Tag Archives: innovation

The Art of Innovation : Side Projects

I’m working on a culture of innovation project with some associates. As part of this work, I’ve been thinking a lot about my free art project, and how much it now impacts and influences other elements of my work and life. I recently met with Robert Ordever from OC Tanner and together we enjoyed an interesting conversation about the space where work meets…the real you?

I began the free art project as a curiosity. A key part of my initial motivation was to experience letting go of my work, and the idea of a weekly schedule for giving the work away forced me into a mindset of production, and of needing to adopt the mantra, ‘It’s good enough, move on.’ Anyone who takes a pride in their work may recognise the tension in getting something right, and not necessarily perfect. I’ll come back to that later on.

Robert and I talked about the idea of doing a side project for the sake of curiosity, with no obvious end in mind. We questioned, to what extent would you be ‘allowed’ to do something like this at work? The free art project took a while to develop in any sense of gaining feedback and response. Robert wondered, ‘If you were running an experiment at work, at what point would you have quit?’ It’s a great question – I don’t have an answer and we need to recognise that if we want our colleagues to problem solve, and come up with new, alternative ways of working – figuring out how to create time and space for this, matters.

Although the free art project is ongoing, each week represents a new challenge, a new piece of work to be created. The way I cope with this demand ebbs and flows. Sometimes the ideas are plentiful and I find myself making more than one piece. In turn I may leave more than one art work for people to find that week, and sometimes I hold things back. I now know there will be weeks when I get stuck, and am simply too busy with other stuff – and at those times, having a reserve bank of art to draw from is really useful. I am more resourceful as a result of my side project.

Robert and I got talking about a struggle to move away from what works, towards something which may be better. In a work sense, we often drift into patterns of behaviour which once set, are hard to break from. We might convince ourself there’s no other way to do x, or I’ve tried other ways before and they didn’t work. Running a regular, yet fluid experiment alongside my other work helps to shake up my thinking. I believe it makes me more open to the possibilities. I have become a more responsive opportunist as a result of my side project.

We drifted into talking about ‘Who am I completing the work for?’ Robert suggested usually, an employee is doing something to satisfy their manager. Although I occasionally feel a little pressure in the free art project to deliver on time, I’m not bound by anything beyond my own drive to make and share. If I were to skip a week, no one’s there to mark my appraisal down. As a result, I have become more relaxed, and better at delivering good work.

The free art project operates with minimal rules. I make art, leave it somewhere, and it gets found, or not, as the case may be. I share the location of the art using photos on various social media channels, and though I sign the work, my contact details are hardly ever present. Only once or twice have I left a method of contact on art drops in more distant places, Australia for example. Sometimes I get feedback – and often I don’t. Sometimes I like the feedback I receive, other times less so. But that’s part of the point of learning through art – it is subjective, which releases me, at least partly, from the need for (positive?) feedback. What would happen if your colleagues felt able to develop and work on something in a similarly freestyle fashion? I have become more resilient as a result of my side project.

In closing I want to come back to this idea about getting hung up on our work not being good enough, this need to satisfy our inner perfectionist. Robert offered me a quote from one of the founders of the business he works for. The quote reads, ‘We seek to touch the fringes of perfection.’ The idea behind this is that we don’t know what ‘perfect’ is, and like art, it is largely subjective. But hey – that needn’t stop us reaching for it, even if only to brush against the edges. This reminds me of a recent abstract piece I made, called Edge of Glory.

Edge of Glory

How do you think your colleagues might respond if invited to seek to touch the fringes of perfection through a side project?

We explore side projects and much more in The Art of Innovation. The next live sessions take place in London on June 8th and 9th, and in Berlin on July 4th and 5th. Click the links for more information, too book your place, and learn about our pay it forward ticketing experiment. Hope to see you soon.

The Spaces in Between

Just between us
I think it’s time for us to realize
The spaces in between
Leave room for you and I to grow – Neil Peart

Good architecture is often invisible, but it allows whatever is happening in that space to be the best experience possible – Pezo von Ellrichshausen

Workspace without imagination is just an empty room – Yours truly

Last week I spent a day at the ChangeBoard Future Talent Conference. In truth I’m becoming tired of ‘The Future of…(insert the things you’d like to see improved here)’. It feels too much like an excuse to me – if we could make ‘The Now of…(insert the things you’d like to see improved here)’ better, then to some extent, the future will take care of itself. Too much aspiration, not enough action. Here are a few notes and thoughts from one of the talks which I enjoyed, and which focused more on the present.

Kursty Groves. Founder – Headspace. Space Matters: How physical environment can enhance creativity & innovation in our digital world

Draw a meeting – in 30 seconds. What a great start to a talk – a chance to put pencil to paper. Here’s my response to that lovely invitation.

Draw a Meeting

We need innovation – yet we design for efficiency, and then we wonder why we don’t get innovation.

We often don’t understand the creative environment we are operating in so we borrow from others (Google, beanbags, etc) and wonder why that doesn’t work. You are you. Where you have your best ideas is not necessarily where others do.

What do we know? Nature matters – so does movement. Not a pot plant and a treadmill. Green exercise. As far as I’m concerned – an opportunity to get outside to clear your head think about work, or whatever, is usually worth taking.

When it comes to the workplace, and indeed many other things besides, we assume you have to use what you are given ‘as is’. What happens when we move stuff round? Clear desks out of the way, change the position of stuff. I know from my own experience the dynamic of a team can change purely by changing the layout of the room. If the space you are in affords you the flexibility – try it.

Some numbers – for those who like that kind of thing. Sourced from Reading University I believe. Productivity uplift of 17% when you can personalise a lean desk (hot desk, flexi desk – call it what you will) – this rises to 32% when people feel they can choose where to work and/or have an input in the design.

You can see Kursty’s slides here – which include a selection of ‘meeting drawings’ that previous audiences have come up with. What I really liked about listening to Kursty was that she offers ideas you can experiment with and adjust, now. Not tomorrow, now.

To move forward, people need to be inspired: they need buildings that enhance their creativity and push them to take the future into their own hands. Diebedo Francis Kere

Eventing

Apologies in advance – despite the title, today’s post has nothing to do with horses (oh alright then – you can have a photo). It is in fact, about three events coming up in London soon that I hope will interest you, challenge you and help bring out your creative side. I’m going to all three – hope to see you out and about.

ConnectingHR

ConnectingHR is having its fifth unconference in London on Friday June 21st. This will be the fifth one I’ve attended (don’t worry – I’m not an addict, I could stop if I wanted…..honest), and based on my experiences at the previous four, I’m looking forward to it. I should declare an interest in so far as I’m part of the team helping to organise this one, but don’t panic, I’m not allowed out on my own and I’ve decided this will be the last one I take part in, at least in this capacity. So in future, it’s a delegates life for me. Psssst, do you wanna help organise number six?

Our theme for this unconference is: Brave HR. What does that mean? Beyond an acknowledgement that our approach to work needs to evolve, it’s really up to you. If you would like a little guidance, then why not take a look at this 10 point agenda for change written by Neil Morrison at the start of 2013. Beyond the outline theme the agenda will be driven by you, the attendee, on the day. Tickets and more information are available now for £125.

Development Jam

Following our successful Facilitation Jam in January of this year, here’s another chance to play. This time we’ll be spending a day pitching some new ideas and getting feedback on them. The event is at the NCVO near Kings Cross on Friday 28th June 2013, and we’d like to invite you to join in.

The day will be quite free flowing with no one person responsible for leading the day. Instead we invite you to take turns to prepare and run a session during the event and receive immediate feedback on your ideas from your colleagues. You may be looking to improve on some existing ideas you use – you may want to try something completely new. However you choose to play, it’s up to you. This is being run as a not for profit event, you only pay to cover costs. We estimate the cost will be less than £100 per person, and we require a deposit payment from you now of just £50 to secure your place, with the balance paid on the day. There are only a few spaces available and we hope you will join us for a useful day this Summer.

Property Trading Game

Trainer’s KitBag are running a Property Trading Game open day in London on July 18th. It’s free to attend, and based on the feedback from previous attendees it promises to be a great day out. There aren’t many spaces left so if you fancy a good, challenging day out – don’t hang about.

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