Stretch Your Canvas

This is one of many lovely art works I’ve collected over the years, made by people who I work with who tell me they cannot draw. Apologies, I don’t currently know the name of the artist, but what we have here is a visual response to the question ‘what brings you joy?’.

A lot of my work is about encouraging folk who talk about creativity and innovation, to talk a little less, and do a little more. Take some action – convert your thoughts and ideas into objects and artefacts, learning from what that feels like. Something I observe in the work, is it needs repeated practice. Doing things differently often doesn’t come easy, and when you and I cannot respond positively to the ‘so when was the last time you did something you felt uneasy about?’ question, we undermine our ability to encourage, to influence.

In the coming weeks I am particularly busy, playing in the space where people’s desire to progress meets the stalling effects of uncertainty. For me – I feel better equipped to help people move through these feelings, into participation, when I am also pushing myself. In order to refresh this desire, at the beginning of last week I decided to take part in an open mic event at The Brook, a lovely venue just down the road from me. As the big day drew nearer I realised that this was no ordinary open mic night. A band called Love Zombies were visiting the UK to record a new album at The Brook, and the venue announced the band would be taking part in the open mic evening.

I arrived and the place was packed. I nervously approached Dan, who organises/encourages/sets up/pretty much does everything to make these evenings work well, and asked for a slot. 9.15pm it is then. At 8pm I take my seat and watch the venue come alive.

Love Zombies played first, then a series of talented local musicians took to the stage, as each one concludes their short act, my time of reckoning draws nearer. Heart thumping, 9.15pm comes and goes, things are understandably overrunning a little, it’s hectic in here. I lost my bottle at around 10pm, and went to find Dan to apologise before leaving. He said sorry for the delay, I realised I was being a chump, and we opted for a 10.15pm start.

At the reallotted time I took to the stage, nervously, and played two songs. I fluffed the first (When I Grow Up – by Tim Minchin), picked myself up and finished it, and the second (Where In The Hell Did You Go With My Toothbrush – by The Reverend Horton Heat) came out better, in the right order at least! I did what I set out to do. Sure, I made some mistakes along the way, and I got it done. I’m as certain as I can be that further mistakes will occur in the coming weeks too, and I’m also certain that when someone asks me ‘so when was the last time you did something you felt uneasy about?’ I can respond positively, currently, and authentically.

Whatever you’re up to this week, go well, have fun, and maybe even make a mistake or two? 😉

Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

Interesting Questions

There are a few questions which frequently circle my mind. The patterns, speed and shape of their orbit changes according to what I am working on, but they’re nearly always there, somewhere. Questions like, How much is enough? Why am I not kinder? Is she really going out with him? Where do I find clarity? Where do good ideas come from?

Come and Play

Together with some friends, I am exploring that good ideas question through an emerging project called The Art of Innovation. ‘What’s that then?’ I hear you ask. Very briefly, it is a project designed to explore the space where the arts meet business, in pursuit of changing lives for the better. If you are in London on June 8th – we’re running a workshop and a free to attend Art of Innovation session at a lovely venue overlooking the River Thames. You can find out more about that, and book a place here. OK, enough of that, where was I?

Blending

Something I have become much more aware of in recent years, is the idea that doing something different, sparks and prompts other thoughts, ideas, and actions. Take three things I enjoy doing, walking, my art, and my work. Previously, in that elusive search for clarity – I’ve tended to see these things as separate entities. Keep them separate, keep things clear… In December 2015, I began to integrate walking into my work more intentionally, in that I would make time for a regular stroll most days. The trigger was a Fitbit which I got for Christmas, and once I got over my tendency to be gamed by technology, I settled from a hectic ‘oh my god I must walk round the kitchen another 20 times before I go to bed to hit 10,000 steps’ mania into a more fluid, useful rhythm.

In time I began to realise that the walk influenced and affected my work, and vice versa. They blend, not always, but often. Sometimes the blend produces useful ideas immediately relevant to a work problem I am wrestling with, sometimes the ideas are daft/stupid/lousy/beautiful/adventurous, and any combination of all of the above. Sometimes there are no ideas. I dropped my guard, allowed the walk and the work to speak with each other, and as a result, got better at both (trust me, you should see the way I now put one foot in front of the other, it’s awesome).

Sparking

In April 2016 I began my free art adventure. I walked to the train station and on the way, I placed a piece of art I’d made, outside the local town hall. Attached to the note was an invitation to whoever found the art, to take it home if they wanted to. The project continues, at least once a week I make and leave art in my local community. The adventure is unfolding in so many ways that to write about it here, would a) wear my fingers to stumps and b) risk boring you to death. I will write more about the project, and for now, it’s useful for the purposes of this blog post, to know it exists.

In truth – the adventure started some time before that. What sparked it? Maybe it was the hand painted postcards I made for friends while on holiday, it may have been the first Leap Day I ran in 2012? Who knows – I guess an important thing to note is that good ideas sometimes start from a specific point, other times, they are a combination of almost invisible threads, gradually winding together into a rope which can be more clearly seen.

The free art project began with the intention of helping me learn to let go, to see more beauty in impermanence, and as a way of building some discipline into my previously sporadic artistic adventures. As I continued to work on the project, I let it infuse my consulting work, and vice versa. I’ve used art in my consulting work for years now, so this is not a new thing, but it is now much more intentional. Lowering barriers, seeing what I do as something more fluid, more dynamic, less separated. A recent example of this blending in practice can be seen here, as I used art to relieve some stress, and to help me prepare for a conference presentation. The project has recently won a community award and attracted a small amount of grant funding. It has become a simple and effective way of changing lives for the better.

The more that what I do becomes a series of overlapping, meandering, ebbing and flowing plates, the more interesting things emerge. As I conclude this post, I’m preparing for conference talks, workshops, artist open studios, and an exciting 3 day artistic experiment involving 200 senior managers keen to explore how to apply creativity and innovation in their work. At the heart of this work is a simple yet powerful raison d’etre. The primary reason myself and my associates do this stuff, is to change lives for the better. More to follow, soon.

Footnote

Sorry, I almost forgot. Where Do Good Ideas Come From? They come from you. And they come from this fantastic book by Scott Berkun.

 

 

Pattern Spotting : Looking Back to Look Forward

Facebook recently flashed up one of those ‘remember this’ photos. I rarely pay attention to this Facebook feature, but this particular post was of a photograph of some art I had made in 2015, titled Signals Part Three. The art sold to friends in the USA, and the photo which Facebook nudged into my view, depicted the finished, framed, displayed pieces.

I really enjoyed making these art works. At the time I was experimenting with new forms of paint, and the colours in these works were all made from just three tubes of paint. The sense of geometry in these works, periodically played with in order to create some gentle disturbance, was and is part of my artistic experimentation.

The main thing I took from this Facebook reminder, is that our work is an evolving thing. I often feel reluctance to take part in and share something new, when in fact, what I am usually doing is tweaking and refining. A process, a design, an idea. I don’t like to dwell in the past for too long, and a brief look back often helps us look forward. If you were to flick back through your work a couple of years or so – what patterns might you find? More to follow…