Welcome to the Year of the Monkey!

Welcome to the Year of the Monkey!

“Most admirable about Monkey people is their ability to solve problems. It is difficult to imagine a dilemma wherein the Monkey cannot take the upper hand, wade through the gory particulars, think up new and exotic ways to get at the pith of the problem and come triumphantly, if somewhat the worse for wear, out the other side.” Suzanne White, The New Astrology

Monkey and Wterfall Mori Sosen 1747-1821
Monkey and Waterfall by Mori Sosen (1747-1821)

Happy New Year!

February 8 ushers in the year of the monkey. Hopefully it will be a creative problem solving (and then fun) year for us all. I was born in the year of the monkey, myself, so I am particularly looking forward to investing my problem solving skills into all sorts of juicy stuff!

I’m starting a new phase:

After two long but interesting (very intriguing) years experimenting with various services, formats and markets I feel that my professional practice is now focused on things that allow me to draw successfully on my disparate skills and somewhat colourful and peripatetic work history.

I will be focused on investigating creativity, innovation and the workplace cultures that support or hinder these.

The services that reciprocally work best for me and my clients are:

·         Being a critical friend

·         Facilitating

·         Speaking

·         Writing

·         and Project Design.

Conversations of Intrigue

Having been put through a rigorous development and testing process I am excited to be able to seriously start marketing Conversations of Intrigue, a positively disrupting service that uses extracts from a work of art – literature, film, theatre – as prompts for groups to be able to explore organisational culture and narrative. While I can, and am happy to, work with any material that a client might want to use I can also supply facilitated conversations using extracts from John Le Carre’s masterful thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, as canny a portrait of organisational culture as any I’ve seen.

I have been a boundary spanner all my life…

… and don’t intend to stop now: a major marketing challenge for me this year will be to position myself as someone who is able to work with organisations developing cross sectoral collaborations. I am well used to helping arts and community groups manage relationships and develop projects for social responsibility and / or creative projects and am looking for more of this work.

I am honoured and excited, too, to be continuing to work on the Parallel Fascinations project with Dr Alexia Maddox and Romaine Logere; we look forward to facilitating cross sectoral dialogue and research that supports new research and helps innovators and researchers develop their ideas.

Thank you for following my blog!

I have had a break from publishing over the summer but I do love writing it and look forward to posting some material soon. Look out for articles that will help you reflect on creativity in the workplace, innovation, organisational culture and narrative.

In the meantime, enjoy what is left of the summer and Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Yoshitoshi Tsukioka Jade Rabbit - Sun Wukong 1839-1892
Jade Rabbit – Sun Wukong by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)
Fame at Last!

Fame at Last!

(Well… not fame, exactly, but the opportunity to participate in a short film with a bunch of lovely people.)

I am posting this short film as an example of how people coming together to share ideas, knowledge, enthusiasms and their stories can be of huge benefits to those people. What interests me, as I come to write this, is how much the use of online tools can aid and abet the coming together of people both online and off. Third Place makes use of the Meetup website and Twitter (#3Place), and now this film is on Youtube, the Activate Learn website, the learningnow.tv website, and even this blog.

There is absolutely nothing original in what I just wrote but, still, it’s nice to be reminded of how richly we are surrounded by resources.

Some background: Helen Blunden of Activate Learn recently organised for a short film to be made about the Third Place Meetup group, of which she is a leading light. She sent the call out for people to come along and talk about their involvement in Third Place and I was one of the volunteers. You can read more about this on Helen’s website. The film was shown on the learningnow.tv website.

 

Announcement: Project Planning and Creative Thinking

Announcement: Project Planning and Creative Thinking

“Innovate or die!” has become a cliché; and yet the creative thinking and experimental processes that underpin innovation are often seen as potentially chaotic and hard to harness, measure or control.

Join former project and arts manager Dangerous Meredith in a discussion on how to develop projects so that they encapsulate and anchor emergent innovative ideas. You will leave this workshop with an understanding of how to ground creative ideas and processes against project management frameworks.

To ensure that participants get the maximum benefit from this interactive workshop, numbers are limited so book now to ensure your place.

Dates:

Monday, 14 Dec. 2015

Time: 6-8pm

Cost: $30 full / $20 conc.

Bookings: absolutely essential; please book via Eventbrite

Meredith Lewis has over 25 years’ experience of working in the tertiary, creative, and community sectors; including as a manager, project manager, trainer, arts manager, choreographer and performer. She specialises in leading discussions, creative interventions and workshops that help people develop plans and strategies that anchor and promote creative thinking, humane values, and good business. Having worked both as a creative and as a manager she is ideally placed to negotiate the processes of turning visionary ideas into deliverable plans.

Thomas Edison and his light bulb
Thomas Edison and his light bulb
A Reflection on Conversations of Intrigue

A Reflection on Conversations of Intrigue

Among the blogs I post are things I call ‘Recommended Reads’. In these blog posts I feature an article that I read somewhere, really liked, and think may be of value to others. I also write a short comment on the ways in which the article in question resonated with me.

Now… when it comes to my writing a comment on this week’s ‘Recommended Read’ I am afraid, dear reader, that I come up short. My reason for posting A Conversation of Intrigue by Helen Blunden of Activate Learning Solutions is sheer vanity.

This year I have been developing a new service called Conversations of Intrigue; recently I had a trial run of this service (actually a facilitated group discussion) and Helen was good enough to come along as one of the guinea pigs. I was surprised and delighted when Helen posted a reflection on her experience on her blog. Needless to say, it was also very useful to get an insight into what one participant got from the experience.

NOT a portrait of Helen. Artist: George Morland Sourced from en.wahooart.com
NOT a portrait of Helen.
Artist: George Morland
Sourced from en.wahooart.com

Naturally I hope that you will all swarm onto Helen’s blog to read about Conversations of Intrigue. But while you’re there, check out some of her other blogs – they’re terrific.

Recommended Read: ‘”I don’t know”. Uncertainty as a platform for growth’ from the Be Your Whole Self website

Recommended Read: ‘”I don’t know”. Uncertainty as a platform for growth’ from the Be Your Whole Self website

Alongside her work as a leading consultant on social media for business, Dionne Lew also creates the Be Your Whole Self  website on which she blogs to support people to be their “whole, complex beautiful” selves.

Dionne writes beautifully and with succinctness, clarity and insight, regardless of whether she is writing about social media or self realisation. I particularly enjoy the blogs she posts on Be Your Whole Self, which cover a range of issues. Many, I feel, contain valuable insights around leadership. One which stayed with me after I read it was ‘I don’t know’. Uncertainty as a platform for growth. 

I like this blog because I reckon that, as a society, too many of us are in way too much of a hurry to appear certain, and in so doing we block ourselves off from avenues of exploration or necessary expressions of honesty or nuance.

Admitting to not knowing is not necessarily a weakness; learning to function in a state of temporary uncertainty is important and sometimes a necessary evil and sometimes the start of an exciting journey. Creative ideas often spring from uncertainty.

Anyhow, that’s just my opinion. Read Dionne’s piece – it contains many words of wisdom.

building of Radio City circa 1933 NOT old pics so check source BUILDING LEADERSHIP SIMULATED BLOG

A white knuckle ride through the world of governance.

A white knuckle ride through the world of governance.

Image sourced from rockpointpark.com
Image sourced from rockpointpark.com

I recently attended the Inaugural Professorial Lecture at RMIT University. Entitled ‘Non-profit Boardroom Corporate Governance: An Insider View’ and given by Professor Lee Parker of the School of Accounting, it was an eloquent appraisal of the challenges and context of governance in the non-profit sector.

Parker’s “insider view” arises out of his research methodology, in which he obtains permission to attend and observe board room meetings in various not for profit (NFP) organisations. Perhaps this is why, in my opinion and in the opinion of others who attended the lecture and with whom I chatted afterwards, Lee’s explication of context, conditions, strengths and weaknesses of NFP boards was spot on.

I have spent most of my life working in the NFP sector, first in the arts industry, then in the tertiary sector and lastly in the community sector. As a youngster I was not interested in what was happening in board rooms, seeing boards as collections of figureheads – human trophies saying “rhubarb, rhubarb” – while people like me got on and did the real work. It was only at one point, when I was working closely with an underperforming board that had a positively delinquent approach to governance, that the importance of board performance really came alive for me. It was a horrible experience, like watching a car wreck happen in slow motion, and being able to predict what parts would smash next, but being unable to do anything about it.

old-vintage-police-record-crime-photos-black-and-white-sydney-12

It did do me the favour of bringing the whole subject of governance alive, of transforming it from an academic subject stored in the archives in my head to appearing as a dynamic living paradigm at work. I came to see how it fed into, informed and sustained the shape, tenor, rhythms, and activity of an organisation’s culture, strategy, plans and protocols; in the case of poor governance the affect was absolutely toxic.

Not all NFP boards in my career, and certainly not in the sector, were as bad as the one I mentioned in the paragraph above. I felt that Professor Parker was able to offer a nuanced explication of board performance in the sector, identifying patterns of recurrent problems and strengths in an even handed manner while leaving his audience in no doubt of the serious challenges NFP boards face. The passion and dedication to a cause that many NFP board members feel was mentioned several times; the unfortunate tendency to micro manage operational staff or recruit under skilled board members was also identified as something some NFP boards tend to do.

When I mention my NFP experience to people who have never worked in the sector I often encounter reactions that can only be called patronising. People mean well, they think they are being kind when they smile and say that they think that NFPs do wonderful work, but they often let slip that they think the work sounds kind of hokey, simple, cute, undemanding, uncomplicated. “Cruisey” was how one person described my work in the organisation which had the board I described above. I used to feel like I had received a psychic pat on the head for being so earnest and good, but there was something so dismissive in their tone and attitude, sometimes in their words. Running a neighbourhood house, a community development program, producing a theatre show? What could be so hard about any of that? What could I possibly know about real grown up work, real strategy, planning, financial management, marketing, operations, or stakeholder management?

If you want a white knuckle ride through the world of governance go run a small community or arts organisation for a year or two, or just sit on one of their boards. To make the experience especially juicy, to get those adrenalin glands really pumping, choose one with an inadequate budget and a shrinking pool of funding.

I simply loved it when Professor Parker said that he thought that NFP organisations were more complicated to run than for profit organisations.

One reason for this, and Professor Parker enlarged on this during his lecture, is that NFP organisations have to answer to more constituencies, and their agendas, than do their for profit brethren. From memory of Parker’s lecture, and from my own recollection, these constituencies may include the disadvantaged cohort that relies on the NFP organisation for services, funding bodies (government and / or philanthropic), perhaps corporate partners or sponsors, perhaps communities of individual donors, regulatory bodies, any other NFP organisations they may be partnering with, and, if the organisation offers any fee for service components, paying customers. From my experience, too, I can report that if the NFP organisation offers several programs as part of answering a community need, then each program may carry its own mix of these constituencies.

Working in the NFP sector did me some favours. It taught me how to manage relationships (actually one of my favourite areas of work) and how to work in complex conditions. Good NFP board members are worth their weight in gold; board experience gained from working with a well lead and managed NFP organisation is valuable and rewarding, and well worth enduring any hair raising episodes to get.

Professor Parker was kind enough to give me permission to link to his RMIT Inaugural Speaker Handout for this lecture.

Invitation: free Conversation of Intrigue

Invitation: free Conversation of Intrigue

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world”. – John Le Carre

Conversations of Intrigue are a new facilitated discussion I have developed to guide people to reflect on their workplace experience and identify shared values and the potential for growth and change.

Focusing in equal parts on creative response and critical thinking, the Conversations use short extracts from a work of fiction to as a platform through which to identify values, issues and strategies to improve workplace culture.

For the first outing of this model I am using extracts from John Le Carre’s great spy novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Although deservedly renowned as being an enthralling read, this novel is also a compelling portrait of organisational dysfunction, toxic culture, and all too human character types. Writing with poetic imagery, constrained compassion and a quiet sly wit, Le Carre has a gift for evoking atmosphere and character in short passages – the perfect material on which to build meaningful group discussion.

The aim of Conversations of Intrigue is to allow people the space to reflect and articulate impressions, identify values, and consider strategies for building humane workplace cultures.

Conversations of Intrigue is the result of a year’s worth of work (ever since a ‘light bulb’ moment happened last year). I am excited about this model as it sees me pulling together the disparate strands of my bohemian past and portfolio of skills and interest. I am trying to identify a ‘home’ for the Conversations and your support would be incredibly useful.

Having developed the discussion format I would now like to trial it and I am inviting you to participate in a free Conversation of Intrigue on one of the dates listed below.

Dates and times:

  • Tuesday 15 September; 6-8pm
  • Thursday 17 September; 10.30am-12.30pm
  • Monday 21 September; 9.30am-11.30am
  • Tuesday 22 September; 6-8pm

Venue: Ross House, 247 Flinders Lane (between Bourke and Elizabeth Streets), Melbourne CBD

Cost: Free but I would like some feedback

RSVPs: essential. Seating capacity is very limited at only 7 places per session. Bookings can be made on Eventbrite.

More information can be found here.

Reading-Group