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 – Memorative Art

My latest trip to the USA was great fun. I met a lot of friends, saw some fantastic sights and did some really interesting work. All these things are memorable, and is there something that really anchored the trip in my mind?

Maybe it was that I happened to be in Chicago at the same time the Art Institute was showing an exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s work? I’m a huge admirer of Picasso. I find his work often moves me to tears, it’s incredibly powerful stuff. Bold, abstract, conventional, unconventional, prolific. The exhibition in Chicago is a remarkable walk through the life of Picasso. You get to see aspects of every kind of art he produced and although the exhibition contains mainly lesser known pieces, its breadth and depth is outstanding. The exhibition also referenced a piece of public art I was previously unaware of.

Untitled by Picasso

Picasso donated this untitled sculpture to the city of Chicago in 1967 without ever explaining what the sculpture was intended to represent. I got talking to a woman at the exhibition who told me most people think it represents a horse. She also explained where the statue is located so I headed off to take a look. Checking in at 50 feet tall and weighing over 160 tons, it is huge, quite a sight to behold. You can walk right around it and I did, stopping here to appreciate its beauty from another angle.

Untitled by Picasso - Side View

It is this image which now evokes memories of all the other interesting and exciting experiences I had in Chicago.

This visual, artistic experience led me to think that often when we endure a presentation – there are lots of words on the screen. This creates a disconnect between the audience, the presenter, and the material as people tend to focus on either the slide or the presenter. Using a handful of words and a few relevant images to support your talk usually creates a much more powerful, memorable encounter. Often people will recall to me a talk I’ve given in the past, and their memory of it will be drawn from one or two pictures and phrases that have stuck firmly in the mind.

I think this has somethnig to do with Memorative Art. This method, which has been around for thousands of years includes ‘the association of emotionally striking memory images within visualized locations, the chaining or association of groups of images, the association of images with schematic graphics or notae (“signs, markings, figures” in Latin), and the association of text with images.’

I already use some of this thinking in my work, and I expect plenty of you do too, even if you weren’t consciously aware of the Memorative Art method. It’s a powerful example of the connection between art and work, and is part of what we can usefully employ when exploring pathways to creativity and collaboration.

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.