Inspirational Work

I’ve been thinking about how I naturally want to gravitate to positions where I’m helping to create a positive culture within an organization through training and inspiration. This in turn got me wondering if there are any companies out there who actually are inspirational or create inspirational products themselves. What’s important to realize though is what I define as “inspirational” because it’s often misinterpreted with the other word “innovative”. To me, something that is inspirational gives someone a new perspective on life thus allowing them to both solidify and stabilize it through empowerment. In effect, if it doesn’t make their life better by making them feel more whole and complete then it’s not inspirational to me. For example, there are a lot of great innovative products out there that do amazing things but for the most part they don’t empower you, making you more independent. If anything, they weaken and fracture your life, making you more reliant upon them. Put another way, an inspirational product should empower people with what they already have, like a great tool, rather than empower them via an external dependent source that if cut off leaves them neutered and useless.

…an inspirational product should empower people with what they already have…

Quickly doing a search on the Web for “inspirational companies”, I found a listing of Most Inspiring Companies as indicated by “an online survey of 1,752 consumers”. After looking at the list, I thought to myself “If these are the most inspiring companies in the world right then we as a society are in serious trouble.”  Other than TOM Shoes which I wholeheartedly believe is inspirational, most of these companies are some of the largest and greediest corporate companies in the world. If they do anything that’s good it’s only because it directly helps their profit or brand image. For example, I’ve worked at Starbucks and it was one of the most worst experiences in my life. So much so that it scarred me psychologically and almost irreparably damaged my values and internal cultural compass. That’s because there wasn’t one ounce of authenticity or caring in the experience. They basically treated their employees like they were machines and their training program was nothing but a “sink or swim” approach.

Doing another search for “inspirational products”, again I didn’t find much. At the top of the list was Apple’s products which without a doubt I find highly innovative and enjoyable to use but still I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are inspirational. Yes, without a doubt, devices like the iPad and iPhone are changing the way we live but are they truly empowering us in a way that we feel more whole and independent within our lives? Again from what I’m seeing, these devices are no different from other computers in their ability to distract us and if anything they distract and fracture us even more so because they are so mobile and are with us all the time now. No, if anything, these devices are just stepping stones to something much more powerful that will hopefully give us the ability to see relational and contextual data in a completely new way, thus causing a paradigm shift which alters our world view and in turn provides us with the inspiration to see things in a completely new light.

Until then though, even though I have a strong sense of self-identity, I’m still not fully sure of the path I’m supposed to be taking. In effect, I know my passion but my purpose is still somewhat hazy. I have some rough ideas up my sleeve for creating some inspirational things but it still feels like I’m missing something very important and very obvious. One thing that keeps tugging on me time and again though is the way we work right now in our society. It seems completely flawed and outdated to the point that it is fracturing the very humanity of individuals within it, yet we happily plod along as though everything is completely normal (i.e. profits are up!). I fear if something isn’t done soon, we’ll soon be encountering a tipping point where people with their last ounce of humanity will rise up and revolt against the “machine” of present day work practices. At the same time, in the back of my mind, I feel like I intuitively know a better way of working, yet I haven’t visualized it in such a way that it can easily be interpreted by others yet. In other words, until I can easily articulate my vision, I may as well be speaking a foreign language because people won’t be able to grasp it and thus utilize it. Hilariously enough, in thinking about this, you could say that in looking for inspirational work, I’m actually trying to make work more inspirational, so that people can feel like a whole connected human being at the end of their work day rather than a broken disconnected machine.