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 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.

photo credit

Creative Leadership – Simplicity

One of the main reasons why collaboration doesn’t work stems from a failure to understand one another, which arises from unnecessary complication. In this short, sixty six second video I talk briefly about the importance of simplicity and how you can use it to build trust and a pathway to better collaboration.

We’ll be exploring this pathway to collaboration further in the Summer Creative Leadership workshop, and I invite you to join us if you’re interested in discovering ways of making your work more effective.

Creative Leadership – What is Normal?


I was watching TV recently and Francesca Martinez was a guest on The Jonathan Ross show. Francesca Martinez is a comedienne with cerebral palsy but prefers to describe herself as “wobbly”, that works for me. During the interview, Francesca was asked about ‘normal’ in relation to her own experiences growing up. She replies asking ‘what is normal?’, and puts forward a view that if you are normal, or more likely if you think you are normal, then you are in fact, a freak.

Normal is a Trap

I think Francesca’s onto something here, and because she has combined normal with freak, this feels like a good time to let Joe Gerstandt, Freak Flag Flyer par excellence, have his say on the subject:

Normal at Work

The desire to conform at work bothers me. Sure – we probably need to operate within certain parameters, for example I’m a big fan of open, respectful disagreement in the workplace, but when that overheats and turns into punching your coworker in the face, for most people that crosses a line. Regardless of the urge you may have to punch said coworker in the face, thankfully we mostly acknowledge that such extreme action sits outside of normal working practice.

We often observe a drive towards ‘normal’ around performance review time. For example, when I worked at BT we used a five point performance scale to measure people, where 1 was ‘Outstanding’ through to a 5 which signalled ‘Needs Improvement’, or to give it the full title as one of my mangers once referred to it, ‘Needs Improvement means you’re shit and should be fired’. Except we didn’t use the full scale. The unwritten rule was that ‘no one gets a 1, and no one gets a 5’, and so, surprise surprise, people tended to aim for the middle ground, a number 3, or a ‘Good’. As if to reinforce this behaviour, when I worked in sales I lost count of the number of times I and others had bonus payment capped as stories circulated about the need to help some of the poorer performers over the line. The timing of these bonus ‘normalising’ conversations were always after you’d delivered your numbers, and protests were pointless.

More worryingly though – this culture of ‘normal’ drives most people towards….’normal’. I mean – what is the point of aiming for the stars if somewhere in the psyche of the organisation it is written that no one can get there? I moved twice in the organisation to try and shake off this uninspired approach and in the end, it took the appointment of a new director to shake things up.

Art is not Normal

Lichtenstein is in town. If you live in London you probably knew that already, because Roy Lichtenstein’s work stands out. For those familiar with his art, it is (for the most part) instantly associated with his name, and for those who don’t know his name, when you see his work you will likely go, ‘Yep – I’ve seen this guy’s stuff before’, or words to that effect. It is distinctive.

The world of art abhors normal, art is subjective and simultaneously provokes one or more emotions including and not limited to love, hate, admiration and loathing, depending on your point of view. And that diversity is part of what gets us to the creativity and collaboration that so many executives implore their staff to deliver, while all the time driving them towards ‘normal’ through their behaviour, work practice and reward systems.

I clearly could have picked any artist to illustrate this point but seeing as his work is currently being exhibited at the Tate Modern I chose Lichtenstein. Incidentally, if anyone would like to visit the exhibition as my guest, I’ll be going along again on the 1st and the 8th May at around 3.30pm. Feel free to get in touch if you would like to come along, first come first served.

Creative Leadership – Making Work Better

I believe we need to think more critically about how the world of art can help the world of work. If you believe that too and you’d like to explore pathways to creativity and collaboration, I’ve packaged up some of the work I do with clients to enable improved effectiveness into a one day Creative Leadership workshop. There’s one running in May, another in July and a third in September, grab a place now through the links above, there are discounts available for early bookers. Hope to see you soon.