1. Fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something.
You can see why marketing people have so fallen in love with the verb, particularly when it comes to the subject of purpose.
The world of brands is now awash with alleged sources of inspiration.
Coca Cola have long sought to inspire moments of happiness and optimism.
Starbucks want to inspire (and nurture) the human spirit, no less - one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.
The BBC are bossier. All through the Winter Olympics, they instructed us to ‘get inspired'.
Lego’s purpose is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.
Crayola say all they want to do is help parents and teachers to raise inspired, creative children. But I bet they really want to inspire them.
It goes on, all the way down to small brands like Rude Health, a London-based food and drink company, who want to inspire everyone to live in…that’s right, rude health.
There’s a sports facility in Luton called Inspire. Guess what they want to do? Inspire the Luton community to get active.
Argos have a desktop speaker, telescope, chandelier, cot bed and play mat, all called Inspire.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to inspire others. It’s a noble pursuit. But if we keep using the word, we’re going to wear it out.
Remember what happened to insight and passion. The same will happen with inspire. We will simply slide down the pole to lesser meanings of the word.
2. Create a feeling, especially a positive one, in a person.
That’s alright for a brand. It’s still about delivering an emotional benefit.
3. Animate someone with a feeling.
That sounds like generating an emotional response, which is where you often end up if you see purpose as nothing more than a comms platform.
4. Give rise to…
As in “the film was successful enough to inspire a sequel”. All that means is one thing followed on from another. Now we’re more in the world of Behavioural Economics, with its nudges and winks.
Right at the end of the dictionary definition, there’s one other meaning.
5. Breathe in (air), inhale.
It’s where the word actually comes from, the Middle English enspire, which comes from the Latin inspirare, ‘to breathe or blow into’. In other words, puffed up. Perish the thought that’s where we all end up with purpose.
Mind you, inspirare was originally used in relation to a divine or supernatural being, in the sense of imparting a truth or idea to someone.
That’s inspiring enough for me.