Creativity

Barometric Reading

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Matt: "That's hot!"
“That’s hot!” At the beginning of the 9 City Bridge Run journey in San Francisco in 2009.

I can almost hardly believe that I am still yet to deliver on this idea of a Human Bridge.

I have learnt that when I fail to deliver on something it is worthwhile listening more closely to myself. Performance is the best barometer of capability. While that sounds elementary, also like a barometer measuring weather, having an accurate measure of capability allows us to ask why to determine what is causing the change or in some cases the lack of change.

Admittedly there are many things I could have done prior to this moment to have delivered on this idea of a Human Bridge. Those things I could have done include cancelling the idea entirely and putting it behind me as a failed undertaking.

The Human Bridge is only an idea, but it is an idea. Everything begins with an idea, but what is important is the execution. There is an irony that I have not delivered to date on an idea which is based on the concept of collaboration to frame the idea of a human bridge. That irony is that I have failed to adequately grasped the idea to bring the participation of other people into the project.

And that failure, that being to have failed in grasping the concept up to this point, is the only failure that matters. Cancelling the idea as a failed undertaking would have been an unacceptable failure because it would have surrendered to the difficulty of building a human bridge.

There is no “bad” reading on a barometer. It is a relative measure of air pressure. I need to learn to adjust my behaviour to match my capability so as to best influence performance.

I can’t change the weather any more than I can change the reading on a barometer simply by walking around with an umbrella as if willing it to rain. I need to adjust to the reading of my capability, and use that as a guide to adapt to improving my performance.

I’m beginning to learn how to read this metaphorical barometer. It shouldn’t be too much longer before I can work out how to deliver on the task to deliver on the idea of a Human Bridge.

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On Becoming An Artist, Part 2

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“Order To Disorder” by Matthew Courtney

“All it takes to become an artist is to start doing art.” 

With these understated and at the same time profound words, my friend Dr Ellen Langer began her 2005 book ‘On Becoming An Artist”. It is an instructive and inspiring book I have read through cover to cover about four or five times now. Dog-eared and underscored, this book provides a reflective conversation that lives up to its subtitle: “Reinventing yourself through mindful creativity.”

I first met Ellen in Toronto back in 2007 when attending a conference at Rotman Business School. Roger Martin who I knew from attending the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship had invited me to participate in a conference he was convening about thinking. I knew there were great thinkers in Toronto before I arrived for that conference, but it was when I was attending I saw how alive that city is with fresh thinking, design and creativity. It was for that reason I decided to run there during the 10 City Bridge Run, and especially why it will be included as part of the Design Forums that will follow later this year.

Ellen is a big thinker, but not your usual academic or thought leader. She is an elegant woman who would seem to be more at home at Largerfield’s next Chanel showing in Paris, but she is just at home with big ideas and the opportunity to ask you to stretch your mind more. I was fortunate to spend time with her again in Melbourne in 2011 at the Australian Davos Connection ‘Future Summit’ which I am alumnus to.

She is a professor of psychology at Harvard University, and is qualified to speak on matters concerning the mind. The book is a case study of her own experience from picking up paint brushes through Untaught Art and becoming an artist. She uses the writing to paint metaphorically a discussion beyond her earlier writing about how rampant and costly living a life mindlessly can be, to address how mindful creativity enriches and enhances your life.

Re-reading the book now, I find at this is our intention as we set about the Design Forum for the 10 City Bridge Run to ask “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?” We will together tap into a process of engagement that will enrich our own lives, and through doing so we will be helping to literally save the lives of millions of people over the coming decades as part of a broader collective effort.

The photo is from a friend in New York, Matthew Courtney. He too is an artist with a colourful past I know little about. He lives in Brooklyn, and travels into SoHo to sell painting and drawings he has made. Most people are too busy to stop and look or to talk. Much like existing conversations that sometimes overlook dysfunction in making change happen in child survival, Matthew experiences a phenomenon that Ellen writes about observing people and critics flocking to “official art” with excessive emphasis on evaluation. Ellen writes:

“People don’t give up their current preferences or ideas easily.”

These are big ideas Ellen is playing with. It is not suggesting you throw away your bible, figuratively or literally, and I for one would encourage you to hold onto your values and beliefs. But importantly, learn to look anew, see with fresh eyes, and think again. This is the process we will embrace during the Design Forum. Please join us on this journey!

Embryonic

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Look inside...
Look inside…

Embryonic. It is defined as “of a system, idea, or organization) in a rudimentary stage with potential for development.”

The idea has been conceived. We have life, as it were. An embryo of thought, birthed of action and imagination.

This embryo now needs to be nurtured, fed, protected, strengthened.

Of course, it is not really an embryo. But it might as well be. If nothing else, it is a good metaphor through which to see the beginning of the Design Forum. It really is embryonic. That might be difficult to believe after tooling around with this idea since 2010, and spending the last three months of 2014 on the epic quest of the 10 City Bridge Run.

But yes, we have arrived at our destination: the Design Forum! And it is at the beginning! I especially think it is important to let this conversation develop organically. It is a real conversation, not a formal conference.

We are literally waiting to hear from you. I have my own thoughts about which way the conversation will be fashioned, but the wisdom of the crowd is far smarter than any one of us. It will be a journey that is as deliberate as it is serendipitous.

We do know what happens when an embryo grows. Granted, there is not a lot of room for serendipity there. But that is why the metaphor of an embryo is powerful.

Apparently when a butterfly transforms from a caterpillar inside its cocoon, it has what are called imaginal cells that transmutate and allow it to shape-shift. This strange alchemy of the imaginal cells is something which could also transform the Design Forum. Who amongst us can unlock the imaginal cells to morph into a spectacular butterfly-like recreation?

How radical will we let our ideas become? It could just be you we are waiting for. Let’s begin.

Sign up for the Design Forum here, and enrol in the free introduction to Human Centered Design made available through Acumen Fund/IDEO here.