In a recent interview, Grammy-winning artist Chris Stapleton shared insights into his creative process that extend beyond the realm of music and into the broader landscape of innovation. His words shed light on two crucial aspects of innovation: the intentional, day-to-day effort, and the collaborative nature that thrives on diverse perspectives.
Stapleton was a successful songwriter in the Nashville scene long before he gained fame for his own legendary voice. He describes the songwriting process this way: “I don’t want to use the word factory, but it’s very much a workman’s approach. You show up every day at a set time with the goal that in three to five hours you’ll have a finished song. You learn how to turn it on, even if it’s not the best version of you. To say, Now it’s time to work. And the great thing about co-writing is that the day you don’t feel like doing anything, your co-writer is probably going to be on fire. You stick your lightning rod up in the air and you’re like, All right. I know where we’re at now.”
Innovation is not a magical instant of inspiration, but rather an intentional action of doing.
Stapleton’s analogy of a “workman’s approach” challenges the romanticized notion of innovation as a sudden burst of inspiration or a divine revelation. Songwriting, like all forms of innovation, requires practice, dedication, and a willingness to engage consistently in the process. It is a deliberate, daily effort that involves honing skills, refining ideas, and pushing through challenges.
This flies in the face of what many of us think of as the “creative” or “innovative” process — which is often not even viewed as a process, but rather as a magical moment delivered as a divine bolt of inspiration from the Muse. What folks like Stapleton (and many others) know is that building a routine around innovation endeavors helps train the mind to be receptive to inspiration, making the act of innovation more sustainable and less dependent on these fleeting moments of brilliance.
This ability to “turn it on” even when feeling less than inspired underscores the importance of discipline in the creative process. It acknowledges that not every moment will be infused with inspiration, but that doesn’t excuse one from the commitment to the work. Innovation, then, becomes a habit, a routine, and a conscious effort rather than a stroke of luck. Innovation is the action, which will eventually lead to an output, but not necessarily in a linear fashion correlated to the input.
Innovation is a collaborative exercise where diverse people bring diverse expertise, diverse experience, and diverse energy
The beauty of co-creating lies in the fact that when one collaborator is feeling uninspired, the other may bring an abundance of creativity and energy to the table. This dynamic illustrates the power of diverse perspectives in fueling innovation.
Like a lightning rod focusing energetic bursts, one person’s creative spark can reignite dormant creativity in others around them. In the world of human innovation, surrounding oneself with individuals possessing varied expertise, experiences, and perspectives acts as a catalyst for these breakthroughs. It’s a reminder that innovation is not a solitary endeavor but a communal effort that thrives on the exchange of ideas. In this way, the collaborative nature of innovation provides a support system during moments of creative lulls. This ensures that the innovation process remains dynamic, responsive, and resilient.
By embracing a workman’s approach—committing to intentional, daily effort—and recognizing the collaborative nature of creative endeavors, individuals and teams can foster a culture of human innovation. The intentional act of doing, combined with the diversity of thought and experience that collaboration brings, creates a fertile ground for transformative ideas and breakthroughs. Innovation, then, becomes not a distant, elusive goal but a tangible and achievable expression of disciplined effort and collective ingenuity.