Creating a ‘Learning to Learn’ mindset

Creating a ‘Learning to Learn’ mindset

Recently, the monsters returned to Kyiv to work with one of our absolute favourite companies – The One Philosophy Group.  We were invited again, both as expert speakers and as facilitators to the The Employer Leadership Summit. It’s a fabulous event and has the latest thinking from HR and L&D from around the globe. The theme was ‘learning to learn’ with a specific focus on developing a learning mindset.
At this event, we introduced our latest business venture,  The Alternative Business School .  We were delighted not only that the delegates voted it unanimously as a great way to bring learning to life, but also that several of the latest online learning start-ups had similar themes.

It’s clear that the next generation of employees want to learn and develop at work and developing a learning mindset is key to that.

How can you use visuals to help people learn?

‘Learning to Learn’ and its importance in the future of work

Since we also know that many future roles haven’t been invented yet, the best preparation is to focus on learning to learn – the theme of the conference.

Whilst it is commendable to follow a traditional business school route to leadership, it’s becoming clear that this model won’t necessarily be fit for the future.  The School, University, MBA, executive linear journey isn’t where the new entrepreneurs are springing from. Many have neither the patience nor the funding to take this path and instead try their ideas, fail fast, learn and go again.

It is unlikely that fixed curriculums are likely to contain all the answers needed in such a fast-paced world. So instead, they recruit their friends and like-minded individuals and build the working life they want. Encouragingly, they want their work to have purpose and to be enjoyable.

This is so heartening for us, considering our purpose of ‘banishing corporate dullness’.  It also means the disruptor and start-ups are not only looking to develop a learning mindset, but have fun doing it.

Humour was referenced many times during the conference as a key business skill for the future. 

Reflection time and how it cements learning messages

 

What did we learn that’s worth sharing?  It’s something we’ve known for a long time but it was reinforced by the other experts involved in this event.  We often cite the Kolb learning model, which we simplify as Context, Experience, Reflection.  Conference agendas are so often packed full and this was no exception.

Time was hard to manage and when the clock begins to put pressure on the speakers, it’s always the reflection time that suffers.  Yet ahead of the conference, we had all agreed that reflection time was critical.

For the insights to stick, you need time to consider what they mean for you, individually. 

A neuro-scientist at the conference confirmed that you really can’t ‘unlearn’ anything; what you have is hard-wired, but you can keep your brain plastic by learning more, providing you take the time afterwards to reflect and create new neural pathways.

Tips to make learning messages stick

 

It seems to us, there are two critical parts to doing this and worth remembering if you are planning conferences, courses, training or indeed any kind of learning event:

  • Place reflection time in the agenda and not just once at the end of the day, but often, after every hour or so of content being delivered by whatever method.  Protect it fiercely.
  • Make sure there is shared discussion of the topics, so that what has been considered and reflected upon can then be tested with a peer group.  Speaking about your learning and insights to others, is both a helpful filter and a proven method of establishing the new pathway.

Looking for more tips on how to bring messages to life and signal a shift in your organisation? 

 

Want to tap into our creative expertise to bring your learning to life? Drop us a line on danielle@purplemonster.co.uk or call us on +44 (0) 1926 311347

Photo credit: Evgeniia Komartsova. Employer Leadership Summit 2018



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Disruptive Thinking- Scarman, 17th April 2018

Disruptive Thinking- Scarman, 17th April 2018

“Don’t know what I want, but I know how to get it…”

Clayton M Christiansen coined the term “disruptive innovation” in the mid-1990s, defining it as:

“a process by which a product or service starts with simple applications at the bottom of a market – often servicing an need that is not currently being met by the current incumbents of that field – and, from this foothold, relentlessly moves up-market, changing the environment, and, sometimes, displacing the established competition.”

It’s come to mean more. It’s become a zeitgeist word, bandied about as a new, exciting successor to creativity and innovation, and people seem to think they want it.

Or do they?

Whether people want to disrupt at industry, company, or team level. The first step is to question the currently accepted position… take the music industry as an example…

Where it was… What happened when the established belief was questioned…
Music is a physical product, sold in albums and singles on vinyl and cassette. Music is rented when you need it through Spotify, Amazon and iTunes. People create their own albums as they want to.
Sharing music is terrible. “Home taping is killing music!” Sharing music is to be encouraged as it builds interest, momentum and profile for artists. By turning music into a subscription service, Spotify has made the record collection of the whole world available to everyone.
Artists have to have a recording contract to get their music distributed. Artists control their own output, using the power of their fanbase to produce what they want to make, and what the fans want to consume. Companies like Apple do exclusive deals with artists to make their product available to consumers.
Recording live concerts damages the artists’ product and reputation. Live concerts are an experience that can be added to. Recordings of the gig you have just been to are available – at a price above the price of a live album – on the night of the gig, so the experience lives on for the people who were there.
And when digital is everything… People want vinyl. They want the physical experience of music. They want everything that digital no longer gives them!

“Something’s going on, a change is taking place…”

Things have to fall into place. The environment, timing and technology does have to support it, but disruption often comes from understanding the commercial outcomes and then reverse engineering from that outcome. Consider customer experience. Would people like their bills generated immediately? Enter Tonik Energy…

Disruption can be on a very simple scale but can have huge impact by really focusing on specifics that can meet customer needs better than the current offers. Patanjalimanaged to beat well established household good brands such as P&G and Unilever by focusing on an unserved customer group (natural products) and not adopting market established paradigms (such as having a large advertising spend).

The key is keeping close to the customer problem you are trying to solve.

New technology can open up obvious new markets, but can also create whole new markets. Everyone – or just about everyone – has access to the video capabilities of a smartphone. Why not offer them training, so they can make professional quality videos, without engaging a professional company, or purchasing expensive kit? Customer trends can drive whole industries and the best disruptors are those that can exploit those trends, especially if they can offer it in bitesize content.

A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow. -Ovid

The fear of failure, however, can stop people taking action. Ideas can die very quickly if not supported, so how do you respond to the ideas people come to you with? Do they get killed with a sneer or a yawn, or do you take a default “yes” approach?

Not seeing the world how it has been but being open to new trends as they develop is a key skill for people who want to work with, rather than against disruptive influences. Look at the rejuvenation of what was once considered an “elderly” market. People who would once have moved into a grey netherworld are becoming more aspirational and better connected – and new trends and new markets are opening up for older people who want to travel the world.

The instant gratification, and always-on solution that is driven by our increasingly app-based culture is providing impetus to rapid disruption, both on the demand side, and, through widespread social media, instant connectivity and high levels of visibility across industries. Disruption in one industry can be inspired by a completely different industry.

This calls for a laser sharp focus on what you are trying to achieve, and most importantly, what your customer is demanding from you… for example Chiltern Railways overcoming a traditional obstacle of lack of station facilities and simply building their own station.

 

“When problems come along, you must whip it…”

To adopt a disrupter’s mindset you have to see the barriers or obstacles that currently exist – or the threats to your current model that are manifested in the “desire paths” that your customers are taking to meet needs that you are not currently serving – as opportunities to be exploited, even if they appear to defy conventional wisdom for your industry. Sometimes it helps to consider what your overall product or service offering feels like for customers. Do you have an attention to detail over and above your competitors? Is something being missed that people would value?

 

F.E.A.R… Freeing Excellence Affects Reality

If you want to encourage disruptive innovation at a team level, it has to be obvious that support and permission is granted from the top down, even though the reality of taking on challenges and looking for new approaches will inevitably result in failure. The established culture – in life, society and business – can often mean that experimentation and failure is not celebrated and indeed, is often punished.

How can leaders or teams help to celebrate failure? “Failure cake” that is handed out at Tonik is one way of making light of people making genuine mistakes in their attempt to make improvements. Sometimes, you just have to stand up and celebrate with the “failure bow”. Don’t be ashamed of failure. The person who never made a mistake, never made anything.

It requires some personal reflection too. How comfortable are you as the leader or your leadership team with failure and risk? And what structures will you, as a leader, need to establish so that creativity and innovation can flourish without creating chaos and efforts being focused in the wrong area?

 

Tips for encouraging creative thinking and therefore more disruptive ideas are:

  • Hire well – don’t just hire on technical skills but hire for cultural fit and individual desire to keep developing and their ability to challenge in a constructive way.
  • Ensure that principles for decision making are clear from the top and provide guidelines for how people should act. This will give people a compass when they need to make decisions.
  • Look external for inspiration – don’t just look at your own industry.
  • Consider what you are measuring and how that is driving decisions and activity – if you change what you measure you are likely to change what people focus on.
  • Find a way to celebrate failure, so the word “failure” is not seen as a bad thing, but as a necessary step to refine thinking, remove doubt, and tighten the focus on what needs to be done.
  • Could Improv skills help you and your team be more confident with uncertainly and building skills in building on ideas? Would they benefit from learning to embrace ambiguity and change, operate from a “yes, and” position, provide mutual support and hold multiple thoughts while moving towards a common goal?
  • Where are the clichés in your business, and what would happen if you reversed them? What established practices are you simply sticking to but are restricting your ability to innovate and disrupt? What benefits could result from Re-inventing Organisations?

 

We do business differently, experimenting with the idea that there are other ways to do business, connect with people and get results. Different ways to learn and share outside of the normal taught approach, common in workshops, business schools and L&D environments across the globe. If you want to become involved, please sign up here to learn more.

To download this article as a pdf, please fill out the form below.



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Most common conference mistakes

Most common conference mistakes

Over the past 23 years, we have seen a whole host of truly exceptional conferences and events, all over the world. World-class speakers, venues, performers, A/V technology, interactivity, delegate participation and fun- we’ve seen it all, and enjoyed every minute of it. 

But it’s fair to say that we’ve seen our fair share of mistakes too, and even the smallest of things can create the biggest amount of chaos. 

Here’s a list of the most common watch-outs to consider when planning your next conference: 

 

Planning in reverse 

Quite often, you see events teams and conference organisers planning the venue, speakers, content etc. before they even know why the conference is taking place. Hence, “planning in reverse”. 

You’d be surprised at the number of conferences organised just because it’s the “done thing” twice a year. Venues, hotels, food, flights, speakers, are all booked before anyone knows why they’re getting together. The purpose of the meeting then ends up being retrofitted after the dates have been set, leading to mixed messages and confusion over content. Instead, start with “why?” 

Before you even begin planning a conference, set your super-objective and your purpose…and tell the people who’ll be attending! Once you know why you’re bringing people together- whether it’s for relationship building and relevant fun; to bring a new team together, or even setting out the future company direction- you can create a frame for the day(s), and fit key messages, content and activities around it. 

 

Planning too late 

 Quite simply: don’t leave things too late. We’ve lost count of the number of times we have been approached by organisations who phone us up to say, “I have a conference in [insert very small number here] weeks and I need your help!” 

Whilst we always appreciate a challenge, and on most occasions, things can be sorted in time, it places far more pressure on everyone involved in the conference’s planning; causing unpleasant atmospheres, extra challenges and even things being forgotten. Conference planning can be stressful as it is, so leave yourself plenty of time. 

Rushed planning and execution of an event, especially a big one, can really detract from its effectiveness. Set a clear timeline well in advance, know what needs to be done and by when, and try your hardest to stick to it. 

 

Too. Much. Content. 

Without a doubt, this is the thing that provides the most angst in every event we’ve ever dealt with. Relentless, sometimes mind-blowing levels of content can totally control the atmosphere and outcomes of a conference, leaving both concentration and learning takeaways on the floor…along with people’s brains. 

Of course, it’s right that you’ve got a set of things you have to cover, a series of topics you want to include, and a parade of speakers you want to hear from. Most organisations do content well, but almost too well…but don’t bombard people with information. Structure your sessions and content around your overall conference objectives, and only say what you need to say. Don’t cram content in for the sake of it.  

Just as importantly, consider how your content is being delivered. NOBODY likes “Death by PowerPoint”, and it doesn’t make your speakers look good, either, so restrict its use as much as possible. Pitch sessions at the right level for your audience: stray away from high levels of detail; tell people what they need to know, and don’t kill with context. Ensure your speakers are experienced, rehearsed and knowledgeable in front of an audience (as the quality of delivery can make a real difference) and that, wherever possible, your sessions contain two-way interaction.  Conferences are much more than just telling people things 

 

Jam-packed days 

Quite often, especially in content-heavy conferences, the day’s schedule can look like a military exercise, planned in minute detail, starting early and finishing late. When planning what you need to include, be very aware of the bigger picture and consider the delegate experience throughout every day. How will this make them feel? Do they have enough time to rest? Do they really need to start that early? Even more so with international groups, ensure you’ve thought about jet lag and the tiredness of travelling, so you’re not flying teams across the world to make them endure 12-hour conference days. They won’t thank you for it. 

Give people adequate time to reflect and digest everything they’ve heard. Often, deluges of content and sessions can just keep flowing, overloading delegates’ brains and giving them no sense of intellectual rest or relief. This reflection time is just, if not, more, important than the content being delivered, so make sure to give people time. 

Make sure your agenda is set up to accommodate breaks at specific points throughout the day. Dedicate enough time to this, as people will need comfort breaks, a top up of tea, and a debrief of what they’ve heard with their colleagues. Try to make the day(s) as comfortable for people as possible, even if you’ve got a lot to cover. 

 

Poor food 

Trust us, it’s true. It might sound obvious, it might sound trivial, but food and refreshments (or lack of them!) can absolutely make or break a conference. Every conference feedback survey will say so. All other elements of planning and execution might be perfectly in place, but bad food will be what people remember. 

Keep your teas and coffees topped up, provide a mixture of snacks (including fruit, not just biscuits…), and don’t forget breakfast if you’re starting early. Nothing signals a dip in concentration and engagement more than rumbling stomachs half way through the day. Make your lunches varied and plentiful, and whatever you do, don’t forget dietary requirements. Evening meals, especially sit-down arrangements, need a bit more care and attention, so dedicate time to getting it right. 

Our Memorable Meetings video on Refreshments takes a look at this in more detail. 

 

 Relentlessly trusting technology 

 Technology at a conference can be truly impressive. Flawless video streaming, impeccable sound, pixel-perfect screens, social media integration…it’s all possible. Technology can be your friend, but it can also be a deadly conference foe. Make sure the basics are in place before you get too far down the line with excellent creative ideas- it they aren’t executed well, it’s a waste of time and money. 

 Most conferences and events these days are almost, if not totally, reliant on Wi-Fi. It sounds like a patronising statement to make, especially as most conference venues now are on top of their technology, but make sure that internet coverage at your chosen venue is available- and that it’s a stable enough connection for all your delegates, organisers and A/V team to connect. If you’re looking at using social media feeds or an event app, this is vital. 

Furthermore, always have backups plans. Even the most professional and experienced A/V companies, platforms, kit and software can have technical malfunctions. Work closely with your A/V team to make sure you’ve got plans in place just in case things go wrong. 

  

Not rehearsing 

One thing that crops up time and again is the lack of structured rehearsal time, which is, especially with large events and conferences, crucial. We’ve seen a lot of speakers- internal and external- who don’t believe they have to rehearse. Sure, confidence in your ability and material is great and much-needed, but what you’ve practised beforehand might not translate well in-situ- and you don’t want to find that out when you’re already on stage.  

We will always push for rehearsal time- not because of lack of faith in the speakers, but because of the complexity that a large event or conference brings. The larger the conference, the larger the list of speakers, and the more complex the handovers from a presentation and technical point of view. Always practise speaker content for clarity, structure and impact, with a core team of people who can give good and honest feedback. 

Then, practise the speakers, on stage, in situ, with the A/V company so they know what’s behind them and when, as well as how it works. Knowing how much space they have, when your slides change, and where the lighting and sound cues are will help alleviate nervousness and trouble that may arise if the first run-through is the actual day. As well as ensuring impactful sessions, dedicated rehearsals will help the conference run smoothly, and to time. 

 

Doing it all yourself 

 In a world of strict budgetary requirements, it can sometimes be tempting to take on many of the event planning elements yourself or in-house. This can sometimes work out fine with the right people, but beware. Don’t try to take on any of the responsibilities for which you are not an expert unless you have overwhelming confidence that you can do it as well as them. 

This may sound ridiculous to some, but we have seen in-house teams try to take on a variety of tasks which have ended in all outcomes ranging from widespread troubles to complete disasters: A/V (including all sound, screens and integrated technology platforms), high-quality print, venue branding and setup, event emceeing and overall event facilitation. 

Leave it to the experts. They will take all of those worries off you, work closely with you in partnership, and use their experience and expertise to help you create the best, most professional, and most impactful outcome. 

 

Slide decks as default 

And finally, slide decks.   

Now, we’ve already mentioned “Death by PowerPoint” earlier in this piece, but this watch-out is more around slide decks in general. Throughout the past few years, we have seen PowerPoint and other similar programmes become the “go-to” software for everything that conference planning involves. Slide decks are used for organisers to write down their briefs and aims; by agencies to propose themes and interventions; by those who need to gain sign-off and buy-in; for timelines, tables, charts and agendas, for mood boards and themes. 

It’s almost inevitable that in each stage of planning, there will be a slide deck driving calls, content, and signposting what needs to happen. 

Even at the event itself, the slide deck is usually the thing which dictates sessions, timings, breaks, with hours spent getting it right. We’re not saying this is a bad thing, just consider the bigger picture when it comes to the event. It is more than the slide deck. Look up from your PowerPoint every once in a while. You might have missed something. 

 

We know from experience all of the time, money and effort that goes into making a conference or an event a success, so we hope this list has helped you consider some of the things you need to look out for.  

For more information, our Memorable Meetings series, with our Purple Monster PIE Model (Physical, Intellectual, Emotional) explains  all the  various elements you need do design and deliver a memorable meeting, conference or event, whatever the size. For more information, browse our videos and e-book here. 

And, if you’d like to speak to us about your next conference, get in touch! 



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How to take a different approach to team building

How to take a different approach to team building

“Team building” is an idea that is often thrown around as something that team leaders, managers and HR professionals “should be doing” in order to boost team effectiveness. It’s often used when morale is low, when productivity is slowing or when the annual employee survey results have come back rather less than positive. As a result, it can be seen as more of an intervention that has to be done and can often feel forced. 

Now, we firmly believe that you can’t build a team in a few hours. For many people who approach us, that is the requirement, but it simply can’t be done. Similarly, you can’t build a team with just an exercise. So, you need a different approach to team building…and here’s a few things to consider: 

 

Traditional “team building” gets it wrong  

Out-of-the-box away days and sessions might be a good way to rouse competition within your team, to get muddy in a field or to build a raft, but as standalone interventions, they often lack the longer-lasting effect and personal connection needed back in the business. 

 We believe that “team building” (for want of a better term), is much more than that. The important thing is to see the activity- whatever you choose- as not something that will “build” your team for you, but as something that will help to establish great connections, group rapport, and a mutual understanding and appreciation of roles, responsibilities and personalities. 

 

Your team activity needs relevance first 

The activities you normally associate with “team building” are many and various, whatever their nature (assault course, anyone?). But what they don’t do is relate back to the day-to-day tasks a team deals with, and address any of the issues they may be facing. Instead of taking the business out of the away day, we believe it’s best to put the business firmly back into the middle. 

Why spend money on an away day which has little-to-no relevance to what your team actually do? Capitalise on the time you have together, and the money you have to spend, by immersing the team in an energetic and interactive exercise which has all the competitive and fun elements of raft-building or rock-climbing…but with thematic business undertones. 

An analogous exercise that tackles the communication problems faced within large teams, a competitive session that deals with customer satisfaction, or one that explores the tricky end-to-end process of project management, can all be transformed into something fun and engaging. Mirror the hand-offs, responsibilities, pressures and dependencies of the team undertaking it, and play with it in a way that breaks down silos, communication barriers and behavioural challenges, so that learning can be applied on the return to the workplace. 

 

Team activities should focus on relationships 

 No, you can’t build a team in a few hours. You can’t expect that by the end of the day, everyone in the team will be best friends and that your productivity will magically increase. What you can do, however, is use the time together to explore collaboration and communication, which will start to form the strong and trusting relationships necessary for successful team working. After all, we work with our teammates day after day, so it’s more than worth spending the time appreciating and understanding each other. 

 Great business is built on great relationships. Using your team time to focus on building these relationships will enable your people to work more effectively with those around them. Try out exercises which allow for a deeper exploration into team dynamics, behaviour and expectations. You’ll be surprised by how many barriers can be broken down in the process. 

 

Involve everyone 

 Getting a team of people together, with a mixture of personalities, can sometimes feel a little pressured, putting people out of their comfort zone physically, intellectually and emotionally. So, there’s a rule here: stay away from “forced fun”.  

Instead, set up an inclusive and relaxed atmosphere where everyone feels like they can actively participate and make contributions. Just because the activity might be pressured in its nature (intense or challenging), it doesn’t mean that individuals have to bear the brunt of it. This is a good place to reinforce the importance of team working and support, and don’t let people feel uncomfortable.  

There is often no “wrong” answer in team exercises, and sometimes no answers at all (just more questions!), and this is OK. The exercise you undertake should be suitable for everyone, regardless of knowledge, experience or seniority, with no special knowledge or expertise required. Nobody will have an “advantage”- you’re all in it together. 

 

Flatten the hierarchy 

In the spirit of involving everyone, some of the best team exercises are those which turn the everyday hierarchical structure on its head. To build an atmosphere of inclusion, put everyone on the same level, and take the seniority out of it. Place people in roles they wouldn’t normally play- put those in Finance in IS, HR into Marketing…This way, they’ll gain a greater understanding of the responsibilities and pressures faced by other members of their team, and learn a lot more than if they had stuck to their day job. 

 And remember: a team as only as great as the sum of its parts. Reinforce this both throughout and after the session and make sure to appreciate individuals as well as the whole. Whether it’s during the exercise or back in business as usual, the smallest role is as important as the most executive one. You’re one team, regardless of the role you play. 

 

Make it last 

 As we said earlier, team building is often viewed as an intervention, and its impact can be shortened as a result. The true effectiveness of these sessions comes from repeating them at specific points throughout the year, as time and budget allows. 

A year can of course bring many changes for a team: new challenges arise, new team members join, new projects are started, new organisational structures are put in place. All of these can be explored in a team exercise, and the importance of bringing people together, to work together, can never be stressed enough. 

 Sessions of this nature can also be integrated into a wider team event or conference, sitting as a smaller activity during part of the day or taking a large chunk of the time to explore a challenge or theme. They can also be turned into an opportunity for celebration- because they’re fun! 

 

 

After all this, if it is just traditional “team building” that you’re after, our article here sets out a review of the many different types of activities you can choose from. 

For more information on our approach to team building, check out our HIIT Squad– our High Intensity Immersion Training turns team building on its head. Each exercise is tailored to explore a business problem in an interactive, immersive and fun way, compressing procedure and process into an intense 3 hours or less. 

 And, if you’d like to learn more about how we can help you revolutionise your team sessions, contact us. 

 



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How can a team fully understand and experience key business messages? HIIT them!

How can a team fully understand and experience key business messages? HIIT them!

Want to enhance team performance? Want to do it in a ‘different’ way? HIIT them!

You have to love that post-Christmas, New Year feeling. It combines the joy of gathering all your friends and family together, with the terrible feeling that you might have let yourself go a little.

The funny thing is, when it comes to your teams, that feeling can stay with you all year round. Now we’re not suggesting that your colleagues aren’t all super-toned athletes who are only one biscuit away from running a marathon. That’s not what we mean at all. The thing that might have gone is their fitness to work at their full potential.

That’s why we have developed our HIIT Squad.

Let us explain… HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, is a physical discipline that gives you short, intensive bursts of physical activity to burn fat and build muscle. It’s popular with people who would like to keep in shape, but can’t be doing with the expense or the time commitment that comes with hours in the gym. Want to be fitter. Can’t afford the time or the expense. Sound familiar?

Recently, we’ve seen a lot of organisations adopt the same attitude. They want their teams to be better able to understand and deal with the pressures of their roles, but they haven’t got the time or space to address them, and certainly don’t want a big outlay financially. That’s why we have developed our own HIIT sessions: what we are terming High Intensity Immersion Training.

They work like this. A function, or a department at an organisation come to us and give us a problem, related to how people approach or understand the day-to-day running of the business. We translate that challenge into an exercise that mirrors the hand-offs, responsibilities, pressures and dependencies of their work, and involve everyone in it, allowing people to experience for themselves what it’s like to handle the budget, or deliver excellent service, or respond to fast-moving developments… sometimes compressing 18 months of procedure and process into a very intense 90 minutes or less.

Like the conventional HIIT sessions, people can come out of the other side feeling a bit drained, and a bit tired… but hopefully having exercised some mental muscles that might have spent too long on the metaphysical couch. Short, intense bursts of activity, with nowhere to hide, with all the pressure of work, but none of the terrible consequences if you mess it all up.

“What I love about these sessions is I give you a vague idea of the challenge I have and you develop something fun, completely relevant and interactive.”

 

Regular HIIT session client.

If you want to know more, HIIT us up!



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Inktober 2017 Challenge

Inktober 2017 Challenge

On October 1st 2017 I sat down with my sketch book and a cheap free pen from some hotel somewhere to undertake a month long challenge – to create an inked drawing every single day during that month, and post it online along with thousands of other participants. 

Inktober is the brain child of Jake Parker and began for him in 2009 as a way to improve his skills and establish some drawing habits. It began for me in my lounge with a mixture of excitement, determination and, quite frankly, a bit of dread as I stared at the first blank, intimidating page in my newly purchased sketchbook.  

A month on and I am pleased to say that I have completed the project, adding to my challenge by using the National Day calendar as my source of inspiration, and by sticking with the afore mentioned cheap free pen from some hotel. But why do it? What was the point after all? And why on earth did I find it so difficult?! 

 

Why do it? 

I will start with the why. Why did I decide to undertake this challenge? Well, for starters, I have attempted to do Inktober before and failed spectacularly. One year, I didn’t even put pen to paper, so from the first mark made by the cheap pen I was beating that record. This year, I wanted to prove to myself that I could complete this personal goal I’d set myself. 

Secondly, I wanted to be part of a global movement on social media. You only need to search #Inktober2017 on Instagram and your screen will fill with hundreds upon thousands of images, all individual and all created by someone, somewhere on this planet. Amazing. The inspiration and encouragement alone from some of the drawings are enough to push yourself harder, and to keep improving. 

Thirdly – and this is the biggest reason for me I think – I wanted to reconnect with my passion for drawing; with the joy of creating something, just for the sake of it. When you are drawing to a client’s brief, all day, every day, as much as you love that work, spending free time just drawing is not really top of the list. I recall my mum always saying “a builder’s house is never finished”. After all day on site, a builder does not want to come home and start on the endless list of jobs that need doing around the house. My dad was a builder. Our house was never finished. 

Finally, I told my work colleagues I would do it, so people knew I was going to do it, and, if I didn’t, I would feel pretty silly. And they’d never let me forget! 

 

Why did I find it so difficult? 

An interesting observation I made immediately, was how difficult it is to think so totally freely about what to draw, when you are so used to following a close tight client brief, or having a very clear starting point for your source of inspiration. This is something I want to work on personally, so in that respect, it was a good challenge. 

 During the project I found it easier to give myself some parameters within which to work, hence using the National Day calendar – the calendar of what is being celebrated nationally on any specific day – as my prompt, my inspiration. It also taught me to look harder for different sources of inspiration, to think differently about things. Why draw a handbag for National Handbag Day, when you can draw a hand and a bag? What does colour mean to me for National Colour Day? What do I immediately think of when I see it is National Chocolate Day? Thinking differently is a skill that we must practise, to ensure we can nurture our creativity. 

Taking time out every day was, ridiculously, quite a struggle. I am very good at making excuses not to do something – excuses not to go to the gym being top of that list. And in such a busy world, it is easy to let some things take priority over others. I had to coach myself to stick to my plan, to be more disciplined in my challenge. This can be a hard thing to do and I confess, on occasion, I did let my one daily drawing become my two or three daily drawings. But the regularity of needing a drawing for each day, and the determination to complete the challenge kept me going… and the social media influence and exposure acted as a driver to make sure I stuck to my promise to see it through. My key learning from this was to set aside a specific time of day as my creative outlet time, and be very strict on myself to use it.  

 

What did I get from it? 

Everyone has a story, and the work I saw from others reinforced this. 

Inktober had a prompt list to follow, and scouring the social media feeds, I met with so many variations on the same theme – each individual has created their twist, their interpretation of the theme for that day.  

Everyone had a story to tell through their art. I began to use this challenge as a way to get some stories into my drawings. What does the National Bologna Day drawing mean? When I hear mention of Bologna, I can’t help but recall that every year, when we take our annual Italian road trip, we always, without fail, get stuck in hour long traffic jams. We always have the roof down, and it is always baking hot…. and it is always outside of Bologna. It was my opportunity to put a bit of my personal life experience into some of my art.  

The strongest thing I think I will take away from this challenge is just how much fun it was. It helped me to reconnect to the joy of art and drawing. It reminded me that it is important and healthy to allow the time for creative thinking, and have that creative outlet, and that this has a positive impact on other parts of my life. If I can be more creative for myself, it will feed my imagination and push me to think differently.  

 

Overall, the experience has reminded me of the power and strength of imagery in storytelling. Pictures really do paint a thousand words. So that’s 31,000 words in a month. 

 Not bad going. 

Click here to see the full-size version.



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