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.

Leap Day Learning

leap day paint brush

Wow! Leap day came and went in a blur of useful fun. Our numbers ebbed and flowed a little through the day, and that movement combined with the choice of venue, those who came along, the weather, the whole mix, really inspired and contributed to a great day.

To remind you – the day was loosely framed around connections between art and business, and being Leap Day, taking a leap into the unknown. Our time together started with a vigorous conversation around psychometric tests, fuelled by my recent MBTWhy? blog post. I’d not expected this and the conversation and debate flowed for about an hour before we drew our attention to matters a little more artistic.


Vandy found a super poem hanging on the wall of the Perse School in Cambridge, which we shared to help set the scene:

See what I found

Some new corners of myself

Hiding away, tucked out of sight,

Untapped, untried, I found them

While reaching out to others.

I wonder how much more of me

There is to discover

– Anon


From there we tried our hand at drawing. Jonathan asked us all to draw in pencil for two minutes. We then shared our drawing with our immediate neighbour who asked non judgmental questions about the drawing for a minute. We reversed roles for a further minute and then were invited to either enhance the drawing, or draw again. How would the brief, non judgmental coaching we had given each other affect our work?

pencil drawing

My intention was to try and recreate a realistic impression of a pencil, at a much larger scale. I think these two before and after shots show how powerfully and quickly someone can improve after some non judgmental questioning of their work.


Vandy gave us a great introductory lesson in water colours. We all had a play and tried our hand at painting a grape.

bruised grape

I think my attempt is OK – it looks a bit bruised! And I’ve had another play with the techniques we learned which you can view here if you would like.


Jon Bartlett brought a camera and took some great pics. I pinched an element of one of his photos for the picture at the start of this post and you can see the whole album here. Jon’s photos are well worth a look and they convey a sense of the warmth and inclusion we cocreated on the day.


Since the day a number of people have written about it. You can read Vandy’s excellent summary here. David Goddin wrote a thought provoking piece here, and Jon captured an unexpected and special moment here.

I think we covered a useful spectrum of art based activities on the day. We certainly had a lot of useful fun, and I can see lots of ways in which elements of the day would fit very well into learning in the workplace. In the aftermath people who attended described the day with words like ‘awesome’ ‘friendly’ ‘real conversations’ ‘informal and creative’ ‘welcome’ ‘inclusion’ ‘fed the soul’.

We’re planning to run some more of these sessions sometime over the Summer. I’ll keep you posted. Meantime I’m interested to know what you think of this concept, and whether or not you think there’s a place for art and business to collaborate better?



Picture the scene: You’ve had an idea. It feels good. You take the idea to your boss and he says, ‘This is good, but….’ And proceeds to tell you a bunch of reasons why your idea is in fact, not good at all. We’ve all been there, and experienced that sinking feeling. The word but, and the consequences of but are disengaging.

Why is this on my mind?

Last week I spent an invigorating Friday afternoon coming up with a storm of creative ideas with Liam Barrington-Bush, aka @hackofalltrades. It was a little like being in a two piece band – one idea riffed to another. In these early stages everything goes into the pot and we’ll spend a few days tweaking notes here, adding a rest there. Refining and finessing the tune. Liam and I are alike enough that we can resonate, and unlike enough that we can still find room for dissonance and the occasional bum note in our thinking. It’s great fun.

At one point Liam stopped me. ‘Doug, you just swapped a but for an and, and you’ve done that several times today.’ We chatted about the more expansive, invitational nature of the and versus the but and concluded that tough though it is, and beats but.

The next time someone comes to you for guidance, don’t close them down with a but, open the possibilities with an and. It’s much more engaging, much more fun, much more useful.