Thursday, February 19, 2009

Unlock your creativity

I facilitate creativity workshops - 1 day, a weekend and longer. I love doing it and the participants respond positively.

“A life changing experience...The retreat showed me how to kick start my creativity! The retreat gave a wonderful opportunity for expanding horizons, breaking down barriers and pushing the creative comfort zone in a supportive environment.”

“Your facilitation; It was just right’ for me. I enjoyed the quotes, background theory, your insight and personal passion that set the scene and kept pulling us back to the purpose through out the weekend. I enjoyed the varied activities that made you think – e.g. draw using only 7 lines… and found the ‘visualization’ exercises you talked us through very useful for me. I liked the balance with freedom to choose and no requirements to perform or share if you didn't want to - we’re perverse beings - when you don’t have to you usually do!”

“I found the retreat fun and relaxing and I feel that my self-imposed pressure to be creative has gone. I am continuing to feel calm , relaxed and more efficient in all aspects of my life. I have a real feeling of well-being that I haven’t had for a while”

“I think it was a combination of your hands-off approach combined with creative advice or ideas offered when requested, the stimulation of interacting with specific individuals in the group, and the creative atmosphere generated by the group as a whole that caused the magic to happen. The bubbling, buzzing feeling of being part of a group of people all listening to their creative sides at once has to be experienced to be believed!”

The biggest hurdle to people doing a creativity workshop is the word 'creativity'. Peoples perception of 'creativity' and what one does to develop it isn't clear to most.

I like the definition of creativity given by Linda Naiman

"Creativity is the art of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity involves two processes: thinking then producing. If you have ideas, but don't act on them you are imaginative but not creative."

When people ask what happens at a creativity workshop and I reply 'we create' I usually get a funny look followed by another question 'but what do you create?' From my experience of the workshops to date the answer ranges from a painting, a song, a piece of writing, a performance to a new career or a new life.

The workshops use a variety of 'arts' processes to explore the process of creating. This can then be applied to anything one wants to create.

The workshop brochure puts it like this:

All Creative Edge workshops / coaching will provide you with tools, techniques, and strategies that you can use throughout your personal and professional lives to continuously develop your own creative capacity and work in order to make positive improvements in your own life and impact the lives of others.
The interactive exercises during the workshops will focus on ways to:
 Uncover and clarify your personal and creative ambitions
 Explore insights from your unique past and present experiences
 Discover and express your creative strengths and creative potential
 Overcome your fears and creative blocks
 Find inspiration in the world around you
 Share ideas and work collaboratively
 Challenge and stretch your current perception of the world
 Develop a consistent practice of personal and creative development

Now who wouldn't want to do something like that!!

For more information

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Importance of Play

“What do most Nobel Laureates, innovative entrepreneurs, artists and performers, well-adjusted children, happy couples and families, and the most successfully adapted mammals have in common? They play enthusiastically throughout their lives. — What common denominator is shared by mass murderers, abused children, burnt-out employees, depressed mothers, caged animals, and chronically worried students? Play is rarely or never a part of their lives.” — Stuart Brown, Institute of Play from Creativity at Work Newsletter Dec 2008.

There is a TV show that fascinates me. This outdoor dude puts himself in extremely challenging environments and situations and then gets himself out of them – a bit like a modern McGiver but without the Swiss Army knife – probably need to be over 40 to get the McGiver bit. It’s all very plausible until you realize he has got to be being filmed and recorded by someone. This does not matter to my 14 year old. This programme has been the catalyst for large amounts of creativity in our household and the surrounding environment since he has become addicted to this programme. It had even been the catalyst for me and my wife to play – making bows and arrows, lighting fires in the back yard, planting vegetables in a patch of bush so when we get lost we’ll have something to feast on – that’s if the vegetables grow without too much sunlight. Its been great fun but what is even more fascinating is that our son has given us permission to play. I probably would never had made arrows or messed with fires - after all I am nearing 60 - had he not encouraged us to do so. Its easier to explain to other adults that we were playing with our son rather than saying we spent hours making bows and arrows and playing with fire.

Play is important to our future, especially in this economic down turn. Some futurists have suggested that we'll need to be more inventive, creative, and flexible to handle life in this century and beyond. A great way to develop these abilities is to play – with your children and grandchildren, your partner, your work mates and friends.

Mmmmmm . . . . Its a nice day . . . . time to go and play. . . . .!!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Recipe for Creative Collaboration

Take four musician / performers, 17 songs [some originals and some quirky covers] , and a very fine sound engineer / facilitator and put them together in a recording studio with top end technology for a weekend. Mix in supportive families, a graphic designer, a CD printing company and you have the recipe for a great CD of New Zealand music.

Such was my experience recently when the members of the band [Gumboot Tango] I play the drums for decided it was time to launch ourselves on the world - well New Zealand at least!!

This creative collaboration was prompted by an invitation to be guests at New Zealand's largest folk festival [although the music we play could not really be considered folk in the traditional sense of the word]. So with the encouragement from our families we descended on Robbie Duncan's Braeburn Studio in Wellington, New Zealand's capital city. It was successful collaboration. We completed the task - the band's first CD.

Our recipe for success: We had a vision; we were committed to doing the CD; the short time frame kept us focused; we had been together as a band for several years so we knew each other well; we had the necessary talent and mutual respect for that talent; we had the resources of a number of co-collaborators - all factors critical for an successful creative collaboration.
So we had a CD but what to call it. Yet another creative collaborator steps in. A friend known for his quirky sense of humour made the link between Gumboots and rubber soles and the Beatles - we liked it and went with it. If you haven't made the link between all three then talk to me about taking part in creativity workshop!!
We picked the CD's up the day before our guest appearances at the Auckland Festival - a workshop and two concerts - all well received.
And still the creative collaboration continued. With friends like we have creativity isn't a choice - it just happens!!
"Masterpieces are not single and solitary births, they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice." Virginia Woolf.
So, if you would like a copy of our 'masterpiece' email me at and I'll send you one. Price $NZ25 includes postage and packaging.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Creative Collaboration

The myth of the lone creative genius is just that - a myth.

Ideas do not magically appear in a genius' head from nowhere. They almost always build on what came before. And creative collaboration is key. If you want to become more creative look at what others in your field are doing. Brainstorm with people in different fields.

"But even as the lone hero continues to gallop through our imaginations, shattering obstacles with silver bullets, leaping tall buildings in a single bound, we know there is an alternate reality. Throughout history, groups of people, often without conscious design, have successfully blended individual and collective effort to create something new and wonderful. The Bauhaus school, the Manhattan Project, the Guaneri Quartet, the young filmmakers who coalesced around Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, the youthful scientists and hackers who invented a computer that was personal as well as powerful, the creators of the Internet--these are a few of the Great Groups that have reshaped the world in very different but enduring ways." according to Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Bierderman in their collaborative book Organising Genius: The Secret of Collaboration

My most recent experience of creative collaboration is not quite so grand. Over the years I have been to a large number of music festivals - where people who follow a range of musical persuasions gather. Most festivals have an exercise in creative collaboration called the Blind Date Concert. The most recent was at a festival at Te Rangi in the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand where the photos were taken. Te Rangi is the home of two very talented friends - Mary Kippenberger - storyteller, and Peter Charlton-Jones - musician.

The Blind Date Concert - and exercise in creative collaboration

The objective of this exercise - to prepare and perform an item using the talents of all the participants in a group the members of which are randomly chosen..

The process works something like this:

Peoples names are put into a hat - whether they want to take part or not. These are then randomly drawn out and posted - and tweaked just to ensure some balance. After much moaning and groaning and checking out to see what talent you have in your group people are given a limited amount of time to combine their talents into a performance. All age ranges are included.

Each group then does what ever it needs to do to present their performance. This involves deciding on what the item will be - song, dance, drama or combination of all three, identifying who can do what and deciding what roles or instruments people will play - and practice. At this stage a leader or facilitator may emerge, conflict may have to be addressed, people influenced, contributions acknowledged and decisions made. All this in a two hour time frame!!

Then its performance time. The most remarkable thing is you take a whole bunch of random people [many of whom have never met before], a very short time frame, a huge range of ages, talent and ability and throw them together with the loose instruction - deliver a performance - and what do you get: performances that are highly entertaining and fun and always appreciated by the audience. The Blind Date never fails!!

"The next 10 years will require people to think and work across boundaries into new zones that are totally different from their area of expertise. They will not only have to cross boundaries, but they will have to identify and make connections between them." So says designer Clement Monk. Just like a Blind date Concert!!

If that is the case I'd be happy to travel the world facilitating Blind Date Concerts - or at least applying the concept. Give me a call!!