Force your creativity with 2 Rs and a couple of tips …

Sometimes you need to get creative and do things differently. But many people don’t know how to do that, believing it’s “just a knack” that people have or that its not part of their genes. Having had the good fortune to kick-off my working career in a creative branding agency, I am happy to know that this is simply not true. Being creative is process and a skill you can learn. And a couple of tips can take you a long way...

My eleven year old daughter is doing a school project on clothing-design and tomorrow she is going to have to “create” something at school. She just told me she was worried, because most of the time her inspiration comes from browsing around the internet, and the internet will not be available to her in class.

This reminded me of one of my early moments faced with the same problem: How do you “get creative” when you aren’t feeling creative? In my story, it was 2001 and I was working for a small international branding agency in the UK. I had the internet (albeit with a 56k modem connection!) but I was still stuck. My boss told me to “get out of here” and sent me off to a museum. It didn’t take long before some inspiration for my (unrelated) project came. So there’s out first tip… if you want to get inspired, change your scenery.

But we can do better than that with 2 of the Rs I discovered in WhatIf’s book “Sticky Wisdom” at the time :

Find a RELATED world

This means you “go” to a place which has some kind of link or analogy with the topic you are working on. In 2006, I was facilitating a brainstorming session to help a recruitment team come up with better ways to attract young talent in a tight employment market. We created an analogy of trying to catch ants you can’t find in a kitchen. Before we knew it, we were working on all kinds of related ideas (putting down sugary traps, redirecting the ants to another place, having big boots, recruiting predators to suck them up…) before translating THOSE ideas out of the analogy and back to our original problem. I won’t bore you with the results now, but I can promise you: They had more ideas than they had when they sat around the table just hoping someone would come up with something!

For my daughter, she could make things a little more simple. Instead of “designing clothes” she could start thinking about designing houses, or guns, or fantasy football teams. Or she could forget “designing” and think about “stocking clothes”, “selling clothes” or any other related world. It really doesn’t matter. She WILL see things differently.

Of course, she could just go out for a walk around the (inside of) the school and look at the related world of colours and forms and see what inspiration that brings.

Working from something random …

Work from something RANDOM

The second R is the one that has actually led me writing this blog today. Not because its SO amazing, nor because I’ve proven as a coach how it helps people to find new ways to achieve their goals. I am sharing it now because my daughter is STILL inspired and busy at work as I write, 30 minutes after I shared the idea and kick-started her on her way. And since I have the computer, she has no internet 🙂

Random truly means random. You can pick a random object, take a word from a book or ask someone to talk to you about anything they like. That is the way in. Now see where it takes you. It’s a simple as that. Sometimes things just flow out.

I explained this idea to the little one and popped off to the fridge to get a tomato and a knife. She cut it, she looked at it.. and as you can see in the video above, the rest is history 🙂

Before I go, here are a few final tips to help you create creativity when you need to :

  • Find a friend. Because friends are awesome. And 2 + 2 = 5.
  • Don’t try and get anything right. Creativity is about flow. Selection, correction and perfection can come later.
  • Use all your senses
  • Have resources available when you need them (even if its not the internet)
  • Take a break as soon as you feel like it. Don’t try and force the energy.
  • Drink some water. Trust me on that one.

If you read this and it inspires you, please try something or add a comment below. And don’t forget to share your ideas with other people. It makes the world go round!

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to subscribe and share the post.

Then go be creative!

D

CV

October 2008 – Present

Freelance trainer + coach, speaker and learning consultant

  • Training and coaching in presentation and pitching skills, communication, leadership + negotiation skills
  • Consolidation of marketing campaign tools for a large multinational manufacturing company to create one key playbook; supported with learning initiative to help turn their Product Managers into Product Marketeers
  • October 2008 – November 2021:
    • Over 12,000 people (group) trained and (individually) coached
    • Participants from over 550 different companies, across 4 continents
    • Training delivery in French, English (native tongue) + collaborations for Dutch
  • Design and implementation of competence management system for asbl of 60 people
  • Conference speaker on topics including burnout, non-violent communication, leadership and social-media for learning
    • Highlight = “selling out” the Ballroom at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas during ATD conference 2 years in a row
  • Development and facilitation of brainstorming sessions for a variety of companies
  • Trusted partner for NCOI
  • Active member ATD
  • Publications:

September 2006 – September 2008

Learning and Development Manager, LOGICA (now CGI)

  • Design and implementation of strategic learning plan for +/-500 employees, consulting with all stakeholders to identify needs, create and roll-out relevant approach
  • Management L+D budget
  • Belgian champion of Performance Management System
  • Working with internal experts to design and develop learning initiatives to be “delivered” by them
  • Delivery of soft-skills training and other bespoke internal training modules
  • Management of all internal and external training resources
  • Other specific HR projects/initiatives designed to improve retention/employee performance

September 2003 – September 2006

Training Manager, SITEL

  • Head of training department, responsible for all company trainers
  • Development and implementation of operational call-centre training solutions
  • Trainer in communication and behavioural skills

September 2002 – September 2003

Trainer, SITEL

  • Design and delivery of technical training programmes
  • Support of international call-centre programmes

July 2002 – September 2002

Temporary Employment, following move to Belgium

  • Moving boxes for Disport
  • Getting up early and earning minimum wage … but learning French 🙂

June 2000 – June 2002

Project Manager, NOMEN INTERNATIONAL (UK)

  • Project management from initial brief to final presentation for international branding agency
  • Management of creative team and leader of brainstorming sessions
  • Day-to-day management of UK office
  • Major project: Creation and implementation of brand-naming strategy for Vodafone UK
  • Other international clients incl. Sony, Bosch, Procter and Gamble, Unilever, Philips, Toyota

Millenium

Back-packing Australia

  • 9 months travelling following completion of university degree
  • Dec 31st 1999 at the harbour 🙂

September 1996 – June 1999

Reading University, Berkshire, UK

  • Graduate Philosophy degree, 2:1
  • Top of 2nd year: Logic
  • Dissertation on the concept of “Trust”

September 1994 – June 1996

Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School, Rochester, Kent, UK

  • A-levels in Philosophy, Psychology and Music

Pre-September 1994

Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School, Rochester, Kent, UK

  • 8 GCSEs including Double Science, Mathematics and English Literature : 2 x A*, 3 x A, 3 x B

Always

  • Authentic, good communicator, serious about pleasing clients
  • Musician, surfer, father of 3 daughters
  • Love “big” movies and would love to meet all 7 billion people
  • Debut single “Hide and Seek” available on all platforms

Speaking the truth with non-violent communication

The following is a collection of phrases that I regularly think, say myself or hear other people saying. Some seem positive and some seem negative. But none of them are true.

Understanding this and practicing the habit of speaking the truth results from my learning about non-violent communication. Sometimes non-violent communication is about respect towards others and sometimes it is about self-respect. It seems helpful to me because I can more easily share opinions with others, being more open-minded and leaving room for dialogue in place of conflict. When I practice non-violent communication with myself, I feel more self-aware and more confident.

 

I say: I have to write that report this evening

How many times have I thought and said such a phrase? The problem here is that such obligations don’t exist. No-one has a gun to my head and I am free to choose the consequences of not meeting the deadline. When I hold myself to such obligations, I am denying my own ability to choose what seems right to me. And when I use this as an excuse to stay home instead of having dinner with friends, I am being dishonest about my preferences.

I prefer to say: A deadline was set for the end of the day and I would prefer to write this report to achieve that deadline 

 

I say: I’m no good at playing the piano

Sticking labels on myself and my incompetence doesn’t make me feel good about myself. If I can’t play the piano at all today, it might seem fair enough to say I have a limited ability to play the piano. But when I judge that limited ability as “bad” I am holding myself to a standard which I value and then labelling myself as sub-standard. In my head, I create a self-image of someone hopeless.

I prefer to say: At the moment, I can’t play the piano to the standard I would like

Or: I can currently make sounds with a piano that do not correspond to the first graded level of piano playing

 

I say: That’s ridiculous!

..and I wish I could stop saying this! Sometimes it goes so quickly: Someone shares their ideas on things and in a flash before I can even stop myself, I pronounce these words, as if I was the holder of all the answers, the one who knows everything about everything. This kind of language is oppressive and impolite at the worst. At the very least, it translates as “What you say is stupid” and therefore doesn’t seem a nice thing to say.

I prefer to say: I don’t agree with your idea. It doesn’t fit with my way of seeing things.

Or: Given the information we have and my own vision and knowledge of the topic, I don’t see how that can work.

 

I say: She made me really angry

No she didn’t. She did something and I was angry. Anger is not something someone else can cause in me. To make such a statement is to deny the boundaries of responsibility when it comes to feelings. My anger is mine. Her (in)actions or words are hers. Changing this phrase to the preferred statement (below) helps me to take more responsibility for my anger and also to question which values and goals I have that are not in-line with the actions of the other person.

I prefer to say: She did XYZ and I feel angry

 

I say: It’s a beautiful day

Seems fair, right? But the truth is only that there are no clouds in the sky and the sun is shining with more heat than it was yesterday. It is also true that I like that kind of weather. But when I name things as “beautiful” I am imposing my vision of the world onto reality. Does this make it true? If I can imagine anyone having a different opinion (agricultural industry? not enough rain?) this should be enough for me to recognise that my words are no more than personal opinion.

I prefer to say: I like the weather today

 

All of the preferred statements above are attempts to use non-violent communication. For the purpose of this blog, I would define “violent communication” as any speech that mixes up (my) perception with (the) factual reality and imposes the former onto other people. When I push my vision of things on other people, it is not respectful to our differences or potential difference of opinions. It is a form of verbal aggression which can lead to confusion, conflict, loss of dialogue and even sadness and bitterness.

For example, telling my children they are being “bad girls” or that they “can’t do that” are simple everyday examples of violent communication that seek to impose my values onto them and to bend them to my will. As a parent, I might find it best that I decide for my children what they can and cannot do and I might even want to impose that on them. But when I present my ideas to them as the truth about “good” and “bad”, “allowed” and “not allowed”, my communication is violent: It imposes my vision of reality onto them in a non-respectful way. This particularly worries me since I know that my kids are like little sponges soaking up everything Daddy says for the future. If I can learn to instead say that “I don’t like what you are doing” or “In my house, I want you to follow my rules” this is much closer to the truth. It will open the dialogue with my children towards mutual understanding of what we all (don’t) like and or (don’t) want. And I leave them free to form their own opinion.

Outside of family life, the same idea is valid in many environments. I might argue that something is “not fair” when I really mean to say that “I don’t feel comfortable with it” or “I’d like to find other solutions where I get more of what I want”. I might say “You’re performance is unacceptable” when a non-violent version would say “I expected you to achieve XYZ and you haven’t so I am not satisfied”. I might say “You’re disturbing me” when the truth is that “I’m working on something now and I don’t want to talk’.

 

When we use non-violent communication, we respect the rights of other people to think differently and (importantly) we give them an open-door to reply with their own vision of things. We state things as they truly are and not only as we see them.

If you are in the business of oppression and control, stay violent. But if you want respectful communication and the possibility of dialogue that leads to sharing and deeper mutual understanding , go non-violent.

 

See also:

 

Thanks for reading

Super Dad inspires again !

When I was a boy my Dad was amazing.

At the end of a long day somewhere, as I would drift in-and-out of consciousness in the back seat, he would pilot the car home. I was unaware at the time as to what he was really doing. He was simply an amazing Dad who could drive. When we got home, he was use his super-Dad powers to scoop my 20 kilograms of dead weight into his arms and take me to bed, somehow magically getting me into my pyjamas without waking me up.

Between October and December, he would crack nuts, using only a nutcracker and his super-Dad strength. I couldn’t do this.

At the weekend or some evenings, he would magically remember all the things he needed to do to make spaghetti bolognese, which everyone would agree was brilliant.

And he had a great collection of music. Loads of different stuff. He introduced me to James Taylor, Kris Kristofferson, ELO and god only knows what else. He was even the first person I knew to dig Nirvana.

Today, I am a Dad.

I drive a car, carry my kids to bed and introduce them to music. I still don’t crack nuts. But I can. Because I am amazing and I have super-Dad powers.

It would be easy therefore to think that my Dad was actually just normal. Just bigger and further on in life. But that’s not the point.

The point is that the little things we take for granted as adults continue to amaze and inspire our kids, and to affect their future.

I still make spaghetti bolognese like my Dad told me to and I can see the awe in the eyes of my girls when I do these normal things and they see super-powers.

And the same is true for the not so cool things. I don’t really remember what they were with my Dad, but it stands to reason that if all these other things were blown up into super proportion, then the not-so-good things were too. So what do my girls think when I am tired and miserable, impatient and angry?

And the inspiring never ends.

When I see my Dad today, I see someone who has understood what is important and what is not. Who has stopped running around and no longer does the things he doesn’t want to. I see a man who got his shit together to retire at 50. Who can build a pond or a vegetable patch or fix a motorbike. He still has super-powers and I still want to be like him.

So, I guess that whatever I am doing on Father’s Day, the point is the same: For better or worse, I am inspiring my kids.

All Dads are.

Make it count.

Good luck!

Days 3 + 4 at ATD2015

Back in Belgium, here is a mini-summary of the last 2 days of ATD2015, which thanks to Harry Potter and Lufthansa, could not be delivered earlier…

Day 3


Day 4

…and that’s pretty much it. Another year of ATD conference fun over 😦

It was really great!

Thanks for reading

@dan_steer

Day 2 at ATD2015

Time for bed, but not before a little summary of my second day at ATD2015:

  • ATD has a wicked new marketing video. Beautiful images and anthemic sound!
  • Thank you VERY much to Tony Bingham for mentioning my work to the 10000 attendees present. Ego sufficiently stroked for the year.
  • The first keynote speaker Andrea Jung had some really positive content to share
  • Clear blue skies. Hot, but not humid = a nice outside morning moment shared with new (Kim + Bart) and old (Lorenzo) friends
  • Queues in the expo for a caricature were too long… but I got a few Minnie Mouse ears for the girls 🙂
  • Lunch was had amongst the monkeys
  • My session M101 on “Practical Use of Social Media for Formal Learning” was great fun. The fire marshalls turned up for the first time at the conference to turn people away. 450 attendees minimum 🙂
  • …and yes, I won the selfie contest for the day. Thx to the 64 people who retweeted 🙂 #AskAndYeShallReceive
  • Julie Dirksen explained the elephant and the rider in a great session on why people don’t change behaviour and what you can do about it
  • Karl Kapp owned his session on gamification. Had seen the content before, but hadn’t seen the gamified version of his session. Very inspiring, great story-telling and just going home thinking “I can do SO much more to improve my trainings”
  • An improvised dinner with Mr Kapp(tain Kirk), the other monkey (Anders), Rick_Lozano, my client and now-new-friend Yves Plees and the aforementioned friends from SD turned out to be very entertaining and inspiring, as we discussed everything from tattoos to skydiving and barefoot running… jungle survival, husband/wife relationships, gamification, live music and work-life balance … why you can’t fly effectively defend airspace over Belgium in a fighter-jet, learning Swedish in Gent (but not Norweigen!), mid-life-crisis and motorbikes, and …. …. to living the dream, going your own way, education and the industrial revolution. How will I sleep tonight?!!

Tomorrow = Sugata Mitra on today’s educational challenges, the NeuroScience of Bias and 3 of 7 other sessions yet to be decided.. and buying a magic wand for Annabel from Harry Potter-land.

But first, 6 hours sleep please :-/

Day 1 of the ATD ICE 2015

Quick summary of the day:

Looking forward to tomorrow!

My session at 1pm

D

The Happiness Advantage and The Orange Frog – Dick Ruhe at ATD2015

Following on the accidental theme of happiness in Orlando today, I wonder if The Universe is trying to tell me something.. Time to get happy? As a fan of Tal Ben-Shahar’s “Happier” and the unpronounceable Hungarian-American’s “Flow” I am intrigued to see what session SU31XD has to offer. 

Dick Ruhe has taken the stage to tell us what the latest research on positive psychology can do for the workplace. (Tip number one: If anyone is looking unhappy, just slap ’em!) 

Ruhe starts by noting that most organisations seems to have the happiness formula backwards. We tend to think: Work hard -> Get success -> Get happy. But actually, it’s the happiness we need first. When we can find ways to get happy, we will work better and get better results. And when we keep this in mind people produce better business results. According to Ruhe, there are 7 principles we need to bear in mind if we want intrinsic motivation and increased engagement…


The happiness advantage
Organisations need to know this: Happy people get better results and attrition goes down. Ruhe cites how the brain creates endorphins and people feel better. But he adds that studies of successful organisations show that happy people are more satisfied and tend to stick around.

Do you believe this?


The fulcrum and the lever

The lens through which we see the world (the fulcrum) doesn’t shape us. It’s the way we see things that shape us. Two people can see the same situation completely differently. And if we can do something with that (the lever) we can influence our happiness and our results. Ruhe says that will require effort from leaders. We need to look for and embed positive (happy) experiences and work towards getting more of that. 

Are you doing this?


The Tetris Effect

These are the patterns we have for doing things in the organisations. After time, those patterns become habits and traditions and we continue to get more of the same things, over and over again. We need to see how the pieces are falling and what we can do about it to line things up better for happiness.

Are you doing this?


Falling-up

When people fail, falling-up is about how they focus and take action to move in a new direction to bounce back. The “on the other hand…” vibe. Ruhe mentioned a study where people were told to imagine they had walked into a bank which was being robbed and got shot in the arm. They were asked: We’re you lucky or unlucky? 70% said “unlucky”.

What would you say?


Zorro circles

The brain perceives big movements and big changes as overwhelming, which limits forward progress. But if we can start off small and see results, the brain can record the “win” and maintain the belief that their efforts can have an impact. 

Are you helping your people see their results?


The 20 second rule

This is all about doing something that easily will move us forward. The next concrete (easy) action. For example, if you are thinking “I need to run more”, you might start making a big plan with a SMART objective and some challenges in there. But when it comes to actually running, if it’s easier to turn on the television than go running, no change is going to happen. We need to make it possible in 20 seconds to take some easy action towards are goal. Whatever it is.

How can you move forward now?


Social investment
Connecting with the people around us makes everyone more happy. Ruhe suggests that we take more time to do this, everyday. 

Are you?



Reading back my notes, some of the points seem so obvious, I wonder what I get from it. But if I’m honest, I know I can do better.

Can you?
Thanks for reading

@dan_steer


The 10 most important questions for ATD2015

It’s that time of the year again where weary trainers and learning managers shuffle out of their caves to meet up with their geeky friends and ATD it ’til the sun goes down. In my own cave, I fired-up my iPad app for the ATD 2015 International Conference and Exposition to see what’s on the agenda and how I will spend my long-awaited 5 days in the sunshine state of Florida. A few questions came to mind…

 

1 What will I learn, if anything?

This is my 4th consecutive year at the conference and although the question may seem a little arrogant, I am wondering exactly what I will learn this year and what new topics could possibly still be left. This is the first year I don’t have “some learning-thing” on my mind before leaving. And although I always come away with a thin-red-learning-line, I can’t imagine what it will be this time.

 

2 What’s in a name?

Since this is the 1st year ASTD is not ATD, will anything be different? Will we truly be innudated with Hollywood Talent producers, as the new-name-naysayers suggested in 2014? Or is “talent” just another way of saying L+D ?

 

3 Will JD Dillon still have a beard?

Seriously.. I saw him in Vegas for TK15 and literally didn’t realise it was him for about the first 30 seconds. Only by a process of association with Justin Brusino and Bianca Woods did I manage to extend my hand to the strange bearded fellow and say “hello”.

 

jd

 

4 What is the obsession with “rock” in the learning world?

When choosing sessions to (maybe) follow, I keep seeing this word in titles. If I follow them all, I’ll come home standing out as a rock-star at work and training like a rock-star … whilst turning my boss into a rock-star , as well as my company’s learning content and having had my brain rocked. And all of that before I even squeeze through tht back-door to get into what will surely be a sell-out neuroscience session with David ( …. wait-for-it … ) Rock.

 

5 (In the same vein) Is there really NeuroScience in everything?

If you search the ATD conference site for sessions with the word “neuroscience” in the title, you will get even more results than you would for “rock”. It’s in our training effectiveness, our behavioural change, Captain Kirk and Mr Spock’s decision making, happiness, performance advancement and performance management, person biases, leadership , employee engagement and learning design. So, if everyone and everything has something to do with neurosciences, question 5 is actually 3 more questions:

  • Did someone hypnotise the advisory board before they chose all these sessions?
  • Will the rooms for the NeuroLeadership Institute sessions be sold-out as I predicted above (as they rightly should be, because David and Josh are awesome) or will the neuroscience-lovers spread themselves out elsewhere?
  • Should I have entitled my own session “The NeuroScience of Social Media for Formal Learning” ?

 

9 (see above, it works, honestly) Did Rick Lozano pack an extra guitar to jam with me and is he going to dress as Elvis for his sessions?

If there IS one rock session you should follow, its Rick’s. Seriously – if you don’t go and see at least ONE of Rick’s TWO sessions (really – they gave him two!) you will miss the opportunity to move like Jagger. I followed him before and it was awesome. HE was awesome? He IS awesome. Got it? Just go!

 

ricpicsmall

 

10 Will the  bookstore have a nice new ATD-branded polo-top for me to buy?

I promise, if they don’t, I’m just going to wear my grey ASTD one anyway. So there!

 

Don’t forget to check out David Kelly’s ATD2015 backchannel page here.

And catch me throughout the week via my YouTube channel for speaker interviews and DisneyDiaries, Twitter for cynical discussions and attempted humour with JD and absent-Bianca and this blog for a much more serious live-account of the sessions I follow.

 

ps – all my session posts from all previous A(S)TD conferences can be found via this tag.

 

D

 

 

Honest Out of Office Reply

What I would have written if I’d been a bit more honest…


I don’t want to do any work for 2 weeks. But because I’m a self-employed workaholic I have trouble not looking at my email. 


For the first few days I will pretend to relax and have non-work-related-fun, whilst deep-down being regularly pulled back into wondering if anyone has asked me something I can answer, or commented on the tweets I programmed 3 weeks ago. 


After those painfully long but proud days of not turning on my WIFI connection (except to tweet that I’m on holiday with no WIFI) I will eventually allow my finger to slip to the Gmail app and see all your emails come in, before selectively reading and maybe even replying to the ones I care most about. 


Those to whom I reply will be confused as to if I am really on holiday or not. They may even get the idea that I am constantly available even when I say I’m not, thus sending more requests during my “time off”. This will in turn serve to reinforce my own workaholic perception that I must be available 24/7 for people more important than me or else they won’t love me. 


The people whose emails I don’t read will be ignorantly none-the-wiser, imagining I’m actually not reading email (like I said I wasn’t) rather than knowing I just didn’t care about them as much as the other people.


Eventually, when these dreadful 2 weeks of on/off connected-dissonance is over, I can finally go back to work and everything will be normal again. I will breath out and all that stress of being on holiday will be over.