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…

 

Best Seat In The House


Mum knitted this little bear for me when I was a kid. It fits in the palm of my hand and it’s worn the Tranmere Rovers crest for as long as I can remember. Today, Sunday May 14th 2017, the bear (it has no name) sits on a purple chair in front of the TV, waiting for the Non-League playoff final to start. Tranmere Rovers v Forest Green Rovers. Best seat in the house?

I’m writing this on a train to Wembley Stadium to watch the match. The bear is one of very few physical connections I have with our Mum. It’s staying at home, too small, too easy for me to lose. I first saw Tranmere play in 1974 when my Dad and I visited Selhurst Park to watch Crystal Palace. Tranmere were the away team, and they lost 2-1. The naïveté of youth prevailed, and though I returned to Selhurst Park a number of times, I pinned my allegiance to Tranmere, and much like the badge was pinned to the bear, the allegiance stayed put.

The occasional away game sufficed for a long while, and after I learned to drive, the 500 mile round trip to see a home game began to feature in my life. As I trundled up and down motorways, I cursed my younger self for choosing a team based so far from home. And I kept going.

Things shifted up a gear when we enjoyed a few seasons of success in cup competitions. This, coupled with the emergence of internet chat rooms, meant I began to know some of my fellow supporters better. I encountered lots of good humour and kindness, as I travelled to more games, home and away, people would offer a place to stay. This generosity helped break up many a long journey, and meant we got to know each other better too. The kindness of strangers became the kindness of friends.

Over the years Dad and I returned to Selhurst Park together whenever Tranmere and Crystal Palace played. We took it in turns to sit with each other’s supporters so that we could be together. I have fond memories of these games, lots of laughs with the occasional bit of watchable sport thrown in.

I held a Tranmere Rovers season ticket for a while. It used to get used by friends when I couldn’t make the long journey to the ground. I was at Tranmere when the Football Supporters Trust was founded, and served on the board for a few of the early years. I once rode my bike 306 miles from home to the ground (the journey took five days) to raise money for the club and British Heart Foundation.

Fatherhood came along, and this great privilege took me away from football, though before it did, I recall Carole being kind enough to endure an awful home game while pregnant so I could tell our kid there first football match was at Tranmere. Sorry Carole!

I’ve not seen the team play in a long time, and I feel a little awkward turning up for a big occasion after such a long absence. But hey, whether we win or lose, I get to see some lovely people and watch an important match. Did I mention I’ve got a front row ticket? Best Seat In The House.

Update Monday 15th May 2017 : We lost, and were well beaten. 3-1. It’s the hope that kills you, etcetera 🙂  It was great catching up with old friends. For that, and for the chance to be at the game, I’m grateful.