Creative Leadership – My Wrong is Your Right

A few days ago, I wrote about a creative experiment I undertook. I said that the first stage of the experiment was ‘awful. It’s overcrowded, it’s a mess.’ I was referring to this sketch:

Creative Leadership #1

The day after the post was published, I got an email from Donna, who wrote with reference to the sketch saying, ‘Loved the first picture more than the rest!’ Donna also said how much she enjoyed the quote from Rob Jones that I included in the blog post, but I’m not going to mention that otherwise he’ll get big-headed!

I had thrown the sketch away, at least as far as my office paper recycling pile, so I retrieved it and it is now on its way to Donna, along with this, a further spontaneous part of the experiment.

Splashing Around


I’m grateful for Donna being in touch, her note taught me that sometimes my wrong is your right. When you are experimenting on your own, that’s OK, and when your experimenting on a path to more collaborative ways of working, sometimes we need to consider a broader perspective.

Creative Leadership – From There to Here

I recently found myself in a hotel room with some time, some paper, some paint and a brush, a fatal combination. I started to play and here’s what happened at first.

Creative Leadership #1

Frankly – this is awful. It’s overcrowded, it’s a mess. There was a time, not so long ago when I would have thrown this in the bin, shut the paintbox lid and gone and done something else. Not this time. This time I thought a while and tried again.

Creative Leadership #2

Attempt number two. This time I get something quite different. This time, though the basic colours remain the same, water plays a much bigger part in flowing and diffusing the image. Is it any better? It hints at movement, dance, maybe something floral?

Creative Leadership #3


Attempt number three. This time the blue has gone, replaced with a red. I’ve tried to apply different quantities of water on the paper to create different depths of colour. I titled this image Roses In The Hospital, to me it somehow evokes life blood.

Creative Leadership #4

Attempt number four. I’m due to go out soon, and before I go I decide to have one more play. This version interested me as I tried to draw one colour into another. I called it Pressed, as it reminded me a little of pressed flowers.

I learned, and was reminded of a couple of important things as I moved through a journey that took around 50 minutes.

You can’t jump into creativity. It isn’t an app you just switch on. It isn’t PowerPoint, it isn’t Excel, it isn’t Word. Creativity is something you need to slide into. I gave myself enough time to experiment. How much is enough? I don’t know, and I do know it’s often more than we first think.

Mix and match. Subtle changes in direction can bring about marked differences. All through this experiment I used the same basic equipment, altering only the volume of water, and swapping one colour for another. I wasn’t looking for the next big thing, I was placing small, low risk bets and getting on with it.

Rob Jones wrote recently about creativity and implementation. In his post he says:

It is my belief that to successfully drive innovation within an organisation it is not creativity that needs to be addressed (walk around your business tomorrow and ask if anyone has any ideas – there’ll be loads) it’s how the organisation successfully considers those ideas, turns them into plans, funds them and executes them into sustainable change that is the challenge in being more innovative. In other words how does the system adapt to the change required that requires focus not the impetus for change.

I agree that often the impetus for change is not the challenge, and that businesses are often not good at considering ideas, sequencing and prioritising them, and acting on them. However from my experience, ideas are not as plentiful as Rob suggests, and they’re certainly not encouraged out into the open often enough. You can’t begin to consider, sequence, prioritise and act if you can’t first create the environment for ideas to seed, grow and develop.

As for that first awful picture I showed you – it did end up in the bin, where it belonged (though it was later rescued). The other three? We’ll see what happens with them later.


Creative Leadership

How to use experimentation to become more creative and collaborative

Mount Etna Erupting July 2011

Creative Leadership – From Joining the Dots to Creating a Masterpiece

Creativity, innovation, collaboration. Three essential ingredients for most businesses that have come to mean almost nothing. Buzzwords at best.

If you took everything written about creativity, innovation and collaboration and stacked it all up you could climb the pile of paper to the moon, maybe. Yet if you took all the real work, the real action around creativity, innovation and collaboration and stacked all that up, you could slide it under your average CEO’s office door, possibly.

A key challenge for modern organisations is this: we desire these attributes of creativity, innovation and collaboration to help us create new opportunities, solve problems, and deliver better service, yet we leapfrog most of the basic skills needed to accomplish these purposeful behaviours. Basic skills like conversation, experimentation, practice and persistence. In business we tend to punish mistakes and in so doing, we blunt our creative potential. We are reluctant to acknowledge that time is needed to develop the art of leadership, so we try and rush toward a finished product, and we miss so much as things blur past us.

So how do we get to a more creative, collaborative place? For years we have admired work produced by artists from all across the world. Whether it is your favourite grand masterpiece, an ancient cave painting, or that wonderfully impossible daubed finger painting your child just made for you. And what about the simple poetry of a powerful conversation? Some of the best work we do emanates from something as simple as the right conversation at the right time, with the right people. I think we are missing out on some simple and powerful methods that can help us achieve much better results at work.

You can gain huge value from practicing creative leadership, and What Goes Around launches a new service on February 28th designed to help you do just that. We’ll provide a safe environment for you to take risks, try new things, and make mistakes. It will be experimental, artistic, practical, conversational and powerful. Perhaps more importantly, it will be bold, fun and useful.

More to follow.

photo credit