are its attributes, pieces and parts? He told the story of the man (whose name I have forgotten) who is responsible for much of the rebirth of European newspapers. He did it by placing solid design at the center. People began to hang them as posters and contributed to making them a part of culture.

All in all, he is a tremendously energetic presenter. His mind would rapidly fire between various related tangents, although he always managed to bring them all together. How can we use this to intentionally pursue greater inspiration?

After the talk, the resource center opened up and we were able to get a first look at the various vendors. A good ending to a good first day.

Crowd waiting to get into the resource center, HOW Conference 2010
Crowd waiting to get into the resource center, HOW Conference 2010
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