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FWD to the Future, Inspiration Idols & Funders Forum

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June 5, 2018

ˈīdlˌīz/.  verb. admire, revere, or love greatly or excessively.

As adults, who and how we idolize is a stark departure from the objects that found our attention during adolescent years.  No longer do we hang rock star or teen pop singer posters on our walls or fantasize about meeting those who we revered excessively.

Yet, the reality is, we still devote substantial energy either through emulation or close study of those individuals, companies or characteristics that hold positions of acclaim to which we aspire to achieve. That’s why Gary V’s content is so popular, why over 700K  podcasters tune into Chris Denson’s Innovation Crush, why we Lean In when Sheryl Sandberg comes calling, and why we read almost everything that Oprah recommends.

But, the crazy thing about idols is that they project a distorted version of reality.  Just as the TMZ or National Enquirer articles rarely provide the complete story about those whom we idolize, the same holds true in our professional lives.

This week, as the Miami Foundation powers a #VCMTakeover highlighting the Future of Nonprofit Innovation & Social Accelerators, we’re exploring how inspiration capital intersects with the people and practices we idolize.

Rarely uniform in definition, we view inspiration capital as a measurable force of motivation that fuels an individual’s ability to pursue his or her goals.

Beware the Unicorn.  In the startup world,  and particularly to second and third-tier cities on the rise, we are often preoccupied with producing unicorns— the next Facebook, the next Amazon, the next Uber, the next Airbnb.  In doing so we overlook the many opportunities to invest in smaller, unlikely ventures that are in need of equal levels of support.   The chances of cultivating a unicorn are slim to none, but the odds of growing 1000 new business to scale are much more likely. So instead of aiming for hockey stick growth at rocket speed, perhaps entertain the idea of a slower but steady rate of growth and expansion over a longer term.

Bigger ≠ Better.  We love to be over-the-top.  Like gigantic malls that represent the American Dreamselfie museums — these and other big shiny objects shape the inspiration narrative around #businessgoals in our city.  Yet, what does this capture vs. culture dynamic encourage? Where visibility, public image, and notoriety (all very valuable things) are the primary objective, developing strong, relationship-driven networks within and among our organizations become less of a motivating priority.

Who or what is your inspiration idol? Perhaps the more important question is, is your focus pointing in the best direction?


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