Tag 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 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.

Working Responsively

I’m sometimes asked to help out with team building activities. When I first think of team building – I often experience vaguely naff ideas floating into my head. Images of groups high fiving each other, doing trust falls, building bridges out of drinking straws – that kind of thing. These thoughts may be a little unfair but they are drawn from years of experience of turning up at team building events and having something done to you. It can be a tricky thing to overcome.

When I work with groups I like to ask people questions which help establish the mood and tone of our work together, as well as what expectations/needs/requirements folk have, from the project, from themselves, each other, and me. This practice helps us get closer to working coactively (doing things with each other) rather than coercively (doing things to each other).

Recently it was my pleasure to spend time with a firm of accountants who wanted to explore how they could use art to enhance their work. Among other interesting things, when we met they expressed a need for spontaneity and a requirement to create art for their office. Neither of these have surfaced in previous sessions – the responses are often much more ‘work’ related.

Here are a couple of examples of how people responded to their invitations to be spontaneous and to create some art for the office. To meet the need for spontaneity we used a basic printing technique to give us unpredictable results.

Art for the Office 1 Art for the Office 2

There is a real sense of adventure, of experimentation in these pictures.

After the session I spoke with the owner of the firm and he reflected positively that by working together, we had overcome that sense of coercion. He also shared that he appreciated me not deferring to him as the leader in the room – but instead encouraging a sense of leadership to ebb and flow to where and to whom it was best suited at the time. What a lovely thing to notice. Even though I’ve been using art as a lens through which to help people explore work for several years now, I’m still learning and being motivated by the benefits people experience when working like this.