All posts in opinion

Creative Welly Episode #4 | The Power Of The Breath

Another two impressive humans sharing stories and colliding ideas.

Truly enjoying the combination of differences during these conversations and how you never know where commonalities will occur.

There’s audio if that’s how you roll:

For full bios and sign up plus subscription options go to creativewelly.com

Creative Ideation Workshop | Facilitating Inspiration (aka Herding Cats)

The components of effective facilitation.

Last week I attended a ‘Creative Ideation Workshop‘ organised by Wellington NZ (the city’s and region economic agency) and facilitated by Creative HQ (my attendee experience tweet thread) to:

We need to get ideas into action and we are keen to work collaboratively with you and other creative minds who are lucky to call Wellington home. We’d like to invite you to an ideas hui to brainstorm creative solutions to some of the city’s challenges following the economic impact of the Covid19 pandemic. We will take some of the best ideas generated at the hui, develop these further into tangible solutions and work to secure funding to turn them into reality.

From the original email invitation.

Was great to see so many souls respond to the call of collaboration and the energetically run afternoon session certainly generated an array of ideas based on the challenges laid down.

It was shared early on that the ideas from the session would be directed towards the City Recovery Fund (a new amount of money made available and administered through the city council which TEDxWellington recently applied for). The criteria was displayed to the participants as part of the intro:

  • contribute to the immediate recovery of the City economy;
  • enhance or protect Wellington’s position as a leader in innovation and creativity;
  • seek to use innovation and creativity to support recovery, revitalisation and job protection or creation;
  • contribute to sustainable economic outcomes; and
  • align to the WellingtonNZ promotional campaigns.

The session however missed some crucial and foundational elements to catalyse appropriate ideas (and totally appreciate the challenge of managing any group of humans coming together for the first time within the 2.5hours allocated).

What follows is a list of those elements which needed more attention and which can also assist anyone else reading when approaching creative facilitation:

Looking forward to receiving and seeing all the ideas from the sessions which was discussed as an action at the end of the session plus hearing how some of the ideas will be progressed.

Image credit: Two Cats, Blue and Yellow (1912), Franz Marc (German, 1880–1916)

COVID19 | A Global Pause

A meandering thought ramble on the current pandemic to redirect my overly-anxious brain.

This week, New Zealand went into lockdown for four weeks after announcing a national emergency plus moving to the highest Level 4 alert. The opposite was sent to all mobile phones in the country to announce the nationwide curfew.

At the time of writing, we have nearly four hundred cases here (no deaths) and taking this approach could ensure the spread is contained.

Nearly all of my paid work has been cancelled although I just got notified I was approved for the COVID-19 Employer Payment for the next three months.

I feel lucky to be where I am.

However, the whole world is sharing this experience and every country is approaching it slightly differently, although many are adopting as isolation strategy.

I’m wondering (out loud) what good can come as we collectively pause together:

SOCIAL

We weren’t ready for this. Some knew:

It’s becoming clear that a mammoth economic recession is coming, along with a radical disruption of societal systems. This is a start not the end, and our overlapping society of nations will have to rethink many of its operating structures.

There’s a collective growing literacy at understanding exponential curves, inter-dependent industries and sectors plus how much small percentage points matter when it relates to economies.

Everything is being revealed as fragile.

Although this does present an opportunity to reflect on what is important. How, after a certain level of comfort and freedom is gained, everything else is a bonus.

We’ll also be critiquing the stale idea of traditional working cultures as swathes of humans turn to digital methods to deliver and continue their workload. However, as the crisis abates, I feel there will be a massive hunger for the physical and in-person again.

There are no special cases when princes, politicians, celebrities are getting it. The real super stars are those illustrating the innate goodness of humans:

ENVIRONMENTAL

The above video shows China’s nitrogen levels falling and then rising slightly again as some of the curfews are lifted.

Wildlife have rediscovered usually polluted areas like the canals in Italian cities:

As time goes on, this global pause will provide precious data and critical evidence for scientists to go further in proving the impact we’re having on the world.

CULTURAL

Talking here about the wider understanding that we all share a common space and are part of an operating system which is now in danger of collapsing.

Our streets and towns and cities personify the quiet we need to reflect on what’s crucial. To ask questions which transcend a rigged monetary system, to recognise the importance of community and amplify the need for evolving the politics of our time.

This forced reset is also ironic, separating us all from symbiotic elements of family, friendship, food, nature, place, space etc. which make us, us.

Going forward, the medical (especially front-liners) and educational establishment needs to be elevated, celebrated and remunerated properly (along with others who are now deemed ‘essential’ like rubbish men, supermarket workers, warehouse workers etc.), whilst we dull the idea of celebrity in its importance.

We have such a distinct divide of leadership during these times across nations from silly men who took so long to listen to professionals to other larger and even sillier men who thinks letting people die to save the economy is the way forward (Johnson is what happens when a guy like Trump can speak Latin) to our own PM here in NZ, leading with kindness and compassion (jumping online after putting her baby to bed to take a Q&A for those entering their first night of the impending lockdown):

This crisis simply illustrates how interconnected we all are.

Everything is linked.

All aspects of our well-being are joined to man-made constructs like capitalism as well as natural systems like the wider environment which need to remain healthy.

This is an opportunity to transform.

Become warriors and guardians of wiser and kinder system of living.

This joint deep breath, allows us a chance to redesign our intent as humans in focusing on the right things (rather than continue doing the wrong things righter).

The world has changed so much in three months, imagine if it we were intentional in rebuilding it.


Truly hope wherever you are reading this you’re staying safe and sane.

Your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Image credit.

Back To The Future | We Don’t Need (More) Roads

NZ just announced a $12 billion infrastructure package covering transport, schools, hospitals and roads (read more here)…

…although it’s mainly roads. My response:

It seems the idea of leading with kindness and compassion (from Jacinda Ardern) does not extend to the planet or into the future.

We are heading backwards not forwards into any kind of gentler approach to help the planet heal.

And I’m really struggling to find the token approach to adding a few bus lanes into the road investment strategy as the way forward as a nation (which builds its reputation on the 100% Pure brand).

I’m currently subcontracting on a piece of work around stakeholder engagement in the capital regarding some ideas to accelerate Wellington’s transformation into a low carbon city to reach their goal of becoming zero carbon by 2050, this has honestly taken the wind out of the sails.

This news also comes two days after the Prime Minister announces the next general election for September this year. Sighs!

Where’s the investment in radical and healthy earth plans which excites the nation and forges a new way forward for the world to follow…?

Related posts: Greta Thunberg (Plus Harrison Ford) | The Voice(s) We Need

Greta Thunberg (Plus Harrison Ford) | The Voice(s) We Need

A truly momentous and one of the most historic speeches of our time.

Such an important and informed message shared with emotional resonance and superb poise:

My message is that we’ll be watching you.

This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!

You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!

For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.

You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.

The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees [Celsius], and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control.

Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.

So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the consequences.

To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise – the best odds given by the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] – the world had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on Jan. 1st, 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons.

How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just ‘business as usual’ and some technical solutions? With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8 1/2 years.

There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.

You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.

We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.

Thank you.

If you prefer to take your instructions from older white men how about this chap:

You are here, I’m here, because we care, not just for today, but we care passionately for the future.

We know that we only have the possibility of avoiding a looming climate catastrophe if people like us refuse to give up. The future of humanity is at stake. While you work to meet the challenge of climate change, I beg of you: don’t forget nature. The destruction of nature accounts for more global emissions than all the cars and trucks in the world. We can put solar panels on every house and turn every car into an electric vehicle, but as long as Sumatra burns, we will have failed. So long as the Amazon’s great forests are slashed and burned, so long as the protected lands of tribal/Indigenous people are allowed to be encroached upon, so long as wetlands and bog peats are destroyed — our climate goals will remain out of reach, and we will be shit out of time.

If we don’t stop the destruction of our natural world, nothing else will matter. Why? Because protecting and restoring forests, mangroves, wetlands — these huge dense carbon sinks — represent at least 30% of what needs to be done to avoid catastrophic warming. It is, at this time, the only feasible solution for absorbing carbon on a global scale. Simply put — if we don’t protect nature, we can’t protect ourselves.

This is what we need to do — we need to: include nature in every corporate, state, and national climate goal; put in place the plans, the timetables to meet those goals; invest in mangroves and tropical forests; in the same way, invest in renewable energy; work to end the destruction of these ecosystems, and commit in the next decade, to secure them for the future; pursue research in reforestation, like we pursue research in carbon capture and storage; set a goal to cut costs and increase scale dramatically; empower Indigenous communities to use their knowledge, history, imaginations, our science, to save their heritage and lands — respect and ensure their rights.

Stop, for god’s sake, the denigration of science. Stop giving power to people who don’t believe in science — or worse than that, pretend they don’t believe in science for their own self-interest. They know who they are; we know who they are. We are all — rich or poor, powerful or powerless — we will all suffer the effects of climate change and ecosystem destruction.

We are facing what is quickly becoming the greatest moral crisis of our time — that those least responsible, will bear the greatest costs. So never forget who you’re fighting for — it’s the fishermen in Colombia, the fishermen in Somalia — who wonder where their next catch is coming from and why the government can’t protect them from factory fishing from across the world. It’s the mother in the Philippines who’s worried that the next big storm is going to rip her infant out of her arms.

People on the East Coast are facing the worst storms in recorded history. It’s our own country, our own community, our own families. This is the core truth: if we are to survive on this planet, the only home any of us will ever know, for our climate, for our security, for our future — we need nature. Now, more than ever.

Nature doesn’t need people, people need nature. Let’s turn off our phones. Let’s roll up our sleeves and let’s kick this monster’s ass.

Creative Multiplications | One And One and One Equals Five

Lessons from the production of my favourite three films.

The above is a magnificent insight into the creative process of the Before Trilogy and the bold, collaborative approach taken by director, Richard Linklater.

Ethan starts the interview regaling the genesis of the first movie, along with the way Linklater devolved responsibility of the character plus script development to the actors during six weeks in Venice (a shared creative model which would be replicated in the next two films). The openness and willingness to trust is so uniquely evident in this action from Linklater, although you can still hear the influence of his guiding support, providing them with the courage and reasoning to continue with the project as doubts appear.

Even though Linklater obviously provides the themes and framework, it’s through the joint effort of his associates does the project flourish into beauty. It reminds me of playing in a band (I used to a be a drummer and even in the interview Ethan mentions this as a metaphor – how everyone knows their role against the backdrop of the melody) – the constraints catalyse experimentations and how roles change with the space / atmosphere created (again, just like in a band if someone starts riffing in a different key or to a different beat).

There’s so much to take from the above, from caring about the craft of the shared journey, cherishing artistry, knowing something is important and right as it feel like it’s extracting a toll, how the intimacy created in building something together echoes through to the final product, and how true leadership is collaborative.

As a solopreneur in most of my own endeavours am definitely hungry for these types of partnerships and will take this inspiration to seek them out more.

Related post: In The Attempt

People Are Awesome | The Hope Generator That Is TEDx

ADDENDUM 21.8.19 Here’s a short video from the day of me talking about the above, full reflections here:

The innate goodness of humans.

Last night was the first of five TEDxWellington speaker coaching sessions with these people:

Being surrounded by impressive souls (full bios) was a much needed reminder of the innate brilliance of humans doing superb things (from an initiative to track human rights violations to how to build homes so that the materials can be reused, a programme to teach mindfulness to children to new technology to help diagnose breast health, from ethically built sensors to monitor the health of your home to an ongoing project which cleans our underwater environment, from teaching communities to cook on a budget to an evolving body positive programme for females, from championing the use of menstrual cups for system change to rethinking our criminal justice system).

To feel that warmness of hope and genuine awe seems rare these days in the global gloom which blasts through the news and our other media channels.

Devoting time to remind oneself that the world is not what the media tells you is a must for our mental health. So thank you TEDx for continuing to offer opportunities which lightens the soul.

Deadline for ticket registration ends soon.

C2 Montréal 2019 | Unpacking An Experience

C2 Montréal (C2) is a multi-award winning and highly produced event which impresses the brain and delights the senses.

From the stimulating interactions to the superbly built rooms / spaces, it positions itself as the most forward-thinking business event in the world although it’s more like a theme-park for corporate folks.

It’s long been on my list to attend and with five others from New Zealand, we got to mix with 7,000+ others for the three days (day one, day two, day three C2 write-ups):

Quick Appreciation

HUGE thanks to C2 for giving a discount ticket price to attract a kiwi delegation which were coming farther than most. Truly helped with making the opportunity accessible.

Also, deep gratitude to the High Commission of Canada in New Zealand who were fantastic supporting partners by:

Thank you Francis.

Highlights

The Braindate layer facilitates connections between attendees via a simple app interface. Here you can post ideas and areas of work you’re interested in for others to find and then request a 30mins meeting with you. A specific area in the event was created just for this (top right in map below):

Everyone I met was a delight and mostly interested in some public speaking advice.

Lanyards wasn’t just a name-tag but a tool for many things: they light up when a session you have chosen is starting, they can be touched together with someone you met to exchange details (which is then stored in a digital contacts list easy to download afterwards) plus it’s a digital wallet to enable you to pay for things throughout the conference.

The variety of food / refreshments was impressive, being served by either food trucks or offerings built directly into the arena itself. Scanning around it looks like many were local suppliers as well which is a great way to build community.

The couple of interactive sessions I got to experience were superb. From the blindfolded ‘in the dark’ session which highlighted deliciously the challenge of team interaction and communication, through to the ‘breaking down the divide’ visual treat which grouped souls into lighted areas for conversations by answering certain questions on a screen (a more digital version of an exercise I sometimes do in my work with clients, see below):

The showcase interviews with Will.I.Am and Spike Lee were fantastic. Both brought with them a different bank of vocabulary and experience plus both interviewers were great. Other delights was the interview with CEO of Acer plus learning about how Canada are leading the world in legal cannabis policies.

The overall calibre of conversations and general feel of the conference was delightful. It felt relaxed, friendly and ignited curiosity at every turn.

Feedback

The obvious challenge with events at this scale is access. Attendees could only choose one workshop and lab experience each day (which was booked via the app a week before). Some who were a little late in deciding simply couldn’t get into anything from the conversations I had. And even though there were opportunities to line up to get into sessions you hadn’t booked, from my observations very few got in. More experiences was missed rather than gained from this however I totally appreciate the challenge of serving 7,000+ attendees.

The content of the talks and masterclasses which I did see was ok. The audience for events like this are ‘elite’ and therefore the pitch and tone should reflect in terms of sharing tangible ideas, deliverable insights, applicable models, learned failings etc. or maybe I missed the ones which did.

Was surprised attendees had to pay for all food & drinks via the lanyard (free coffee was supplied by a sponsor I think). Again in conversations with others there was a shared expectation it would be included in the ticket price.

And finally, the Klik app wasn’t integrated neatly with the Braindates (as it opened up in a browser rather than the app itself). This wouldn’t have been such an issue although the wifi there was a little erratic at times. Also, there were no ways to connect to the speakers through the app unlike the delegates. The app was a superb greener solution to a printed agenda although it meant a whole lot of the delegates were either walking or sat with their head down in the tablet glow.

Epilogue

C2 Montréal is a superb experience for those looking to explore a cacophony of offerings in one event. Visually it’s stunning and was definitely highly crafted.

The trip also created an opportunity to connect the Kiwi delegation into the HATCH community at an evening dinner. Lots of conversations and impressive connections followed. A perfect illustration of what the overall trip was all about: creating the space and trusting good humans to add value to each other.

Creative Leadership NZ 2018 | Reflections & Insights

Building a community of creative leaders.

My little conference, Creative Leadership NZ 2018, was last week. The second year in a new venue, NZ’s new Institute of Creativity, Te Auaha:

The mission is to build a network of pioneers who share the ability to respond to change, identify opportunities and act on them to better shape our collective creative future here in New Zealand and beyond.


To continue the process of learning out loud, here’s my review:

Stats

It was another sold out event with nearly 200 leaders attending from 85 entities (most represented above – in 2017 there were 150 leaders from 70 cross-sector organisations).

One third came from outside the Wellington region (in 2017 it was only 15%) and nearly two thirds have female names (similar to last year which was 65%). It’s also interesting to note the reach in terms of how many humans the delegates accumulatively lead: 7,295 (an average of 40 per delegate).

2017 Learnings

Taking the feedback from last years event, the intention was to create more reflection time and space to connect. Therefore we had nine speakers rather than the thirteen in 2017, simplified the workshop offerings and added in generous time for morning / afternoon tea and lunch (plus networking at the end of both days – click the above image to download the full event brochure).

What was amazing this year was having five volunteers / event assistants (last year I had two plus some venue staff). Was also more vocal about the aim of the conference beyond the usual learnings and networking, this was about building a conscious and hungry community of leaders who are seeking out creative insights, literacies and skills sets.

Speakers Curation

Probably one of my favourite parts of this process is finding / choosing / liaising with the speakers. Nearly all of the speakers I had a previous relationship with so the focus was ensuring diversity and nuance to compliment the ‘intersections’ theme.

All but one of the speakers were paid for their time and involvement plus all expenses were covered. This is a continued attempt to shift the culture in NZ of paying for talent at events (which is not the usual). Each speaker got a plus one also.

Thank you Aaron, ButterscotchJo, Melissa, Paula, Paul, Peter, Te Aroha, Tim full bios here.

Finances

As with the first event last year:

  • this was privately funded venture and delivered under the Creative Welly initiative;
  • financial grant support was secured again from the US Embassy and Australian High Commission who provided funds to cover the expenses for Aaron, Butterscotch and Tim (respectively);
  • further partner support came from Wellington Chocolate Factory who offered gift packs for the speakers / facilitators, MOJO in providing coffee / tea refreshments for both days for all breaks (plus an espresso coffee from downstairs in their cafe), QT Wellington Hotel donated rooms for our overseas guests (with a reduced cost for others), and finally a small but appreciated discount from our caterers, The Lab.

Overall, the event profit doubled from 2017, a result of applying learnings, smaller venue cost and having less speakers to pay.

Extra Costs

Audio and visual (AV services), catering and venue hire are always chunky fixed costs, and this year, there was the addition of some ‘CLNZ’ letters to ensure the stage looked great.

There was also the speakers / partners meal the night before plus everyone who attended got given a printed brochure / agenda, notebook, pen and badge (plus espresso coffee voucher for the cafe downstairs – see ‘partners’):

Other costs were the bar tab for the networking drinks at the end of the first day, We Do (for photography) and Empire Films (for the review video).

DIY

Again with last year, as a solopreneur all aspects of the event are produced by me, which includes:

  • website design / copy;
  • speakers curation / negotiation / support;
  • budgeting;
  • invoicing delegate registrations;
  • partner / venue / catering liaison etc.

The design of the brochure / agenda was a trade with a local supplier for a couple of delegate spots.

Marketing & Sales

As with last year I produced these little ‘teasers’ as way of promoting the talent on offer. Here are all the Linkedin versions: Aaron, Jo, Melissa, Paula, Paul, Te Aroha, Tim.

Other activities were time intensive  in terms of taking time to reach out specifically to folks in my network although it yielded results. The event details got featured in about half a dozen email newsletters of other networks which definitely raised the profile as well.

My interest definitely lies in crafting and curating the experience rather than promoting and selling it. 

Interactions

As the focus was on creating a community through conversation and connection, there were no exhibits or distracting activities other than one: at the beginning of the event the delegates were asked to write down a creative or leadership challenge they are currently dealing with. These were collected in and stuck on one of the walls which became the ‘wall of wisdom’ where throughout the rest of the event, others added their responses to the questions posed.

Also, during the final reflection session delegates were asked to write a ‘letter to self’ – these will be posted early in the new year as a reminder of the experience and commitment they made to themselves.

Learnings

This year I decided to MC the event. Was very overwhelmed and will be doing things differently in 2019 to ensure the pace is kept solid whilst freeing me up from most of those duties.

As it was the first time in the venue there are lots of opportunities to hone the experience from dressing the spaces and ensuring the flow of delegates are positive. Still gathering delegate feedback although wonderful to see some offering their insights and creative reflections:

Photos – Day One

Photos – Day Two

Future

Am going to be working on three things to ensure legacy:

  • sponsorship – looking for one major financial sponsor whose brand values align with CLNZ;
  • videos – capture and editing of main keynotes will allow further reach (which the sponsorship will allow);
  • ongoing community opportunities – already working on a February satellite event (invites will only be available to CLNZ delegates to continue to build the community).

Onwards to Creative Leadership NZ 2019!

Related posts: Creative Leadership NZ 2017 | Reflections & Insights plus Creative Leadership NZ 2018 | Reflections & Insights.

BIF2018 | Connecting, Catalysing And Colliding Communities

BIF2018 Saul

Reflecting on my first Business Innovation Factory Summit (BIF) in Providence, Rhode Island.

Just spent the past two days surrounded by a few hundred ‘innovation junkies’ at BIF2018. The eclectic mix of 32 storytellers echoed the TED format in their variety and structure (each had about 15/20mins to share), and was hosted wonderfully in the Trinity Rep, Providence, Rhode Island.

The broad time given for networking during the breaks and lunch along with the encouragement of MC / Founder Saul Kaplan to add value to each in conversations really amplified into action.

Also, the cross over of the HATCH network (where I attended in 2013, 2014, 2016) added a deeper experience, and was so invigorating to reconnect with this generous and truly special group of humans:

Networks colliding into other networks is crucial in igniting fresh thinking, creative potential and releasing positive energy – just like HATCH and many other TEDx and other events I’ve attended, BIF2018 ignited the desire to stretch myself and also trust my voice in my current efforts.

Truly hoping some of the participants and attendees will also make the trip out to Creative Leadership NZ 2018 at the end of the year (as made an juicy offer through the network).