Creativity Coaching & Corporate Culture

Dear Cultivate & Create followers,

I’m sorry I’ve been absent!

I’ve spent the past week or two reassessing, rejuvenating and reinspiring. As the last post notes we’re also repositioning here at The Creativity Campus.

Part of this means marketing less, learning more and creating in our own lives to better inform our understanding of clients. That said I wanted to share with you some amazing developments.

We’ve begun one on-one-creativity coaching this week. This work, aimed at those who are struggling in some way to bring their best ideas to life, is incredibly fulfilling and interesting.

Though very flexible it currently entails a weekly meeting (in person or on the phone) with a client to discuss their work and their concerns. From there we offer support and strategies to help address the obstacles.  These can come as routines, activities or simple conversations. The programs are custom fit to each client and their needs.

Right now I’m working primarily with writers and designers but this coaching is also intended for entrepreneurs, CEOs and professionals whose work is dependent on coming up with or presenting ideas.

It is also beneficial for those who are looking for stimulation or support when developing corporate strategies or workplace processes that call for innovation at a deep level. So much of this is about environment, staff programs and leadership so it often includes office visits and work with relevant staff members.

With this in mind I have spent the morning mentoring a new cohort of entrepreneurs at a local incubator. It was incredibly inspiring. The energy and openness of the founders was infectious and I feel very lucky to be working with such a great group of smart and ambitious people.

As part of this experience I spoke much about corporate culture and the importance of leadership and passion. When I got back to my office I opened one of my favourite blogs and read this article, 30 Lessons for Living.

It’s full of great points collected from thousands of interviews with “the wisest Americans”. So much resonated but the advice on work was particularly interesting.

Find Happiness at Work

One of the most striking points is what the thousand-plus experts didn’t say.

No one— not a single person out of a thousand— said that  to be happy you should try to work as hard as you can to make money to buy the things you want.

No one— not a single person— said it’s important to be at least as wealthy as the people around you, and if you have more than they do it’s real success.

No one— not a single person— said you should choose your  work based on your desired future earning power.

You need Interpersonal Skills

Their consensus: no matter how talented you are, no matter  how brilliant— you must have interpersonal skills to succeed.

Everyone Needs Autonomy

Career satisfaction is often dependent on how much autonomy  you have on the job. Look for the freedom to make decisions and move in directions that interest you, without too much control from the top.

So much of what matters when one looks at successful corporate culture is soft skills based. It’s not about firmly quantifiable metrics or dollar based CBAs. Culture is what makes employees love their work and want to stick around to make sure it’s delivered in the best possible way. It’s what helps them feel proud of their achievements and encourages them to band together as a team to address challenges when times get tough.

The best leaders recognize that amazing human capital is the most rare commodity and that holding on to it is difficult and important. They invest in professional development and recognize their employees are unique and human and have a range of needs and priorities that should be acknowledged.

I’m not suggesting that companies should spend willy nilly, handhold excessively or indulge unreasonable demands or poor attendance however it is often meeting the smallest requests (like flexible work hours) or instituting seemingly tiny sentimental incentives (acknowledgement for an imaginative idea, strong pitch or effective community building event) that fosters the greatest loyalty.

The advice above really reflects that.  People want to love the company they work for, to enjoy their office and to feel ownership and pride in their work and the fact is – the CEO, company or founder is the first to reap the rewards if they do.

Thanks for subscribing and for being patient with our Campus as it grows. We love our work and helping our clients achieve their dreams.

Do get in touch with any questions, curiosity or feedback – we’d love to hear from you!

Happy Tuesday!

Laura

30 Lessons For Living

Navigating Changing Winds…

Dolly Parton once said, “You can’t change the direction of the wind but you can adjust your sails.” Those of you who registered for our summer camps will have received your email this morning letting you know that we’re adjusting ours.

Though we’ve received great support and interest in our summer program it’s become clear that the costs aren’t lining up quite as expected and, as a result, The Creativity Campus is changing tack.

Instead of focusing on the daily camp this summer we’ll be honing in on our weekend workshops for parents and children and our Harnessing Creativity events for adults.

I’ll also be coaching entrepreneurs as a corporate culture mentor at one of Toronto’s leading technology incubators.

In keeping with the passion behind The Creativity Campus, we’re exploring, creating, inspiring and connecting.

Our first parent and child workshop will be on July 20th at a particularly fruitful space (more details to come!) and many more unique events are on the way.

Just as I began writing this, trying to come to grips with sharing the news and feeling a little disappointed, Oprah’s 2013 commencement speech at Harvard crossed my desk.  She encountered her hardest professional moments after she launched OWN last year and in the speech talks about how she intended to turn her ship around.

No surprise, it’s an inspring address. Thank you Oprah, for the reminder that life is just trying to move us in another direction…

Today’s a day to remember, those who succeed see challenges as opportunities for innovation and growth. We’re taking this as a chance to focus in, to get more specific and deliver even more valuable strategies to kids, parents and business people.

Where’s your opportunity today?

A Smooth Sea Never made A Skilled Sailor

My Creative Experiment – 7 Days of Silence

So – seven days, no speaking.

I woke up in the middle of the night to turn on the air conditioning and fend off the inevitable Toronto humidity and realized that I was technically allowed to speak.

I had no desire to do so.

One would think I’d have hummed a little song, made a big noise or at least tested out a sentence but in this week I’ve realized that for a person who speaks so much I really do enjoy the quiet.

There’s something in the stillness, in the discipline, that brings a sort of peace and steadiness that I’ve never experienced before. It brings a calm that is foreign to my overactive mind and mouth.

Though it’s been frustrating and at times lonely it’s also been a gateway into my own passions, communication and relationships.

The inability to speak leaves limitless space for others to express themselves. Sitting back and watching another inhabit that space, occupy a verbal place that is shared but that they are the only actor in is actually quite beautiful.

It seems that the small nuances are magnified. In myself all of the little reactive noises that I make are amplified and my actions and expressions are bigger and more dramatic. Yesterday reconnected me with my love of acting, of physical excitement and creation. But in others I witnessed other amazing characteristics grow larger and more evident.

My mother’s generosity, warmth and kindness exploded as the week passed. Her fierce love was still ever present but, typically quiet and subtle, her support was more expressed.

On Wednesday I went for tea and a movie with my best friend and realized we didn’t need language. Only a few moments in we were laughing and joking and she too was communicating mostly in gestures. It felt so good to know that even without words we have so much and can spend hours together loving the company and laughing from our bellies. Our friends, as chosen family, are such an incredible gift and it was amazing to have this chance to really witness the power of our friendship in small but significant glory.

Last night was spent with someone new(ish). I think both of us were quite concerned that it would be awkward, spending hours together when I couldn’t speak, being so close to the start of our friendship but it was really wonderful.

Not being able to verbalize responses, leaving more space for his expression and focusing our interaction outward brought out a side of him that I’d not seen before. It brought out mutual silliness, new forms of expression and shared stillness. It was so much fun.

I’m not sure that this is doing such a great job of explaining my experience of silence. Maybe I’m still too close to it or maybe it isn’t meant to be expressed in words but I am proud that I made it through and I am happy that it’s over.

As a creative exercise it’s been deeply valuable and I’m excited to start creating – to paint, to sing, to write and move with this in my physical and experiential memory. I already feel it lending fresh energy to my life and my perspective.

I’ll definitely do it again, but maybe next time it will be outside of the city. I get the feeling that being surrounded by nature, by quiet and earthly beauty will bring a whole new experience to the fore, allowing for more active creation, for the work to be the focus rather than the result.

Happy weekend beauties, I hope you get out in the sunshine and remember to play…

xx

29 Ways to Stay Creative

Here’s a great video with 29 easy suggestions presented with compelling typography by TO-FU… Why not try some of them out today?

29 ways to stay creative

My Creative Experiment – Silence, Day 6.

In today’s silence my heart is singing.

I’m inspired, energized, happy and connected.

Despite gloomy weather for most of the day I’ve been wandering the city and checking out one of its most creative spaces – Harbourfront.

I don’t know why I don’t live there. By the water and bent on cultivating the craft oriented talents of Canadians, at the Harbourfront Centre I saw three amazing exhibits, a guy blowing glass and a load of kids having an amazing time exploring the space. Then I ate lunch looking out over the lake surrounded by different languages as work continued to replace a grotty parking lot with a beautiful, plant filled square. I even saw the beauty in some seagulls. It was heavenly.

There’s loads going on there all day everyday and in June a jazz renowned festival kicks off so I’d suggest you have a peek at the roster if you’re looking for something cool and new to get into.

On another note, physical activity is an amazing way to occupy silence I discovered today that running is particularly conducive to happy quiet.

I’ve only just started running this month but already I’m seeing the benefits. I picked it up because I wanted an activity that was all mine, that I could do anywhere in the world and that would ensure that my heart and body stay fit as I get older.

The wonderful thing about it in this context, however, is that there is a beautiful sense of community in running. Through the parks and along trails I pass other runners who are out in the early morning. They smile and continue along, dog walkers do the same, smiling, active and enjoying the shared space. It’s a unique place where no one is asking anything of anyone else but instead enjoying the calm, pre-work moments in nature.

It is a beautiful example of natural rhythm, the human machine and the subtle energy that flows through the city’s ravines, parks and trails.

Running is meditative in itself but I also did a traditional guided meditation today. Meditation is an amazing, deep and relatively quick way for us to tap into the relaxed, open mindset that encourages creation. There are many different reasons and ways that meditation can be used but as part of my own (almost) daily practice I like to use Chopra Centre meditations to help me find balance, peace, focus and clarity.

At first I thought they were pretty hokey and it was hard to connect to them but more and more I’m finding that, as with everything, what you get from guided meditation is what you take from it. For me, Davidji, though maybe a bit airy fairy, has a wonderful voice and incorporates beautiful poetry and themes that I can really connect to. If you’re looking to try out meditation, the free online Chopra library might be a good place to start.

As the old proverb says and Florence repeats – It’s always darkest before the dawn. It certainly is nice to be past the negativity of yesterday.

If you’re feeling down on this cloudy afternoon, I hope you’ll turn up the volume and Shake It Out beauties,

xx

Image

Harbourfront Centre

My Creative Experiment – Silence, Day Five.

After a number of great responses to yesterday’s post I’ve decided to write a blog each day for the rest of the week, to continue sharing the experience of my self-imposed silence in our city and the creative insights that are bubbling up.

It’s sad but one of the stand outs that has really come through in all of this is how prominent the negative position is in so many people.

I know we’re all probably getting a bit tired of inspiring quotes over images, self help affirmations and videos pledging positivity but, from this silent standpoint, it seems that they really are necessary. Perhaps they’re not working, perhaps they’re saying the wrong things, but having been just a receiver for most of this week it’s quite striking how easily the negative can take over.

The realization struck me gradually and, to be honest, I didn’t really want to share it because it’s not all that happy or positive and I like to be happy and positive. I like to be cheerful but I think it’s important to stop and acknowledge that sometimes people and their actions are not.

In the first day or two of my silence it was quite easy to slip past the funny looks and focus on the lovely barista who made my coffee from a handwritten order that I passed her. She responded with a note back asking my name and was sure to include a smiling face on my coffee cup. At the AGO the first ticket taker was weirded out and dismissive but when I returned to get a map the second was lovely and smiling and wished me well.

Through the weekend there were a lot of laughs and it was sunny and beautiful so it was easy to sit outside and paint and draw and enjoy the silence without interacting too much with people who were unaware of my state.  I felt bad for not being able to respond to people in the elevator but it really wasn’t too big a deal, I was learning how important it is for some people to be recognized and participate in community. It really is quite wonderful and heartening.

Then, I started noticing that while I received much positive feedback there were also negative trends happening, or maybe I was just noticing them more as I began to feel more isolated.

At a gallery a person I would have expected to be open and interested was rude and dismissive, she was outwardly hostile to me to the point that a colleague of hers was apologetic.

For some reason I started getting emails and comments that were focused on defining my experience. There were notes talking about rules and breaking rules, questions about whether I was conducting myself properly within the boundaries of the exercise.

It seemed that others were suggesting it was too extreme or indulgent, while a certain segment tried to define it as a monastic or spiritual experience. Out of nowhere something that was inspired by a reading about an opera singer with a tired voice was taking on a completely different meaning and I was limited in my ability to respond.

At somepoint in sharing my findings I not only opened the door to generous, curious feedback but also to more negative, limiting, possessive responses. And receiving them was inordinately painful.

Where at other times I might pass them off more quickly here, trapped in my silence, I was unable to vent and so was forced to sit with the questions.

Am I legit? Have I been cheating by putting out blog posts or corresponding by text on occasion? Am I supposed to be looking deeply inward to find an ultimate truth about myself? Have I got this all wrong?

I thought the whole experiment was to be defined by me. My intention was to spend a week without speaking in order to shake up my understanding of communication in the hopes of allowing new forms of expression to surface. I clearly defined the guidelines to myself suggesting that written notes, texting and emailing were not to be abused as a replacement for conversation but could be used for making plans and generally staying sane in the everyday interaction that a week in the city calls for. Was this wrong? Where was the rule book that I was supposed to be following and why had I not been informed of its existence? What was it that I was supposed to be adhering to?

It may be naive but I was really sad. I expected skepticism and many rolling eyes but it didn’t even occur to me that I would receive this kind of active, limiting feedback.

I know it sounds as though I was shaken, and I was, but thankfully it only lasted a few fleeting moments at each point of confrontation. Each time I received the  comment, felt like shit for a minute and then remembered this is about me and my work. Creativity, expression and, I think, life are about making what is in to what you want it to be. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but we all must live by our own values, our own rules. I would think on that, get really pissed about the person imposing their perspective on my experience and then try to move on.

I suppose the real lesson here, today, is that when you invite people in to your space through sharing endeavors that are close to you you must be prepared for unexpected responses and you have to be courageous. It’s easy to get upset, to be a victim and to give up ownership over your creation. It’s easy to allow someone else’s definition to dominate but I have come to the conclusion that it’s not very valuable or brave.

Not everyone will understand, not everyone will connect to the intention of your work, whatever work that is, and people will naturally, for whatever reason, be compelled to limit, define and just generally rain on your parade.

In terms of creation, of innovation and big ideas it really is to be expected. There will always be critics. My experiment certainly isn’t revolutionary or ground breaking but it has garnered skepticism and surprising reactions nonetheless.

So perhaps now is the time to remember, to ingrain in ourselves, that any ideas, works or rumblings that have made a real difference have always been met with conflict, skepticism and, sometimes, outright denial but that is because they were new. They couldn’t stand up to comparison because there was nothing like them to adequately compare them against.

As for the next three days, hopefully there won’t be many more of those voices and hopefully they will be even more easily brushed aside. At this point, I’m resolved to do a little meditation tomorrow, to create something beautiful and to reconnect to my own intentions for the project. I am resolved to steer the work and myself away from those forces that are focused on what is lacking.

This isn’t about introspection, yoga or solitude. It’s not about following a prescribed set of rules or denying myself pleasure, happiness or connection. On the contrary, this exercise is about expanding my available routes to happiness, pleasure, expression and connection, about finding new ways to reach people and becoming a witness to communication. That said, it’s not supposed to be easy and I hope I’ll  learn more about myself, my priorities and my process along the way…

Much love in the meantime and Happy Tuesday!

xx

shhhh via woolandmisc

Why Google’s Chairman Says Everybody Needs a Coach

Summer camp registration is now underway so now we at The Campus are pushing forward with our coaching and workshops.

Coaching is a bit ambiguous, especially when it comes to creativity, but I think Eric Schmidt, Google’s chairman and past CEO, hits the nail on the head in his chat with Fortune.

Before I started my silence experiment I had a long chat with a friend who is looking to start her own business. She has a great idea but was struggling with the realities of executing and the details. I reminded her that she had just come up with the idea, that, in fact, she was still in the creation phase where ideas come up and should be written down and enjoyed. The creation phase is not the time for focussing in on the realities but rather the stage at which one should be thinking expansively and without limits. It’s the time to keep every thought and allow time and space for more to bubble up.

It is rare that the first ideas are the ones that we stick with but it is ALWAYS the first ideas that lead to the second, the third and so on. Along that train of thinking will be the gem and if you cut off your flow of ideas with analysis too early then you’ll likely miss the great one you were heading toward.  She responded by telling me that I was the right person to call, that she needed to talk to a coach. I was so very complimented, but it hits on a deep truth.

Through school, sports and childhood we have parents, teachers and others to help encourage us,  help us pick ourselves up when we’re down and to hold a mirror of reality in front of us when we’re caught in our own, sometimes narrow, point of view. As Schmidt says, “One thing that people are never good at is seeing themselves as others see them. A coach really, really helps.”

Creativity coaching does just this, sure it’s hand holding but it’s also exercises and strategies to help you harness the gifts that you might not realize you have. It’s help knowing when to let loose and when to reign in and analyse. Lastly, it can offer clarity about what your creative strengths are and what and how to improve those areas that might need a bit of work.

Here’s what Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, has to say on the subject…

Eric Schmidt