A Tale of Creativity

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How do you explain creativity to three year olds?

A little girl walks into the gallery and begins exploring. She discovered a car that had been transformed into a ball, a maze of mirrors, flowers that you can pick, a fountain sliding down the window, oh and some pretty big paintings that told interesting stories. She climbed the escalators, turned a corner and heard some unusual noises coming from a nearby room. Inside was a round pool of floating bowls, moving and chiming as they touched. She imagined swimming in there and making music too. She was curious to know how the bowls made such beautiful sounds. “I didn’t know bowls could make music!” she gasped excitedly. Her curiosity ran wild as she watched what was happening in the pool. How did it get there? How did the bowls float? After some time observing and questioning, she felt she understood enough to go home and create her own floating symphony ready for bath time.

Creativity is about exploring, learning and using your imagination to create things.

My audience this week was my youngest ever (3-4yr olds). Watching these curious little faces with their innocent questions and delightful contributions was a heart warming experience. My book on creativity is heading for the printers soon and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to share and test some of the concepts with these curious little people.

Something Wonderful

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The amble back from the post office today was like no other hugging this beauty.

Oh Seth, you’ve done it again. Shipped something wonderful. A waft of fresh ink, a weight of wise words (all 17 pounds), an abundance of powerful visuals, a heart thumping with delight… I shall begin to devour this magnificent titan of a book.

Thank you Seth Godin.

Unexpectedly Refreshing


Upon walking into our local Bupa office, it became clear that they’ve really thought about the customer experience and expectation. 

It was a ‘space’ that felt good to be inside, an uplifting and efficient twenty minutes. We entered with a functional mindset and left feeling more delighted than expected. 

I like this as an example of how you can transform people’s expectations. In this case, from an anticipated to be mundane process into something more pleasant and even enjoyable. 

People want to be pleasantly surprised.

Obsessed by Design

Every time I see an Airstream my heart races.

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Its design is distinctive, retro, shiny… equipped with all the modern technology, within the smallest of spaces, customizable, movable… a space to live, work, play… and inspires adventures by land.

Airstreams are not for everyone, but that’s what makes them so desirable. You’re buying into an exclusiveness that appeals to a certain crowd. Much like Harley Davidson. Not everyone owns one, or wants one, but these brands give people a sense of belonging, identity, community and experiences for enjoying life.

People are obsessed by design and brands that make a difference.

Image: Airstream

Look at Yourself

It’s all too easy to point fingers when things aren’t going well. It’s always someone else’s fault, of course. The person you should really be pointing at is yourself.

Following on from my last post Precious Gifts, you’d very rarely get this behavior in a hospital. Why? Because everyone has each others backs, as a team, they need and respect each others presence, contribution and expertise. They’ve all earned it.

Q: Why does this healthy team behavior exist in hospitals, yet not in other work place environments?

A: They all know they’ve all worked really hard to deserve a place on the team.

Medical professionals spend many years in study and training. They’re screened every step of the way and only the toughest and most resilient are good enough to pass the training, make it through to a career and become the best in their field. In other work place environments the training isn’t as rigorous. And who’s doing the tough screening along the way? It just doesn’t exist the way it does in the medical world.

Which is why in other work place environments we often see a frenzy of finger pointing and cultures of blame when things don’t go smoothly. Who’s taking accountability for their own actions, and who has their teams back? It’s down to each individual, their professionalism and attitude, to contribute towards team success.

Look at yourself.

What are you doing to prove to your colleagues that you can be trusted and that you’ve earned your place on the team? Don’t focus on others, focus on yourself and what you’re doing for those around you.

2013 Make a Difference – Projects not Resolutions

We begin the new year making lists of guilt ridden resolutions, but what if you challenged yourself to make a real difference through meaningful projects?

Eat better, drink less, exercise more… yawn… these are all things we should be doing to look after ourselves anyway. The decisions that involve making a real difference are often those that take us out of our comfort zone and involve risk taking. The fear ridden thought of “this may not work” is often linked to the things most worth doing, yet they paralyze and prevent us from making positive changes. It’s up to you to design your own future (starting with the year ahead). If you don’t step forward onto a different path and begin to navigate your way forward, how will you ever know where, and how far, you can go?

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A recent Monocle article “Do It Yourself” showcases five stories of entrepreneurs who “…went against the tide of conformity and followed their instinct to stick their necks out and try something different”. Interviews cover how to build a thriving community from scratch; how to inject life into a city centre; how to start your own cottage industry and grow it into a business; how to build a retail brand and how to package a product that sings on shelf. They aren’t stories of following spreadsheets or design by committee “…but rather common sense, skill, hard work and responding to human behavior”. They highlight the reward of risk taking and pursuing ambitions.

‘Resolutions’ should turn into ‘projects’ so that we shift our mindset from the dull and inevitable annual repeats, to more inspiring and meaningful experiences that will challenge us to take risks, learn, grow and design a better future.

Be Yourself: Simplicity and Difference

There’s been a lot of coverage on the quote “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken” (Oscar Wilde). It’s timeless and powerful.

Two major challenges in today’s highly competitive environment are difference and simplicity (converting complexity to be understood). Understanding what you can be the best in the world at, and building upon this, will help you become great (as an individual or company).

In the book ‘Good to Great’, Jim Collins talks about the ‘Hedgehog Concept’, which describes three simple points of understanding and the vital intersection between them:

  1. What can you be the best in the world at?
  2. What drives your economic engine?
  3. What are you deeply passionate about?

There are many designers that are passionate about what they do, and believe they can be the best in the world, but fail to understand their economic engine. On the contrary, companies generally understand this, yet lack insight into what they can simply be the best at, which goes far beyond a core competence, or discovering what makes them passionate. You need all three to be great.

Great possibilities and creative dreams often fail to convert into great realities because difference and simplicity isn’t achieved with one big idea. Individuals, companies and their brands scurry around trying to be all things to all people rather than focusing on their one powerful idea, and this is when they melt into mediocrity.

Be yourself. What’s your big idea?