Sunday, February 26, 2012

Inspiration vs. perspiration. Sprint vs. Marathon

Edison said “Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” The problem is most of our social and psychological rewards are wrapped around inspiration. We've turned into a society of slactivists. What tools or systems give the same social and psychological rewards that happen in the inspiration phase happen in the perspiration phase? 

TED, Ignite, Foocamp, Barcamp, openIDEO, - What's the next level? Hackathons and makeathons are really just sprints. They're helpful and rewarding but real change takes months or years of dedication by many. 

Are there any good books on this topic? I  feel a startup idea brewing.  Hit the jump or go here for a facebook discussion.

Some facebook discussion: 
VIA Andrew Hazlett Daniel Pink's book "Drive" talks about motivation and rewards for work in fresh and interesting ways. There's a philosophical side to David Allen's "Getting Things Done" that may touch on what you're talking about.

I would point out that participatory events like barcamps are not just about inspiration. They are about *learning* and *collaboration* which are both in the "perspiration" category, I'd say.

VIA Ed Gibney Second vote for Drive. Excellent book.

Kotter's Leading Change gives a good recipe for what to do and a sense of how long it will take to do it.

The closet thing I know to what you are talking about is a 2007 journal article called "Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long Term Goals." An employee of mine told me about it (we needed it for the work we were doing). I don't think it's been turned into a book yet, but I was surprised to find a TED talk on it when I searched for it. Here are links for the article and talk.

Robert Wray's Comments :   Thanks for the Drive & Getting things done tips. I'll check them out. I agree the participatory events have perspiration integrated into them but they are more short term sprints as opposed to long dedicated efforts by the masses to accomplish a sizable goal. These events don't seem to scale into the thousands or have long term sustaining force like what happens in a social movement, long project or a larger cultural shift. Most rapidly slip into slaticivisim and few have international global support. It's easy to RT, Change your Facebook avatar or subscribe to a mail list - and you get a false sense of contribution. 

What I'm really exploring is how can you shift some of the exciting social and psychological elements of the inspiration phase into the multi year perspiration phase. Can we use elements of today's tech companies to inspire long term action? Elements could be Social sharing, recognition and support - (facebook/twitter), addictive gaming elements (Zynga), social pressure to carry through on commitments, Peer support to stay involved, Points for action (foursquare, wayze), competition between participants/teams (foursquare) and APIs for expansion. I'm thinking a social change / "doer" platform could be built integrating all of these elements allowing thought leaders to bring their own issues and setup social incentives to take action. Perhaps the community can even change the award structures and incentives as the project evolves - or fork projects which have regional or cultural specific goals.

Ed - I just watched the Angela Duckworth talk and presentation of her paper. She criticizes her diverse career path but I'd think she would be able to see the world from a broader perspective due to her experience which might help inspire innovation of those on the driven 'gritty' path. 10 years in one field might make you a global expert, but you certainly won't be a tremendous help in cross pollenating ideas outside of your specialty. Maybe I'm just justifying my personality type.

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