Feedback on a Workshop Experience

I’m working on some new marketing/positioning materials and going through the quotes etc. that I have from clients over the years and came across this one from a workshop I did a couple of years ago with a couple of colleagues, although the feedback is directly about me/my role. The workshop was about bringing artistic principles to the workplace and combined artistic activities with more typical (and expected) business activities. The participant wishes to remain anonymous, and I have edited the person’s words for clarity, but otherwise the words are theirs.

“This was one of the funniest workshops that I have ever attended…what I can say though, is two things…

“I had…I am a very curious person, so even prior to the workshop I had [wondered] who is that Stephanie Barnes? I had found her website and looked at some of her art because I wanted to know who is that person, right? I certainly intensified that quite a bit after the event, because I thought this really very interesting, but what else does she do? I need to look at some of her paintings more closely.

“The second thing that happened was that I was really very, very impressed with the way that Stephanie conducted this workshop and how she actually managed, it was magical, but anyway, she managed to make us as in also me, actually paint, I have it sitting at home. Me, I would normally say, ‘aaahhhh’ before I do something silly or stupid or you know…but without having to feel funny about it, just let it evolve, just let it naturally happen, or whatever. I don’t really know how all that worked and came into being, but it was certainly her way. And it was secondly, that the workshop was prepared really well, we had all these facilities that you could think of to become creative, all sorts of crayons, acrylic colours, and all sorts of tools that you could think of and we were treated as (and this is also something I appreciated very much) we were treated like artists ourselves. Like, you know, just get on with it, just do it. And never-the-less, we were always invited to ask for help, or tips, advice…so that was the workshop.”

I am so glad I found these comments, they made me smile and remember why it is I do what I do. I am also grateful that this workshop participant took the time to share these thoughts.

Productivity, is that all there is?

(this blog post originally appeared on my Missing Puzzle Piece Consulting blog in April 2017, and I expressed similar thoughts in a chapter I wrote for KM Matters, which was published early in 2018. I am reproducing it here, because I will be taking my Missing Puzzle Piece Consulting webpage down, and this content is still relevant.)

We seem to have spent so much time in the last 100+ years trying to drive efficiency and effectiveness into our processes. How to do things faster, with more quality, with better outcomes, reduce waste, reduce re-work. These are not bad things, but in our push to be effective and efficient many of our organisations have removed time for reflection, for questioning, for considering alternatives out of the process.

That’s not to say that there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in the last 100+ years, there most definitely has been. Whole areas of study have been developed/discovered, new technology is being developed all the time, but what about the “smaller” things, everyday things. What happens when we take away the time to think and reflect? We do things by rote, not thinking about if that’s the right thing to do, we get tired and suffer burnout, we start to make mistakes and treat people badly because we have focused on efficiency and effectiveness to the detriment of the system as a whole (see United Airline’s complete failure to respect passengers  (https://fortune.com/2017/04/11/united-airlines-video/ and https://innovationexcellence.com/blog/2017/04/17/innovating-for-a-worse-customer-experience-insights-from-united-airlines/ and https://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/03/27/united-airlines-bars-teens-from-flight-for-failure-to-meet-dress-code-social-media-erupts/)

How do we bring that space for reflection, for some humanity back into our activities? By introducing time. Time for reflection, time for learning, time for asking questions, time for talking to other people, time for doing things differently, time for experimenting. Time.

My path to creativity

In my introduction, last week, when I spoke at the Future Females: Berlin creativity event.  I made a joke about being an accountant and a IT professional and that I was going to talk to them about creativity. I said, “I know what you’re thinking, what is and accountant and IT person going to tell us about creativity?” and really, how does someone who studied accounting and IT come to be doing creativity?!? I mean, really???!!!

You’re going to have to trust me that it is all connected, I don’t want to bore you to death with all the details, but the short answer is, that after having the creativity, figuratively, if not literally, beaten out of me of during years of education, I came to realise how important it is.

I was exhausted and burnt out and a bit bored because I had finished my MBA and didn’t have any hobbies, after-all who has time for hobbies when there is school work to be done. So, I started trying things out: drawing (oooh, this is math, I can do math), photography (oooh, nice to be outside, what happens when I do this with the shutter speed?), rock climbing (hated it, never again), going to the symphony (loved it), painting (ooooooh this is amazing, this one REALLY stuck). As I tried out all these things some of them stuck, and some of them didn’t, but I slowly started to figure out who I was, other than a student. Who I was, when I wasn’t trying to do a “should” or a “supposed to” and it was fantastic. Having these creative outlets helped me be more balanced, to be better at my career, because I thought more critically, and I was more resilient.

I decided a week ago to leave the knowledge management consulting that I had been doing for 15 years behind, and to step fully into the creativity and innovation work that I had been developing over the last 6 years and it feels like, this is it, this is what I am here for, this is what this long, circuitous journey has been about: getting me ready to use all the skills and knowledge I have accumulated along the way to help organisations and people to be more balanced, to use both sides of their brains, to look at things differently if they want different outcomes; to apply artistic practices and principles to all kinds of problems to arrive at better, more balanced, more useful solutions.

I am so excited to be here!

Future Females: Berlin, Thinking creatively & thinking bigger event

Last night (July 17, 2018), I spoke to a group of about 70 energetic, engaged (mostly) women at the Future Females: Berlin, Thinking Creatively & Thinking Bigger event.

What an honour and a privilege to talk to them about creativity and how to increase it’s presence in both our professional and personal lives.

I shared 4 different creativity activities with them, 1 was an improv activity, and the other 3 were drawing, as well as some background and context information about creativity.

I usually speak with much smaller groups, so this was a great learning opportunity for me, but despite my “learning on the job” or maybe because of it, we had a great time, some good discussion, and some fun trying new activities.

Thank you to all who came out and tried something new!

I have posted my slides on Slideshare, if anyone is interested.

Creativity and Innovation Chapter

I wrote a chapter on innovation and creativity and how they connect to knowledge management for the book, Knowledge Management Matters: Words of Wisdom from Leading Practitioners, which was published early in 2018.

There’s a free PDF available here: http://www.johngirard.net/kmmatters/

As well, there is a video and a podcast of me talking about the chapter.

Let me know if you’d like to apply some of the ideas I discuss in the chapter to your organisation or your personal situation.