Developing and Sustaining A Culture of Creativity

This is the beginning of a curation of some recent talks, projects and workshops on developing and sustaining a culture of creativity in the workplace. This space will grow into a mixture of words, pictures, and practice, and the first thing I want to share is a series of annotated images, which I used to support short talks at Workplace Trends and Clerkenwell Design Week. There were four talks in all, each one slightly different, yet similar enough that I hope this one set of notes covers all the main points.

In summary the talks focused on:

  • Scene setting : some evidence about why creativity at work is important
  • Reluctance : some thoughts on why we don’t use creative practice more readily
  • Getting started : A few ideas on how to bring business and the arts together
  • Creative prompts : Simple steps to spark and sustain the creative process
  • Age of Artists : An introduction to the evolving Age of Artists framework
  • The Free Art Project : Be curious, start something, keep going
  • Reading list
  • Thoughts on managing a creative culture : Taken from the book Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

Here’s a link to all the details. Sustaining a Culture of Creativity. I hope you find them useful and if you’ve any questions – feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line.

More to follow…

Clerkenwell Design Week Day One : Finding Henri

I’m currently at Clerkenwell Design Week (#CDW2018), working as the artist in residence for Ocee Design. The event is huge, with over 100 showrooms open to the public. The weather was excellent on day one, and this helped draw a really big crowd.

On arrival at the Ocee Design showroom there was a very welcoming, lively atmosphere, lots of people being really well looked after. It was a lovely mood to start the working day.

I set to work on the first of a series of signed and numbered free art drop prints which are being hidden around the festival. In total I dropped six yesterday, four in the morning and two more in the afternoon. Here are two of them shown in situ.

The time was passing quickly – a short talk I was delivering at 2pm was on my mind, and I had one or two technical glitches to iron out. With helpful people on hand, the set up was completed, and the talk went well. I’ll be repeating the session throughout the week and I’ll post the notes and slides next week.

The showroom continued to buzz – we have a doodle canvas on display for our visitors to add their names, sketches and thoughts to, and while people engaged with that, I felt I hadn’t really clicked into the artistic gear I was looking for. Earlier, while speaking, I had referenced Henri Matisse. In his later years, as his health deteriorated, Matisse displayed great adaptability in conceiving and delivering the idea of his now famous cut outs. During the talk I used him as an example of willingness to change, and I subsequently discovered one of his prints in the showroom. It struck me that I too needed to change my approach.

A sign was made, inviting people to make art with me, and while I waited for people to engage, I began to make. People showed an interest, conversations started, then I found myself making art to order. Things were moving along nicely, and then – it happened. A kind person responded positively to the art invitation, and there we were, talking and making together.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The day ended with some excellent conversations about what had been made during the afternoon, and some shared ideas about what we can do on day two and day three. I’m heading back into London in a few minutes, ready for another day of using art to inquire and engage – a tool for expression and exploration. Yesterday I spoke about Henri, and then, when I needed inspiration, I found him. I wonder what will inspire us today?

The people at Ocee Design are a real pleasure to work with. They were busy all day and did a great job of keeping the energy going. The enthusiasm and warmth they have shown me and all their guests is appreciated, and I’m confident it points to things getting even better as the festival continues.

Paradigms of Mental Health

This week started with a visit to Liverpool to take part in an Open Space session titled Paradigms of Mental Health. The event was organised by NHS Research and Development North West, and co sponsored by Chester University and The RSA. I’m a big fan of Open Space technology, and when you combine that with the curiosity which fuels the NHS R&D North West team, the chances of an interesting event are high.

On arrival it quickly became clear I knew hardly anybody in the room, and while that might be briefly unsettling, it’s a good indicator of what’s to come. Open Space works really well in a group where people are largely unfamiliar with each other.

As we began the session, we were invited to make use of a device I’d not played with before, the Zine. Monica Biagioli, Senior Lecturer at UAL : London college of communication, offered us each a folded and cut piece of paper, onto which we were invited to record notes, doodles, anything which helped us to make sense of the conversations we took part in. I made notes as I listened, walked, and talked. Here are the two sides of my finished Zine.

Something which interested me about this device is that it can be folded into many shapes, and in doing so, some of the notes get transposed, ending up alongside new neighbours.

Folded Zine

The event was fascinating – a rich variety of subjects were offered up for discussion. A report will be published from the event and I look forward to reading that. For now – I just want to share a few snippets which caught my attention:

  • Having a sense of permission for self care
  • Arts based methods heighten our sense of embodiment
  • Reframe – focus less on what is wrong, more in what is right
  • Feeling powerful in playfulness
  • Arts as ways to normalise experience and share with others

The afternoon passed far too quickly, a sure sign people were thoroughly engaged in the process. As I headed back to London I folded and refolded my Zine several times on the train. I’m really enjoying the device as an aid to reflection and as a way of stirring thoughts up a little. Thank you to the team at NHS R&D North West for making this event happen, and for extending the invitation.


I arrived early for the event, and had just enough time for a quick walk to Tate Liverpool to see the Lichtenstein room. Too often when we travel for our work – we arrive, do our thing, and leave. I like to make time to experience something else beyond the immediate work when I travel, and on this occasion, I managed it. It was lovely to spend a few minutes in the presence of works by an artist I admire, some more familiar, some less so.