Is return on inspiration really a thing? Yes, it’s a powerful thing. It’s a way of re-framing how you think about ROI. Chasing return on inspiration will help you create a more innovative culture within your team and within your company. If you learn about ROInspiration® and take time to integrate this into your work life you’ll see tangible return – the kind you can eventually quantify.

I’d Never Heard Of ROI

I’ve been a full time musician, pianist and songwriter since I was nineteen years old. I was in my mid-forties before I first heard the term ROI. It wasn’t until I began bringing my interactive musical programs to corporate events that I was confronted with this question from clients, “Will we see ROI?”

“RO what?”, I initially replied. After pondering all of this I realized I’d been chasing a different kind of R (return) for a long time. As an performing artist, a creative junkie, I’ve been chasing inspiration and with good results. Surprisingly, I’ve gotten consistent financial returns by focusing on creativity. I think you can too!

And you don’t have to be an artistic organization to get value from this new kind of ROI. Creative work, inspiration and perspiration is foundational to innovation. Just about every organization I’ve worked with expresses a desire to be more innovative because they know there’s value in being innovative and forward thinking. The challenge is to move from placing value on something to acting on it.

How Return On Inspiration Works

Here’s an example of return on inspiration and how it can eventually lead to monetary return:

When my son was in the 4th grade he came home from school one day and told me he’d learned about entomology. As he described his day to me, I quickly looked up the word entomology and discovered his class had been out looking at bugs. My son and I went outside and began exploring our own backyard. We came across a beautiful cocoon. About ninety seconds later I had an idea for a song, a love song titled “Cocoon”.

This song idea came from time spent seemingly doing nothing productive in the traditional sense. From outside appearances it looked like I had quit work early to hang out in the backyard with my son. But that seemingly wasted time turned into a song. The song got recorded and commercially released. Boom – Return on Inspiration! Wandering, exploring, musing and applying an idea to the creation of something yields commercially viable results.

Google is famous for their ‘20% time‘ policy that encourages employees to spend a certain amount of time, thinking, exploring and pondering what would most benefit google. While the policy may not currently be used by the majority of google employees, the idea of it, and the support for innovative thinking it represents, has helped the organization thrive in an industry where what’s next is at least as important as what’s now.

Don’t Wait For The Skills – Do The Drills

The best way to begin to plan for a more creative and innovative mindset at your organization is to start with yourself.

You say you can’t sing. You say you can’t draw. You say you’re not creative…wrong. You’re as creative as I am. Like any skill set, creativity is 99%  hard work and 1% talent. Okay, maybe 95% hard work and 5% talent. But you get the idea.

As the first step on your journey with ROInspiration® you need to make time to explore your creative side. Once you do this and see how well it works, you’ll be able to lay the foundation to bring this to your work team.

You’re As Creative As I Am – Watch And See



What’s important here is not the quality of your creative output, but the fact that you’re trying. There are so many stories of inventors and artists failing hundreds, even thousands of times, before finding success. The truth is finding a new path requires patience. You have to be willing not to rush to quantify return on the time your organization spends pursuing new ideas.

Where Does Inspiration Come From?

Most often, the creative ideas come from the work. Maya Angelou famously said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” The more often you set aside time to follow a muse or a hunch, the more skills you’ll acquire through practice. Those skills will allow you to work, or rather play, with ideas more often. One idea really does lead to another.

The Magic Well – More You Use, More You Have


A Guide To Get Return On Inspiration

The most important thing you can do is show up. In other words, carve out a bit of time on your calendar to begin. I realize you’ll need motivation to set aside time. So let’s say there’s a problem you’re trying to solve and you haven’t yet found a solution. Let’s say you’re feeling stuck.

Since you’re stuck you may be willing to pursue an undefined path. You may be willing to play and to muse without feeling like you’re playing hooky from work. Here’s a way to do this.

  • The problem you have – You have a problem. It’s not a new problem. You don’t have any fresh ideas for solving it. The first thing you should do is transition from problem solving mode to exploration mode. Schedule an hour to search online, typing in every variation of the problem or subject you’re facing. Read what other people are doing. Absorb; but don’t try to apply what you’ve absorbed. Don’t feel pressure to find a solution within your first hour. Have the courage to walk away and let all the data you’ve acquired swirl within you.
  • Amateurs imitate, professionals steal – That’s a quote most often attributed to Picasso and it’s a great guide to get you unstuck when you’re trying to be creative with your problem solving. When I’m stuck on a song and out of ideas for how to proceed, I’ll stop trying to proceed and go into input mode. I’ll spend time listening to songs by other people that inspire me. I’ll leverage what others have done in similar situations. But I won’t actually steal their song – and you shouldn’t literally steal either. Through assimilation and synthesis the great ideas that inspire you will help you solve problems in your own unique way.
  • Imitate, emulate, create – As you do research, as you read about what others in your area of expertise have done, you’ll stumble across those ‘why didn’t I think of that’ inspirations. Combine this input into your own style and you’ll find yourself being creative.
  • Share your ideas and let them evolve – In a work environment there’s a hard truth you’ll have to face at some point. You have to share your ideas with your colleagues. This can be hard. What may seem to you like a brilliant solution to a problem may be not be well received. Or your operations department may immediately give voice to reasons you can’t easily implement your idea. After you take a few minutes to sooth your wounded ego, make sure to stay open to suggestions. Offer up your idea as a starting point and let things evolve. When you dedicate time to pursuing return on inspiration you must accept that failure is part of the process…a big part of the process!

    This thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down but the staying down. – Mary Pickford

  • Rinse and repeat – I don’t think I need to add anything to this thought. Just do it.

It’s not easy to move from merely idealizing inspiration and innovation to making those attributes part of your organization’s culture. But if you can re-frame your value system just enough that you set aside time to pursue return on inspiration you’ll see results over time.

If you’d like more help harnessing the new ROI visit my speaking page.

Showing Up Will Get You There



About Billy Kirsch

Billy is a Grammy & Emmy nominated, CMA & ACM award winning songwriter with numerous Top 10 hits to his credit. His team building programs and keynote speaking presentations help people tap into their creative abilities to become more innovative and engaged in their work. Clients include Fortune 100 companies and organizations throughout the world.