On one run-of-the-mill day in 1940, Helen Barnett Diserens observed the way ink flowed from a ballpoint pen and wondered whether the same would work with other, similar liquids. It did. Helen then invented the roll on deodorant that has since become one of the world’s best-selling hygiene products.

Stories like Helen’s are the reason why we’ve created our Inspire initiatives – such as the INDEX: Award, our travelling exhibitions and other large-scale projects. We want to showcase amazing sustainable designs that address global challenges and, through sharing their powerful stories, grow the demand for more. We also aim to counterweight mainstream news -which too often only displays the negative- by sharing the good news that compassionate things are done every day and great solutions are already available.

Our mission is to inspire people to be optimistic about the future and, most importantly, encourage them to participate. After all, all the amazing design solutions that come to us via the INDEX: Award make one message very clear:

everyone, regardless of education or experience, has the capacity to make society better.

From my point of view, to respond to the demand for new solutions to address global challenges, you need two very important things: plenty of inspiration and an appetite for hard work. Consistent hard work is simply the precondition of success, as is mastering the required knowledge and techniques. As we know it, time, know-how and skill can be controlled, quantified and measured.

But inspiration? Inspiration defies measurement and doesn’t quite make sense by normal logic. Nevertheless, its value is incomparable.

We all know the amazing feelings that come with new found inspiration: the huge burst of energy, the sudden awareness of countless possibilities, or that instant moment of clarity when all the pieces fall into place. It’s one of the most powerful tools that can lead us to the most ground-breaking ideas – and most importantly, everyone can access it.

As the world only has a few geniuses –our greatest artists, designers and inventors– who seem to have an internal bottomless pit of inspiration, the rest of us must rely on external stimulants. To create, innovate and develop you need to stumble across that piece of information to kick-start the idea in you. For Helen, it was the ballpoint pen; for George de Mestral, the inventor of Velcro, it was seeing the burs in his dog’s fur while out walking one night.

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