Category Archives: Creative

All About People : Ways to Make Work Better

I’m really excited to be a part of the 2016 All About People conference, a curious, creative, cross-industry, cross-profession event all about how to make work better. The All About People team are curating a diverse mix of people to stir thoughts and ideas over a couple of days in June, down on the South coast. My contribution is in development, and will doubtless be influenced by the arts. In order to help me think about the event and prepare, Andy Swann, the creator of All About People, recently posed a few interesting questions to me. He’s kindly agreed that I can reproduce that conversation here. My answers may have some resonance with you, and more importantly I hope you find the questions useful. How might you respond to them?

Andy : What are you working on at the moment?

Doug : Currently I am working on a book proposal, some experimental client work where we are using the arts to explore and improve how we learn, and I’m making plans to attend and speak at various conferences in the UK and USA. I’m also involved in some community of practice work, some work around change and transition, and motivated by recent sales of some of my artworks, I’m finding time to develop my self taught painting.

How would you define an amazing working place?

Curious, creative, caring, and profitable.

What should organisations focus on first – the right people, the right places or the right actions?

Ask people what matters to them. Ask employees, customers, suppliers, everyone. Then, once you’ve listened and clarified, start to act on the smallest things that will make the biggest differences first. Come back and ask folk again when this is done and evaluated. Lead by example and repeat until forever – show you mean business by showing you mean business.

In your experience, what are some of the main things holding organisations back?

Doubt, fear, arrogance, a lack of trust and a lack of clarity.

How deeply should an organisation’s people be involved in its evolution? What should that look like?

As deeply as they usefully can. I’m a fan of using the World Cafe method for facilitating conversations around evolution and development, and other methods are available. During the conversations, don’t rush to judgement, don’t make assumptions. Be invitational, be inclusive, be gentle. Listen well, agree some action and get on with it – life is short.

What is one thing organisations can do to create the conditions for their people to thrive at work?

Make art, and make time for meditation and reflection.

I’m really looking forward to this event, it’s shaping up to be a blend of great learning, great sharing, great fun and great company. If you’d like to come along, tickets are available here. You can use the code SPEAKERDS to get a 10% reduction in the price when booking. See you at the seaside.

Leap Day Learning

A review of Leap Day 2016

Act One : Scene One

Monday 29th February 2016, a group of 15 intrepid, curious explorers gathered at The British Library. I distributed our Leap Day journals, and read a short poem which we discovered on Leap Day 2012. This poem was printed and stuck into each copy of the journal.

The Leap Day Poem

Act One : Scene Two

With our nod to the previous Leap Day complete – we took time to explore the Alice in Wonderland exhibition at The British Library. As we did so – we thought about beginnings, and before we headed off down the rabbit hole to our next destination, we stood and shared some of the things we found. I’ve written many in my journal, here are just a few:

She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it). Found by Jo Stephenson in the exhibition.

You do not know if
What you leave behind
Will weave into our world
And ignite beauty into our mind

A poem by Meg Peppin

‘It’s too dark to read anything except your thoughts’ I forget who spotted this. If it was you – let me know and I’ll pop your name in here.

From the point of ignition
To the final drive
The point of the journey
Is not to arrive
Anything can happen…
N. Peart

That’s enough about lessons, tell her about games now. Found by Steve Chapman in the exhibition.

With our beginnings shared, we headed off. As we left the building, we shared some home made chocolate and cranberry brownies. When Alice at the ‘Eat Me’ cake, she grew. I wondered how we would grow throughout the day.

Act Two : Scene One

Some of us walked to Tate Modern, some caught the tube. On arrival, we explored an exhibition titled Making Traces and considered a few questions. The questions were:

How do you leave a trace?

A footprint, a photograph or a mark of where you were?
What do traces tell us about what happened before?
What trace would you leave for others to discover?

I traced the outline of my hand into my journal, then made another copy of my hand on a sheet of tracing paper, following the lines of the grain on the wooden floor of the gallery. I overlaid one onto the other. I made some drawings, copying and blind drawing (method illustrated here), and I thought about physical traces, online traces, and legacy too. I found this process thoughtful, enjoyable, uplifting, particularly when considering legacy. Here is some of my work.

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Act Two : Scene Two

As we prepared to leave Tate Modern I distributed pieces of an artwork titled Good Hearts, which I made over the weekend. I wasn’t sure how to integrate this gift into the day, and as we stood together in the gallery, this felt like the right time to give.

Good Hearts

Interlude : Lunch and conversations at Borough Market

Act Three : Scene One

Over lunch, some conversations emerged about what to do next. We decided to walk to the National Theatre where we would stop, and make some art. Like everything in the day – this was an invitation, and on arrival, some of us drew and painted, some of us did other things. Those of us who made art, agreed to distribute it for others to pick up and take home – a collective trace of Leap Day. What a lovely idea. Here is some of our art.

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Act Three : Scene Two

Those of us who remained – drifted to the bar and shared some more good conversation over a drink. Thanks to everyone who came along for a day of useful fun. Without people, you’re nothing.

Exit stage left.

Producer’s notes:

Michelle Parry-Slater has kindly written about her Leap Day experience here.

Steve Chapman has kindly written a piece related to Leap Day and more, here.

I used Twitter and Slack to coordinate Leap Day and correspond with everyone. I think I only sent two emails, both very early on in the preparation. I was new to Slack – and found it a bit tricky to adopt but once I got my feet under the virtual desk, I found it a useful place to share project information, news and updates with the group.

I enjoy this work because: it’s fun, I learn new things, I like doing things for others : making the journals, the Leap Day logo, the art, the chocolate brownies, all these things were a pleasure.

We were short of time at the end of Leap Day and several people left their art with me – I agreed to distribute it for them. Fortunately I was in a position to retrace some of our steps later in the week so the commitment was fulfilled in close proximity to where the making took place. I enjoyed the process of honouring the group and letting go of the work for others to find. As this piece says, ‘JUST CREATE and don’t be attached to it’.

Just Create

Be invitational, be kind, be encouraging, be open to possibilities.

Leap Day 2016 : What’s In Store?

Secret London

Leap Day 2016 takes place – somewhat unsurprisingly – next Monday, the 29th February. This will be the second Leap Day I’ve taken part in, and it is shaping up to be quite different from the first. We are a bigger group of people this time, and we are not dependant on a single main venue. Although most of our creative curiosity will be invested indoors at various places, the weather will shape the day to some extent. It’s been a long time since I’ve looked ahead at the weather forecast with so much frequency and interest.

This time around I’m putting together a rough draft for the day. Timings are approximate and as the day unfolds, things intentionally get looser. I thought you might like to see where I am at right now:

Leap Day 2016 LogoLeap Day 2016 : Curiouser and Curiouser

10.30am…ish : Meet at British Library – Alice in Wonderland exhibition

Check in – cocreate desired mood, tone, expectations.

11.30am …ish : Down the rabbit hole : Surface at London Bridge – Oyster card may be useful here.

Walk to Tate Modern (approx 15 minutes – pass by Southwark Cathedral, Golden Hind, Winchester Place, Clink Prison, Globe Theatre).

Midday…ish : Making Traces:

How do you leave a trace?

  • A footprint, a photograph or a mark of where you were?
  • What do traces tell us about what happened before?
  • What trace would you leave for others to discover?

1.15pm…ish : Lunch – Borough Market. Lots of options – around 10 minutes from Tate Modern

2.15pm…ish : Check in – how are we doing?

Open to the possibilities…Have you brought something curious to explore?

Options:

The Jean Cocteau Murals
Shoreditch Graffiti
The Garden of St Dunstan
Watts’ Memorial
Walk and Talk
Sit and Think
Kind note to self
Kind note to someone else

I’ve put this draft together using a mixture of my own curiosity and imagination, past experiences and conversations, Google, and the Secret London guide. The guide is an intriguing book signposting many unusual places in and around this lovely city of ours, though as I was somewhat sniffily informed by the appropriate help desk (there’s a contradiction in terms), the listing for Henry VIII’s wine vaults hidden beneath the Ministry of Defence, should not have been included.

A truly lovely group of people have agreed to take part this year, and if this looks like a useful, enjoyable way to spend a few hours in London next Monday, there are a couple of places left, at a cost of just £36. Message me if you’d like to come and I’ll let you know how to pay and confirm your place. And don’t worry if you can’t make it, there’ll be another Leap Day along in four years time.