Question: What inspires you?
Rosabeth Moss Kanter: What inspires me are people who lift spirits and make a difference. I don’t know how to put it differently. I mean, the cofounders of the model for America’s National Service Program – AmeriCorps – the two co-founders who were then recent Harvard Law graduates in the 1980s … Alan Khazei and Michael Brown … they inspired me. In fact I’ve been on their board for over 14 years. They inspired me because they had a vision for powerful improvement that would get people excited, make a difference. I loved that. I mean that keeps me going. And from organizations like that, I feel that I get more than I give, even though I have to give a lot. So I’m inspired by that. I’m inspired by small acts, small actions that have the potential to make a big difference. I love small wins. I think it’s great to have the big vision, and that’s inspiring. But if you don’t translate it into everyday events, everyday accomplishments, you can’t get to the big vision. So I’m inspired sometimes by just knocking things off the “To Do” list and say, “Boy! It is possible to get things done!” and then go on to the next one.
I’m inspired by young people a great deal. And it’s … The many reasons I’m at university … I mean I could do other things. I could consult. I could have an executive position. For a while I was on a college president track, but I turned down various invitations and offers because I love the process of generating ideas and teaching. Well my young people at Harvard Business School are in their late 20s, so they’re already kind of grown up. But I’m still having the opportunity to influence people while they’re fresh, while they have the energy. And you know, the power of ideas and vision and inspiration and confidence, it gives you more physical energy. And so inspiration and the energy to achieve go together.
Recorded on: 6/13/07