The Art of the Possible

A short story about being open to the possibilities.

A short story about being open to the possibilities.

Joe's Painting #125 - 1965
Joe’s Painting #125 – 1965

My day started early, 05:21 early to be precise. An unfamiliar timezone, an unfamiliar bed, and the oh so familiar nerves and excitement that come with doing something new and unfamiliar.

Today marks a key point on a journey. Today – for the first time, Joe Gerstandt and I get to work play together, for the good people at Illinois SHRM. I first met Joe in the Autumn of 2012, very briefly, at Ohio SHRM. He and Jason were doing a book signing after their conference keynote, and I was in the queue. Jason kindly gave me a copy of their book, Social Gravity, and I bought a copy to give to someone else who was at the conference. Joe was busy, I was holding up the line. Hi and bye – that was about it. Joe and I kept in touch on social media and via Skype, and a few months after we first met, we agreed it would be fun to work together – some day, somehow.

Often when I am away on holiday, I collect little shells and pebbles on the beach, returning many, keeping a few. The idea of working together became one of those pebbles. It was kept, turned over and admired from time to time, and put back in my pocket.

December 2013 I submitted a proposal to speak at the 2014 Illinois SHRM conference. My proposal was a talk based on what has since developed into Art For Work’s Sake. Sabrina Baker responded positively, and offered something unexpected. She suggested that I might develop the proposal into a workshop to take place the day before the conference. Would I like to do that? The pebble was back out of my pocket and looking smoother, and rounder than it ever had before. I responded positively and in our exchange of messages I asked Sabrina if it would be OK for me to approach Joe, to suggest that we might do this work together? Sabrina agreed in a heartbeat and so I contacted Joe and told him I’d found that opportunity we’d spoken about so often. Thankfully, he agreed to play.

Joe and I met up yesterday at the Art Institute of Chicago. We’ve been exchanging thoughts and ideas on how to make our time together useful and fun, for us both, yes – and more importantly, for the curious minded adventurers who have kindly agreed to invest three hours with us today. Joe and I talked and walked – it was great fun to be with someone I respect, in a building I love, admiring the art. Here are two pieces I particularly enjoyed.

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Shiraga’s piece has a real depth and sense of action about it – messy play I think they call it at nursery? Kawara uses art to document his days. He has produced over 2,000 works which are either completed on the day, or destroyed. His work is a record of his creative energy, on each day he works. I love the idea behind the body of work and I love that this piece was painted free hand, no stencils here.

It’s now four hours to go before we start our session. I’m writing and pacing the floor in between sentences. I am nervous, excited, and open to the possibilities.

Sabrina – thank you for your lovely idea. Joe – thank you for agreeing to play.

Developing Art For Work’s Sake

The Past

I facilitated another Art for Work’s Sake session in Milton Keynes a few days ago, and it went down a storm. Something that really interested me about the session was how we enabled a mixture of conversation and emergent thinking and action to develop around a framework, albeit a loosely structured one. We also cocreated a safe space in which to talk, work and experiment which certainly helped.

The Present

Here is some of the learning from recent Art for Work’s Sake sessions, pulled together for you in a SlideShare. I hope this stuff is helpful to you, feel free to download and play if you would like.

The Future

I can also confirm that I am off to Chicago again in the Autumn. I will be delivering an Art for Work’s Sake session for the people at the Illinois 2014 Society for Human Resource Management conference, with my co facilitator, Joe Gerstandt. I’m hugely excited about the work itself and about collaborating with Joe. Joe and I have been in touch for a good while now – patiently impatient – looking and waiting for a chance to do something epic. We haven’t rushed it – we’ve kept in touch – we’ve shared the good and bad in the process. And we are now ready to serve. More details on this soon.

And if that wasn’t enough, I received confirmation from Ohio over the weekend that I will be heading their way in September to do likewise. I love the way that the HR community is responding so positively to this creative and artistic way to improve the way we work.

I’ve received a lot of requests to run further sessions. Even though I am London based I’m very happy to travel to help spread the word, I think this work, this use of artistic practice to make work better, is important. So if you’d like me to come to your town or workplace – drop me a line and let’s talk.

And finally, to celebrate the great start to 2014, we are giving away our 2014 tour t shirt, a copy of the very excellent book, 101 Things To Learn In Art School, by Kit White, and a set of Stop Doing Dumb Things cards. We have three sets to give away. To win, all you have to do is leave a comment on the blog and say you’d like to go into the draw. We’ll draw the winners at random in a few weeks and then get in touch to ship your goodies to you.

Prize Draw

These Things I Believe

These Things I Believe

Fear sucks

Artistry is underrated

Productive beats busy

Vulnerability is courage

Connection gives us meaning

Conversations are the bond

Flow beats work-life balance

I love the fact that in your busy day, you still find the time to pop by here and check in. Really, I appreciate it. I love to write and because I love it – I work hard, so it takes it out of me. For the next couple of weeks I’m gonna slack off a while. I’m not saying complete radio silence, but for sure I’m gonna turn it down a bit.

In the meantime I’ll leave you with the opening slide for my upcoming talk in Chicago, which is about connections. This image is both inspired by, and for my family. It’s an adaptation of my Twitter bio and it’s a brief adaptation of a fantastic piece by my friend Joe Gerstandt. I am simultaneously very excited and nervous about giving this talk. In my head I have the courage to go all out and deliver a session that will involve people, invite them to think differently, and leave a mark for a long time. And the thing is….man, fear sucks – and I will overcome.

Keep it honest.

Love – Doug