I recently tweeted Thomas Edison’s famous adage that genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. But there’s an intriguing bit of new research I’ve just come across that flips this notion on its head.

It’s in reference to creating a culture that truly engages employees and it implies that inspiration may be vastly more important than perspiration when it comes to having truly engaged employees.

The big idea is that, while no one is discounting the importance of hard work, employees are more likely to put in real, consistent work when they feel inspired by the cause first. I think when you are trying to figure something out on your own or embark on a solo project, sometimes you simply need to work, work, work until the inspiration comes to you. But when the vision is already defined, like in a business, inspiration is often what needs to fuel the work.

So how can you consistently encourage inspiration behind what you do without coming off like some sort of corny motivational speaker? More money is not the answer here. Culture is. Get them out of their heads/desks and get them to see the big picture. Find ways to show your employees the results of their successes. Find ways to contextualize their work in the larger cultural movements it’s a part of.

Ultimately, a true, deep belief in the work you are doing means it will be done with more speed, accuracy, and inspiration behind it, regardless of whether it’s professional basketball or advanced manufacturing.

As the HBR article states, “employees react differently when they encounter a wall. Satisfied employees hold a meeting to discuss what to do about walls. Engaged employees begin looking around for ladders to scale the wall. Inspired employees break right through it.”

So, I ask you: the last time one of your employees or teams encountered a wall, what was the response? Did they mope and complain? Test around for weak spots or holes? Or did they summon an almost superhuman force and break right through it?

photo credit: Light via photopin (license)