Could you create your own ‘Festival of Learning’?

Could you create your own ‘Festival of Learning’?

Here, Danielle reflects on her week at two ‘ideas’ festivals and how that approach could be used to encourage self-driven learning in business.

Rather than spend a holiday sitting on a beach, I went on a ‘learning holiday’. Eight full days attending two ‘idea’ festivals that were being held close to where I live. The first is the oddly named ‘How the Light Gets In’ (or ‘Who turned the lights off’ as it is known in Monster Towers!) organised by The Institute of Art and Ideas. The second was the more widely known Hay Literary Festival.

I’ve always loved learning. Not always as much as I do now. You learn all the time working in a small business and so to take time off work to do some more learning may seem strange to some. Maybe it is. But as an advocate and practitioner of lifelong learning, who loved every minute of my holiday, I’ve identified five elements that these incredibly popular events do. I then wondered if they could provide inspiration for anyone looking for innovative ways to promote a learning approach in their organisation.

Both festivals attract thousands of people each year for a combination of debates, talks, workshops, music and comedy. (Plenty of that in our company) They both have a slightly different emphasis, atmosphere and target audience but both still focus on what I would call ‘learning for the sake of learning’.

1. They are open to all

People from all different backgrounds, experiences and areas of expertise attend talks on Biology, Cosmology, Philosophy, the future of education, politics and creativity. Some people attending might hold a Ph.D in that particular field and are relishing the opportunity to hear from other leading thinkers. Others have literally no experience or knowledge in that field at all but are just there to simply hear about something new. Maybe learn a few things they didn’t know before or listen to a debate to understand the different perspectives on a thorny topic.

2. Everyone creates their own learning experience.

Sessions are scheduled from early in the morning to late at night. Sessions on different topics run at the same time in different locations. There are a variety of formats; talks, debates, workshops and hands-on sessions. Topics are vast and varied. You can’t do everything and every person that attends will choose a slightly different combination of experiences. You can go along for the everyday for the full week or for just a single day. Some buy tickets for individual events across the week. There is no set agenda or path. You are free to create the experience that works best for you.

3. They focus on ‘event experience’

Although most people attend because they’re interested in a particular topic or want to hear from certain authors or speakers, it isn’t just about the content. It’s possible to go to either festival; not go to any of the talks and just absorb the atmosphere.

You could sit with a book in the Serious Reading room (as I did for a morning) or get a drink in the bar and read a book there instead (which I also did) (I figured wine in the Serious Reading Room would be frowned upon!).

You could mooch around the various stalls or stands, pop your head into the ‘People’s Front Room’ and listen to a band for a while or just spend time ‘peoplewatching’ in a riverside deckchair. It’s as much about the atmosphere as the content.

4. You are in charge of your own learning

With my corporate hat on, I would say that any learning opportunity is only complete with an element of reflection, capturing next steps or action points at least. Not at an idea’s festival. People are left to learn what they want, when they want and how they want. You can apply what you want to apply and ignore everything that’s not relevant. Each session that I attended though, I did learn new information that I will apply. The tangible:

  • I learnt about MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) for example which I intend to investigate more.
  • There was recommended reading about Creativity and Purpose which I will add to my ever-increasing reading list.

Others were less tangible.

  • I marvelled at how a seemingly obvious ‘correct’ position can have many layers of ambiguity and controversy which I only appreciated after attending a debate about where to draw the line regarding free speech.

In all these instances though I was left to take away what was useful to me. The person sat next to me would likely have taken away completely different outcomes. And that’s the beauty of it. We weren’t told what we should learn. We shared an experience and then applied what was relevant to us. (though it is fair to say on at least one occasion, the only takeaway I had was that I didn’t understand a single word they were talking about!)

5. The emergence of lifelong learning

Throughout the 8 days I was in Hay, the overarching feeling I came away with was the importance of Lifelong learning. It gave me the opportunity to absorb new information, wrestle with different ideas and consider alternative perspectives. It does require the ‘learner’ to want to learn, of course it does, but similarly it is only effective because the content is interesting, the speakers engaging, the atmosphere relaxed and varied.

There was space to take time out and reflect.

There was humour as well and information.

There was self-selection and self-reflection

Taking these ideas further…

I am personally passionate about learning and more specifically self-driven learning and I’m lucky enough to be involved with building our sister business The Alternative Business School which holds this type of learning at its heart.

If this is a topic you want to debate, discuss and deliberate then please do get in touch.

With the increasingly competitive landscape and the advantages for us all to be on a lifelong learning journey, then concepts like The Alternative Business School and festivals such as the ones held in Hay each year have a significant role to play.



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Getting people to care about cyber security.

Getting people to care about cyber security.

Cyber security is a very real threat. What can you do to raise awareness in your workplace?

They do say that science fiction is a guide to the future. The imagination of Jules Verne, HG Wells and Arthur C. Clarke created a whole host of technological inventions we now take for granted. But, for many of those who hid behind the sofa when the Dr Who theme music played, there is a more ominous invention, that poses a real threat today, ‘Cybermen’!

Since 1966, the famed BBC Time Lord has been trying to warn us about the need for cyber security. Now in fairness, we don’t seem as yet to be facing the menacing creatures as envisaged by the programme makers, but cyber-criminals are real and very likely, mostly men. They may not look like their tv counterparts, but there is a real urgency to raise awareness of cyber-crime.

Organisations both large and small are being forced to consider their approach to Cyber Security. The risks, both financially and reputationally of being the victim of a cyber attack are simply too high to ignore. 

Even with the risks and impacts fully understood, employees are often not seeing their role in protecting the organisation against such risks. Much like safety, cyber awareness needs to be adopted as a cultural shift. Aiming to create the same attitude about walking down the stairs without holding the handrail to using a personal USB drive. 

If there is a need in your organisation to educate large numbers of people as to their role in protecting the business, then a recent experience of ours might provide you with some insight into how that can be achieved. 

We have been working with a client to help them bring Cyber Awareness to life. Although only at the beginning of this journey, this initial group were critical as they are leaders in the manufacturing part of the organisation so the first line of defence when it comes to keeping operations moving.

Move away from the technical

It is likely that only a handful of people care, or even understand the joys of anti-virus protection, firewalls and cloud-based monitoring. Focus on what they will care about – that the right people are looking after the right things and their role is to not add any other risks into the system.

Focus on the behavioural

Even with the best technology in the world, humans are still the biggest threat and the best protection. Use everyday examples to illustrate their role. Clicking links in suspicious emails, not checking payment details in person or leaving laptops in cars. Most people will have done all of these things without thinking about it so examples like this will make it all the more real.

Make it engaging

You would expect us to say this but there is so much scope to make this topic more fun and capture attention – Super Hero’s, Villain’s, Characters to explain the key risks, all lend themselves to being part of a cyber awareness campaign.

Reflect back on the successes of building a safety culture

Many organisations now have safety so well embedded in their culture that it is easy to forget how that happened. What worked in that case and how can the same principles be applied to cyber?

Make it personal

Like safety, there are impacts for people on their personal lives when it comes to being cybersafe. How can your organisation provide tools, information and advice which will help people both at work and at home? Kits to support conversation with children? Advice on anti-virus protection for home computers? All of this helps to provide valuable advice for people whilst achieving the goals of the organisation.

So, while for some of us, the anticipation of the new Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker, taking on the Cybermen is fraught with childhood nightmares, we would all be better off focusing on the real cyber criminals, who are far from fiction and waging war on our planet right now.

If you’d like to know more about how Purple Monster can help bring your cyber-security messages to life then get in touch with Danielle on danielle@purplemonster.co.uk.

In the meantime, those of you with too much time on your hands can answer this quiz question:

Which Monster team member appeared in Doctor Who? Answers on a cyber-postcard to info@purplemonster.co.uk.



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Do we know where we are going?! Bringing your organisations’ vision to life

Do we know where we are going?! Bringing your organisations’ vision to life

The importance of bringing Organisational Vision or Strategy to life, and our top tips.

Everyone wants to know where they are going and how they are going to get there, unless of course you are one of those carefree travellers who puts a pin in a map at random and leaves the house with nothing but a backpack, a passport, a change of pants and a toothbrush… wow, that was a great conference…no, but seriously, we are talking about Organisational Vision and Strategy.

No, no, please don’t hit delete, we know it may sound a little corporate and dare we say uninteresting but isn’t that just exactly why we need to bring it to life in a more interesting way?

In our experience, the clearer an organisations’ plan is to see, understand and communicate, the easier it is for everyone to get behind it and the more likely you are to actually stand a chance of getting there.

If your people believe in what you are all doing and where you are all going, they are more likely to stick around and give their best in order to help achieve it. And that feels good for everyone!
Even better, if you can involve people, and truly understand the business challenges faced at all levels, then tangible, actionable, creative solutions can be developed.

This level of involvement gives individuals the chance to have their say and feel they are contributing, and are not just another number on a page. It will also ensure that your future vision is relevant and applicable to everyone.
So how on earth do you do this, especially if you have numerous global locations? We have a step by step process that we adopt and here are some top tips from some of our previous experiences…

1. Acknowledge the truth

You can’t make a clear path for where you want to go if you don’t know where you are. Get out into the business – talk to people, spend time doing focus groups, doing interviews etc- the more people and levels you speak to the better. If you can offer anonymity, you are more likely to get a truer picture of what is going on across the business.

We’re happy to talk to anyone, by the way.

2. Create the future

You may already have a stated vision, a mission statement, or a purpose statement. Don’t let it just be words on a page but encourage people to explore how it actually looks and feels.

Involve as many different voices as you can and ask them what they believe the future can be – an Leadership Team vision is not going to be the same for Mel who works in the plant.

3. Replay your findings

If you don’t tell people what you have done with their inputs, they will see this as an exercise and won’t believe you. We always use powerful visuals, videos or animations to replay these findings.

4. Involve everyone in the ‘how ’

This is undoubtedly the trickiest part, the biggest risk of people going off at a tangent or getting bogged down in the data and smaller intricacies of running a business. Or worse, just being generic and not specific enough.

Design events and communications in such a way that involve people, will allow localised teams to build on the existing state, add their relevance to the future vision, keep on track with their discussions, have an interactive experience and generate outcomes of tangible steps and actions that they can implement.

5. Share it!

Creating a rich picture is one way to show the collective vision and strategy. Tell your story to everyone!

Keep communicating and show evidence of things that have already happened as a result of this approach that is making a difference.

6. Don’t let it be a gimmick

Keep it front and centre.

If it is a picture, have it on display in offices. Keep dialogue going in meetings, townhalls etc…you name it.

Hold yourself accountable to it. If needs be, revisit it 6 months down the line for a refresher session; have you done what you said you would do? If not, then look at how can you amend that to ensure you are back on track.

An Example..

If you really want to be clear on where you’re heading and how to get people to all pull in the same direction then, in our experience, nobody has done this better than our friend Ben Hunt-Davies and his concept of Will It Make the Boat Go Faster. The ultimate literal ‘all pulling in the same direction‘ which ended in him and his colleagues achieving their lofty ambition.
Your ambition might not be an Olympic Title but if you and your people are losing direction and feeling overwhelmed then a clear view of where you’re going is going to help.

If you want a step-by-step guide about how to share your organisational strategy or vision, find a copy here 

Need your vision bringing to life?

We are experts in helping organisations to breathe life into their vision, values or strategies. Bringing our creative expertise to make corporate narratives engaging, compelling and memorable. 



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Who has got the ‘D’? Decision-making in complex organisations

Who has got the ‘D’? Decision-making in complex organisations

It may come as no surprise that if you search the term ‘decision-making’ on the internet, it doesn’t throw up just one framework or methodology, but, well … umpteen. In fact, it’s quite a decision to decide which ones to read.

Just searching the term RACI reveals the following deviations and variations. RACI, RASI, RASCI, RACI-VS, RACIQ and our personal favourite (just for the way it sounds), RASCEIO. Isn’t that one of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan?

Now we don’t intend to get involved in the politics of Brexit in this article. After all, we are doing everything we can to retain and build our readership, rather than conspire to drive people away. However, here’s a little help for those closely involved in the decision-making process and for those involved from a distance too; either as bemused observers, interested stakeholders or comedians seeking new material.

Whatever Brexit may represent to you, one thing we can all be sure of is that after a long decision-making process, involving a huge number of people, it did not happen on time.

The deadline has come and gone and we’re no clearer on the next steps. Now that is certainly a familiar story in business and one that affects us all.

So, what can help us to make better decisions, or perhaps more timely ones?

The Cynefin Model

 

In an article for HBR, David J. Snowden and Mary E. Boone suggest that understanding the kind of problem you’re solving is a key starting point. They describe a framework which Snowden and a team at IBM developed, which must be one of the very few to have a Welsh title. Cynefin

Ref: Cynefin model. Dave Snowden (1999) IBM.

It sets problems into what he described as a ‘sense-making’ model rather than categorizing model. So, how might this help us everyday?

What kind of decisions are you trying to make?

 

If you are deciding where to hold your conference or which external speaker to book then this is ‘simple’, according to Cynefin. Weigh up the pros and cons, set a deadline for the decision and once made, go ahead with the arrangements.

If it’s simple, keep it simple. However, if the challenge is to shift behaviours and ways of working and you wish to bring that problem to life through experiential activities, you can’t expect to arrive at a ‘decision’ quickly or simply. This kind of solution takes time, because the problem is ‘complicated’ and requires deeper analysis. Be realistic about how much time it should take and plan accordingly.

According to Cynefin, it also requires experts, so if you’re looking for someone to bring complicated content to life, then remember to get in touch.

Who is making the Decision?

So, we know the context and the kind of decisions that need to be made, but who is going to make them? This can be the most complicated part of the process.

In large organizations, this problem can seem insurmountable, as there is no agreement about which function/region/individual has the authority to make a decision.

On one occasion we had stepped through the whole proposal, pitch and contract process before discovering that the person with the financial authority had never actually been told about the planned conference, at all.

It turned out that everyone was so scared of the individual, they dared not tell him. Thankfully the work went ahead, but that was only because, in the end, WE told him!

Having confidence to make the decision.

Finding out who approves or signs-off is something that can prove very elusive. We’re working with a client who has a useful framework in this regard, crafted specifically to fit their values.

Their company-specific framework focuses on knowing who has the ‘D’ for decision-making and endeavouring to make that transparent to everyone.

It may not be the most senior person, nor even the budget holder. It could be a number of people, such as a project board or steering group, but whoever it is, everyone needs to know. Other people can still be consulted or give advice or be in the information pool and so on, but the certainty is that they are NOT the ‘D’.

Since using this framework, and the nomenclature of the ‘D’, the company concerned has turned the corner in the speed and efficiency of their previously ponderous decision-making process. It’s more than a happy coincidence that they are also growing the company successfully too.

The fear that important business decisions, strategic and financial, will be held up, is slowly dissipating.

Do you need help bringing your decision-making process to life?

We are experts in bringing to life complex concepts and this can include helping people to understand the impact of the existing decision-making culture. 



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How to find a partner

How to find a partner

Don’t worry, Purple Monster has not ventured into the world of internet dating, although perhaps our avowed intent to bring content to life, might add a little something to the sector.

As a small organization, we can rarely take on any sizeable project without working with a partner.

For large conferences it might be a production company, or other creative agencies. For transformation and learning programmes, it might be partners from academic institutions, private companies, small or large consultancies. It may be single contractors who are working in the organization but see an opportunity to partner with us. Whoever it is, we’re always up for a new partner relationship.

And just like a first date, the initial meeting will set the tone for the relationship. Don’t try too hard to impress, but instead be as open as possible and be respectful of every potential partner, even if they are a direct competitor. Make sure you get to know each other. It might only be possible to meet over the airwaves to begin with but put the camera on and be prepared to share who you are. This approach will always work out better in the end.

Over the years this is what we have found that works best when partnering with others. But please note, this doesn’t mean that we are the perfect partner for everyone.

1. Make sure you treat your partner as an equal.

This might require acts of generosity towards a less experienced player, or it might require you to punch above your weight. Whichever way you flex, make sure you behave as an equal partner.

2. Be a trustworthy partner

At some point, you are almost certainly going to be involved in a ‘difficult conversation’ with your partner. So, be clear from the off and avoid the temptation of making claims you can’t back up.

There is a helpful tool for this. The Trust Equation, created by Maister, Green and Halford. You can find a full explanation here

3. Find the right fit

Choose partners that offer capabilities you don’t have and when put together with yours create something unique. Always be prepared to put the partnership to the test with a client. Otherwise, you really can waste an awful lot of time talking about what might be possible.
Although the potential partner may have very different skills and capability than you, always try to choose a partner with the same values and principles. This isn’t about what is written on their website, but about how you observe them behaving. Do you trust them to speak to your client on your behalf? If yes, you’re in a good partnership.

And here are the stories….

The trials – We had one, now defunct, partnership, in which the other party always felt it necessary to do some carrot-dangling of future work. It rarely came to fruition and the work we occasionally did together didn’t ever feel like a partnership. We felt more like a performing seal, brought out to impress early in the relationship with a client. It wasn’t very life-affirming, nor effective.

The triumphs – We have two new partnerships well worth a mention. Our accountants, Pentlands, who are partnering with us to establish simple and efficient financial reporting and our wonderful Ukrainian friends at One Philosophy Group, with whom our partnering relationship has only just begun.

We also have many wonderful long-standing partnerships, including Craig Spivey, creative genius; Jon Trevor, improv legend; Ben Goddard, musical director extraordinaire; Catherine Allan, fabulous scribe. But one particular partnership is worth a special mention. By This River, our video production partner. Whatever request we make of Mike Sedgwick and his team, we always know they will be doing their absolute best work for us. They epitomise the description of trusted partner. 100%. They make us feel really special and this is not only life-affirming but it’s also terrific fun

 

Would you like to partner with us?

We are experts in bringing your business content to life, creating memorable meetings and events for your people.



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Bringing your culture to life; A best practice example

Bringing your culture to life; A best practice example

Bringing business content to life, such as the company vision, or a strategy or explaining a change in process perhaps, requires a great deal of skill and a level of creative thinking.  

 

However, in all these instances, you are working with something which can be written down, described in words or pictures and is tangible.

But what about if it isn’t tangible? What if it’s your organisational culture you are trying to bring to life? How do you know you have achieved success?

How can you get something so intangible clearly understood by every single person in your organisation? No, scrap that, every single person that encounters your organisation?

Here’s how…

Moneypenny is a phone and live chat answering service based in North Wales who recently hosted an event, sharing ‘Employee Voice’ best practice for the Employee Engagement Alliance.

On arrival at the building, the traditional battle with security – ‘Have you booked a space?’ ‘Can I see some ID?’ was noticeable by its absence. Instead there was a well sign-posted car park, featuring quirky icons for the various zones (a love heart for visitors – cute!)

 

On entering the office, after walking past a giant gorilla, visitors are greeted at a floating reception desk by a casually dressed receptionist who oozed warmth. Not the ‘I’ve been trained to smile like this’ type of warmth but genuine ‘I am really pleased you’re here today’ warmth. 

The décor of the office is funky with a cheeky edge. Sheep on the stairs, giraffes on the landing and a floating shed meeting room. Employee perks were obvious. A pub (called the Dog and Bone – genius) a gym and individually designed wings of the office with themed artwork on the walls. Each employee has a dedicated desk which they can decorate themselves and they all get money to buy a desk lamp of their choice.

Now any company with the cash could design a funky office to rival this, but the the beauty of Moneypenny is that the culture lives in the people; the physical environment, whilst pleasing on the eye, isn’t the point.

The office design is in support of the company culture, not the other way around.

Need help bringing a message to life?

Have you got a message or change you want to ‘bring to life’? Tap into our vast array of creative skills, tools and techniques to help your message land effectively. 

Now any company with the cash could design a funky office to rival this, but the the beauty of Moneypenny is that the culture lives in the people; the physical environment, whilst pleasing on the eye, isn’t the point.

The office design is in support of the company culture, not the other way around.

This isn’t about putting in a ping-pong table and hoping one day someone will use it. Their culture has been around a lot longer than the new building and is based on simple family values. The staff were consulted on the design and it’s fun and friendly, because they are. 

Here’s why

  • People are recruited by attitude rather than skill set. The recruitment process is extensive and focuses on cultural fit above everything else.
  • Teams work closely together and become tight knit so meeting for a drink in the ‘pub’ after work is a pleasure.  
  • Office requirements such as natural light, natural ventilation and lots of social spaces all came directly from employees. Even the footprint of the building was designed specifically to ensure employee desires were realised.
  • Anything less than perfect performance is taken as a reflection of the quality of the leadership, team management or training and not on the individual. If an individual isn’t hitting the targets it’s because they haven’t been supported effectively, not that they are ‘poor performer’.

What these offices have above all else, is warmth. You literally feel it as you walk in.  There is a genuine welcoming, homely feeling to the whole experience.  It’s no accident.

This isn’t about putting a novelty pub in the office hoping people who don’t talk to each other normally will suddenly have the urge to share a pizza on a Friday night.

This isn’t about scrapping annual appraisals in the hope that inadequately trained managers will hold more regular, high quality coaching conversations.

This isn’t about gathering employee views and then ignoring them because there isn’t the budget or because implementing them is just too hard.

This is about fundamentally understanding the culture you want to create, and EVERY SINGLE THING being in line with that culture.  

When a visitor to your office who knows nothing about your company can walk away absolutely clear about what your company does, what it stands for and why it is so successful. Then you know you have brought your company culture to life… and that warm glow stays with you for days.

If you want to bring some creative thinking to challenge your normal approach and help bring your messages to life then get in touch with Danielle on danielle@purplemonster.co.uk. 



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