Ch-ch-ch-changes. They’re coming to my life in so many ways.
Now, I always joke that it was David Bowie that started off 2016 as the worst year in my life (so far – eek!), and now I’m using one of his lyrics to announce that things are “gonna be different around here from now on”.
The thing is, Bowie was one of life’s chameleons. He never sat still and rested on his laurels. Obviously, I don’t even come close to being compared to someone of his stature, and I’m not trying to do that. It’s just that I have a lazy metaphor and, heck, I’m going to ride it out as long as I can. It’s almost becoming one of those LinkedIn posts.
So let’s move on.
Whenever I’ve spoken to groups of students about what they might do when they leave school, I talk a lot about careering. That’s not having a career, but bouncing around and learning from as many points of reference as possible while maintaining a thread within the work you do. For me, that’s starting my working life in catering, moving to science labs, heading off into content and digital and ending up in product and service design via advertising. The thread was creativity, and to a degree about experimentation.
It was inevitable that the work I’d done for much of that careering would form the basis of anything I did with Formation London. Starting a business is daunting enough; adding a completely new service offering that I couldn’t necessarily back up with case studies would make that exponentially more difficult.
Start with what you know, as the old adage goes.
But, despite taking 8 months off to deal with the cancer stuff, this July is my third year in business. Over the last few projects, my focus has significantly shifted. There is no creativity in the standard format. It’s certainly been creative, but in very different ways.
It seems fitting that I start my fourth year in business with a very different focus.
A shift in focus requires a shift in skills
I’ve been spending a lot of time doing different things. These include reading books on subjects I previously knew nothing about (architecture, for example), going on courses in related skills (facilitation) and working with people who think, do and behave differently (my last experience with Tim Hole’s BREATHE framework can be read here).
I’m also just back from the Do Lectures, which took place last week. Part of this was a gift to myself for getting through a fairly difficult few months, but the main reason was to flex my thinking muscles in a new way. The best opportunity to do so is spending time with a diverse bunch of people. I’m certain that Do has provided that opportunity. Along with the ever-excellent Lab, run by Steve Chapman, the platforms I’m selecting to improve my way of working are designed to force me to adapt, to learn by experimenting, and to remove a fair amount of comfort from my working life. Read my write-up on that.
In short, the ingredients that will help me grow.
I also had my first coaching session recently. Early days, but I have to say it’s already been a revelation. Maybe I wouldn’t have been in the right place before, but there is a part of me that wonders what might have been had I begun this process earlier.
Off the beaten track
There is also a change in what I’m doing with my side projects. Previously, they always seemed to have a creative/artistic bent to them. No longer. It’s time to take them as seriously as my paid work.
Now I’m back from Do, I’ve launched into a one-day workshop for a new start-up I’m helping to bring to life as a co-founder. A further aspect of this workshop – and the ongoing journey that will follow – is to bring together some really good friends with whom new ideas and opportunities may sprout.
And then there’s the educational framework for creative leadership I’m putting together with Flick of We Are Habit.
I’m taking my thinking into the dark woods, along paths I’ve no idea where they lead. There are no signposts, or helpful guides, but I’m not going alone. If you’re going to get lost, best to do it with people you like being around.
We didn’t get this far to wait any longer, what is this change?
Oh yeah, that.
The work I’ve been doing, and what is now going to form the focal point of future projects, has solidified some thinking about what it is I do. I’m no longer being a creative. Yes, I’m creatively thinking, coming up with ideas and solving some problems. However, I’m not using that word. Instead, I’m talking about process.
I would never have considered process to be creative. Yet, the work that’s driving my fascination and paying the bills is rooted firmly in defining and redefining process.
Why is this creative? Well, process is often used to herd people into a way of doing things. To me this is backwards. Good process should free people to do the important things; it should move people from uncertainty to certainty. Process should provide the foundation for experimentation, not remove it. Process should change behaviour in a positive way, and it should be a huge part of defining the culture of an organisation.
To be all these things requires a creative approach. I’m currently defining my ‘Process API’, an open source way of working that you can develop on top of and alongside. I’m using this on a daily basis myself, as both a way to develop projects, define working practices and on my growth journey. It’s applicable in a number of places.
I’m excited about where this thinking is going and what it might mean for my own methods and frameworks, but also what others might do with it. So let’s end on a cliché: watch this space.