Backwards before forwards


How often do you step back to observe the bigger picture?

Often in our haste to keep moving forward, we skip an insightful step back to notice the whole picture. Making time to do this puts things into perspective, maybe even changes it, so that you can move forward more informed and inspired into the vast environment in which you already exist or wish to move into.

We must frequently take steps back to move intelligently forward.

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.

What Was Different About Tuesday?

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Imagine spending eight hours mingling with an eclectic bunch of pioneering speakers, coffee-buzzed wisdom seekers, immersed in ‘thoughtful provocations’, ‘dancing with paradox’, debating life’s big questions and how to ‘pioneer meaningful progress’… while sipping craft whisky, absorbing live jazz and pondering what’s next for humans on earth, and Mars.

Welcome to The Cleverness and Percolate: A Precursor to Progress.

“A space to harness our unwillingness to settle” for “pioneers and the quietly dissatisfied”.

Hallelujah!… a space (Fitzroy Social) with air, light, art, music, buzz, booze, nibbles, chit-chat, curious people, questions, and more questions than answers. A thoroughly thought-provoking ‘event-full’ experience, delivering beyond expectation. You don’t get to say that too often do you?

And here I am gathering my scribbles and highlights to spread the goodness of a well curated Tuesday afternoon that flowed into an evening of exceptional taste and unedited banter.

Everything was done a little differently at Percolate. The speakers were unusually framed by the audience (seated on four sides, not framed as in ‘set-up’). You actually got to see other people’s faces and expressions. Imagine… other humans! The ‘gift envelopes’ had tasteful, meaningful content (newly launched magazine The Cleverness Biannual Issue O) and even the bathrooms featured ‘thoughtful provocations’ for pondering while you pee. Everything was considered, crafted and conversational. And not wishing to overdo the ‘c’ words here, but the theme and trail of messages throughout was both creative and consistent, even down to the branded whisky glasses and custom branded The Cleverness/Moleskine notebook.

Okay, enough of the gushing flattery, so what of this unconventional event? I believe in thoughtful sharing of people doing good things, so I’ve put thought to gathering some snippets for those ‘quietly dissatisfied’ people curious enough to want to discover more (my brain clearly likes ‘c’ words today, yesterday it was ‘i’ words).

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Enter the inimitable Host, Dr Jason Fox (Head of The Cleverness), charming, engaging and provocative, questioning and conversational, poses a thoughtful opener “What will be different for you in 2017?”. The audience is encouraged to think and exchange thoughts with their neighbour – yep, really meaningful conversations with other humans, imagine! And then, another provocative question comes flying “What is the most popular misconception people have of you?”. There’s no dancing around the matter here, we’re already in deep thought exploring pretty serious questions with strangers. Only slightly awkward.

The first speaker, Oscar Trimboli (Executive Coach & Author), silenced the audience with every carefully chosen, calmly spoken word, and the breathing space in between. The topic was ‘Deeper Listening’. This one particularly struck a chord for me… “Listen to silence as deeply as any word”. Indeed, we often desperately scramble to plug the awkward gaps. “Silence is a gift”. There’s so much beauty and meaning in silence, stillness and space – and it’s so valuable for encouraging creativity (my space of specialty). Another thought provoking line was “Explore the unsaid”. Which could morph into separate conversation on the mystery and delights of the subconscious and its significant value to creative thinking. For another time.

We then heard from Helen Souness (Managing Director of Etsy Australia & Asia) who stated that Our purpose in life is to fulfil our potential” and posed the question “How can you enrich the lives of others?”. Helen also encouraged us to consider exploring a “multi-dimensional life” rather than seeking the ‘one calling’ that we spend years trying to discover. This note transitioned smoothly onto the next speaker, Natasha Pincus (Director & Filmmaker) with the big question “What is genius?”, a theme inspired by her own creative productions. Natasha believes that “Your genius comes from within you” and is “The practice of being who you are”.  An visually engaging talk, concluded with Natasha’s parting belief that “The genius is inspired”, and “curious”, “a productionist”, and “empathetic”. All of this was delivered with a stream of visual whit and boundless energy, definitely not your average keynote, thankfully.

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Up next, Rohan Gunatillake (Creator of Buddhify & Author) encouraged us to “Be aware of what’s happening while it’s happening” which really got me thinking. We’re often so fixated on the future and ‘what’s next’ for us, while the good happenings of today pass by unnoticed. Rohan talked about the concept of “Relaxation as identification” (not taking your work too personally) and stated that “The more personally you take your work, the more you’ll have difficulty”. This provoked some interesting conversations during and after the talk, especially from those of us who head their own businesses. Another useful tip “Don’t mortgage your whole being on a metric you have no control over” and another “Indulge yourself at the level of feeling”. Rohan’s secrets to mindfulness were: A Loving Letting Go; Neutral Observation; You Are On Your Side. Which will need a little more explanation beyond this post. A great parting thought and one that I’m still reflecting on was “Get interested in the difficult”. Ooh… that’s a corker.

One big challenge we all face as humans is complexity, which was the theme for Dr Sean Fabri (Improvisor & Doctor), who discussed the shift in medicine from complex to complicated and the insightful differences between the two. Some stimulating thoughts were “The world is complex, people are complex” with an intriguing conversation around “Grappling with complexity and why this is such a struggle” and the provocative statement “It’s our responsibility to understand the complexity we face”. Dr Sean shared his perspective on the importance of complex understanding in creating pathways to outcomes. Another thought provoker was “The closer your mental model is to the real world, the better it will work”. I often see people and companies creating things that are so far removed from reality and what’s really needed, it’s quite astonishing. But we also need to challenge the real world. Blimey, there’s so much work to do! Here’s another one of my favourites “When you imagine others complexly, you humanise them” flowing into “When you acknowledge this, it comes across as kindness”. Without question we need more understanding and kindness in the world, more walking in the shoes of others, demonstrating human compassion. Dr Sean Fabri concluded by sharing some tools for reaching deeper into complexity through the themes of doubt, disagreement and failure. He writes about this more in his newsletter if you’re curious.

The coffee buzz was provided by Proud Mary and the whisky buzz by Starward, both companies with knowledgable representatives sharing some wonderful insights… “It’s more than coffee… every time you have a coffee there’s a family, person and process behind it” and “Indulge in the feeling” and a whole conversation around overcoming “The irrational obstacles”. Thanks to both for providing great tasting fuel for lively conversations.

We are in “A new era of co-creation” claimed Josi Heyerdahl (Partnerships Manager, World Wildlife Fund) who talked about complex systems, the actions of the whole and the challenge we’re facing as the more connected we become the more complex things become…“We face complex problems with no simple solutions” Jodi stated. And then shared some hard facts from The Living Planet Report relating to the growing population, the demand this places on food resources and the impact this has on the planet. As a subject close to my heart, this talk left me with a big ‘to-do’ list. One statement that I will be exploring further is that we need to “Work with the industry to make the changes we want to see”. The WWF have a tagline “Together Possible” which clearly communicates that they’re embracing this already. Jodi talked about the value of “Unlikely Collaborators” and believes this is where the magic happens. We were left with the thought provoking question “Who would be your unlikely collaborator?”. I have a few of those.

And finally, enter ‘The Wild Card’ Will Dayble (Founder of Squareweave & Fitzroy Academy) who shocked us into disbelief when he shared a life-changing choice he faced with his wife “Do we have children or go to Mars?”. Image that conversation over morning coffee! I don’t think I was in the minority in wondering if this guy was for real. But yes, he was. And refreshingly so. It was fascinating, confronting and a little uncomfortable to wrap my head around this ‘choice’ and the conversations that he was having with himself, his wife, family and friends. I can’t imagine. But this is the reality we are facing now. People will be going to Mars soon. The evolution of human existence has transitioned from no people on the planet, to people on the planet, and now people on Mars. What will be next? Will playfully and provocatively reflected deeply on what this means for him and how we exist as humans. He describes this life adventure as a “Once in a civilisation opportunity” and “the most exciting thing that has happened to humans ever”. Plenty of polarising views around this one, which ended with a question I’ve never heard before. Something for everyone to consider when producing things… “Will this work on Mars?”. That’s the reality of the future.

Time to Percolate and conclude, as the panel rotated to answer questions with questions in a lively banter of provocations like “Do you gain wisdom from experiences or do you have to do something else” and “How will you bring what’s next” and “What are the rare conversations we have as humans” and a great line “Great questions will always outlive the answers”. I was too engaged in the pace to capture everything here and didn’t want to miss the moment and opportunity to participate.

After a few more drinks cheerfully babbling away with some interesting folk, I sloped out the door and into the streets of Fitzroy with my head bursting with questions, things to do, the sound of jazz and maybe one too many whisky’s.

There’s so much work to do in the world! If this was helpful, please share thoughtfully. I hope this gets you thinking today, more than you were yesterday, and as much as I was on Tuesday, and the days thereafter.

Big thank you to Dr Jason Fox, Kim Lam and The Cleverness. See you at “Rituals”.

Bye for now…

Rochelle Martyn

rochellemartyn.com @RoxMartyn

What Do You See?


What you want people to see and what they actually see, may be very different.

Whether you’re looking at a masterpiece, a business, a place, a person… how people perceive things varies considerably. You can leave them to their own visual interpretation, let them create their own narrative, or you can serve it to them on a silver platter with precise words, perfect images and very little room for interpretation.

Either way, people will take what’s useful, relevant and appealing, and leave what’s not. Their imagination may fill the gaps, or may not. You can’t predict human behavior, but if you take time to discover and understand what people really care about, you’re off to a good start.

Create what’s useful, relevant and appealing – for the people you want to engage with.

Photo by Rochelle Martyn.

The Impactful Details

It’s often the little touches that create the most impact.

Whether you’re openly sharing your product outside your store; completing the sale with a quick spritz of fragrance inside the cloth bag that houses a purchase; providing a space and experience that makes people feel uplifted after they’ve left… it’s the little details that create the lasting impact.

People that appreciate what you do will always find you, talk about you, share with others, and remember you for the impact you have on them.

Photo taken by Rochelle at various Aesop stores in London.

Creating The Remarkable

What kind of business attracts people willing to stand outside, and around the corner, sometimes for hours, in all weathers, to buy their product?

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A business run by people that know how to create something remarkable. They care about what people enjoy and what’s missing, and are so proud of their product they want people to see how it’s made. Lune Croissanterie is a ‘one of a kind’ croissanterie for all those reasons and many more…

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“Making a croissant takes patience and time. It demands a commitment to a high level of detail. It requires physical hard work. Refinement, improvement and innovation must be at the forefront of ones mind constantly, to push a baker to never accept complacency, and strive always for a better product”

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The people that enjoy the anticipation of sinking their teeth into one of these remarkable croissants are the people that have an appreciation of the skill and effort that goes into making them, plus… the taste experience, the creators, and the high demand.

On the other hand, some people complain about the wait, finding it highly annoying that they have to wait so long. But they have a choice. They can get an average croissant immediately anywhere.

When people line up around the corner of the Apple store in anticipation of the latest product launch, they do it willingly knowing they’ll have to wait for something remarkable.

Appealing to everyone isn’t what attracts the right people. The ones who rock up, no matter what, are the people that appreciate the whole experience they’re getting. And regardless of the wait, they’ll consistently get the best product and service in return*.

People will travel far and wait patiently if you create something remarkable.

* Things fall apart when high demand diminishes the product and service.

Images: Rochelle Martyn

Little Retail Experiences

The local bookstore, The Grumpy Swimmer, knows how to entice little readers.

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Create an area dedicated to reading, themed like a forest: with a tepee (what child, or even adult, doesn’t like to hangout in a hideout); a comfy bear cushion; tree trunk stools; a wood basket; green grass and climbing vines. The little experience is a story in itself.

Thoughtful touches can transform retail experiences, making it a more enjoyable and engaging place to shop and browse. When you enter a store it can be pretty overwhelming, being surrounded by an abundance of choices. Having a place to pause and appreciate what’s around you, has to be a winner for both the buyer and the owner.

While online shopping is convenient, sometimes you just can’t beat the experience of going into a store.

Yes, I did enter the tepee, yes my daughter had a tantrum when we had to leave, and yes, we’ve been back many times since for camping, stories, books and tantrums.

People go back for little experiences.

Image: Rochelle Martyn