Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Upside and Downside of Crowds

I recently attended my first big football match.  Team GB versus Republic of Korea at the Millennium Stadium Cardiff.

What struck me, as I reflected afterwards on my experience, was how powerful crowds are.

We keep hearing about how the Team GB athletes are being lifted and supported by the crowds that are filling the various Olympic venues.  However, what I experienced made me realise that there is also a downside to crowds.

As a facilitator of group creativity, I try to ensure that individual voices are heard.  My job is to help create a climate in which people feel able to express their opinion or to share their idea, and I facilitate a process that allows this to happen.  Without a facilitator, a meeting or workshop can easily hide or crush individuals and 'groupthink' can take over.

At the football match, I found myself chanting along with others, joining in the Mexican wave and finding fault with the players and their performance.  It seemed to be what was expected.  I went along with it.  We lost on penalties, and there was a collective, disappointed groan.

On the way home, my 9 year old son looked me in the eye and said, 'Who cares who won?  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see Team GB in the Olympics in Great Britain.'  The lone voice of truth and reason. 

Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Arts - Usefully Disturbing?

actions,beautiful,blurs,Chinese,Chinese dance,cloths,colors,costumes,dancers,dances,Fotolia,modern,modern dance,motions,performances,performing arts,Photographs,spirits,styles 
Today, I heard someone describe the arts as 'usefully disturbing' and 'intriguing' (that's Radio 4 for you!). It led me to reflect on the connection with the processes involved in creativity, innovation and change. 

When working with groups who have problems to solve or changes to make, it can be beneficial to encourage people to ditch the familiar and routine.  Being in a new physical or mental space can help people to think and behave differently. 

My previous blog post was about taking a trip to an art gallery or museum to pause, think and reflect.  Other useful exercises involve pictures, music, objects, stories or improv which can all help people to see familiar situations from fresh perspectives.  'Excursions' or metaphor and analogy allow us to explore and discover and to return with something useful to apply to the task in hand.

So, if the arts are 'usefully disturbing', we should introduce them more often within business to help find fresh perspectives to help solve problems, generate ideas and bring about change.

Have the arts helped you with business issues?

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Art of Reflection


I was pleased to see on BBC Breakfast this morning that art gallery attendance is up.  The report suggested that art provides something that our fast-moving, digital society seems to need more of - a space to pause and reflect.

I recently visited the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford with my friend Lisa Cherry.  I wanted to try out an activity that I had first taken part in at the V&A several months ago.  We were to wander around and engage with and sketch something that 'sang' to us (a word used by my tutor, Mary Ann Kernan at City University London, who led the activity at the V&A).  It is a completey silent, 45min exercise which has no rules apart from the ones just mentioned.

We later met upstairs in the rooftop restaurant (lovely place on a sunny day) and shared our experiences.  For both of us, it was a chance to pause and reflect.  By focusing on something physical and external, we were able to connect with the intangible and internal.  The sketch was less important than the process and the ongoing reflection on the experience.

Need time and space to think?  Try this exercise and see where it takes you...

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Creative Spaces

(Sarah Greenwood's desk - picture taken at the University of the Arts, London.  Sarah was Production Designer on the Sherlock Holmes film.)

I've been reflecting on the last couple of years and my journey through the MICL.  I've come to realise that the space in which I work has quite an impact on my creativity and productiveness.  This in turn has an effect on how I feel.

Whilst tussling with essays, reading academic books and organising my thoughts, I've moved around the house.  I may start off in my home office, move through to the kitchen table and end up in the lounge on a comfy sofa.  At first, I discipline myself with structure, then I make a coffee and create, then I kick back and review what I've written with a cup of tea.  Each seems to take place in a different space.

The climate around these spaces is interesting too.  People, noise, the weather outside and the decor and furnishings in the room all impact on my work.

I've also come to realise that I can't focus in a mess!  Tidying up the workspace prior to starting is crucial.

Here are a few workspaces to look at.  What space suits you?

Friday, 10 February 2012

The V&A Moment

Eric Gill - 'Mankind' as seen at the V&A Museum London

I recently spent a couple of indulgent hours at the V&A.  It was the first morning of our Creative Industries module on the MICL (Masters in Innovation, Creativity and Leadership at City University London) and we were to look for inspiration for our 'artefact' assignment and to begin our Reflective Journals.

For a business person with a business family life who lives out of London, this felt very special and exciting, if a little daunting. I hadn't visited for years and I was required to equip myself with drawing and writing materials.  In the stationers the day before, I had taken my time to choose, like a child in a sweetie shop.  I selected an A4, hard-backed sketch book with black pages, metallic pens and a box of oil pastels.  This was something new for me and I was excited.  My choice of materials was my way of pushing myself into a new space.  Black, plain pages rather than white, lined.  Coloured pens rather than a black ballpoint.  A pencil case!  Hadn't had one of those since school.

I loved those few hours in the museum.  We were asked to find something that 'sang' to us.  Perfect instructions.  I headed off to find a statue I had noticed on the way in, that had, indeed, 'sung' to me.
I sat on a fold-up stool.  No conversation.  No interruptions.  Just me and my thoughts, feelings and my self-expression on the page.  What a great way to start on a Reflective Journal...

Monday, 6 February 2012

Reflections on Reflection


I was asked recently to speak to Business Studies undergrads at Cass Business School on the topic of Reflective Practice.  Pulling strands together from my current academic endeavours, my career to-date and my busy family life, I realised just how important it is to being a fully rounded human being!  How I wish someone had introduced me to Reflective Practive as an undergraduate or even earlier in my education.  It seems to me to be a life skill we should all learn early so that it becomes second nature.

Being able to look back at an incident to examine what went well and what didn't is so important in many ways.  Recognising feelings, behaviour patterns and mental models is relevant to relationships, team working, leadership, creativity, innovation, self-awareness, confidence, motivation...

Why is it then, that very few organisations seem to encourage it?  Reflection requires time, space and a desire to discover how things really are.  Have I just answered my own question?!