Monthly Archives: March 2014

How to Visualise Ideas


In any idea generation session, it’s so important to be able to visualise ideas so people can really ‘get’ what you’re talking about and are able to add richness and depth to them. I always include visualisers and designers at my workshops as they add real value to the sessions. However, I wish more people were better at drawing but most people don’t feel confident about their drawing skills. This is because:

a: they never practice

b: they’ve never learnt the basic skills and techniques.

c: they believe they’re incapable of drawing (thanks to a sadistic art teacher from school)

However, if you want to improve your drawing skills, there are plenty of opportunities available. Here’s a couple of initiatives run by a friend of mine Trevor Flynn, who runs a company called Drawing at Work

1) Sketchmob – free drawing events that take place all over London. Simply turn up with your drawing materials and join the crowd of sketchers. The next event’s on 2nd April in Soho. Click here for details

2) The UCL Drawing Gym. This is a series of videos with worksheets that teach you some basic drawing skills. Primarily designed to help engineers to draw, the principles can be applied universally. Click here for details.

As with most things in life, the more the do, the better you’ll and the more you’ll enjoy it. If you want to turbo charge your creative output, pick up your pencils and get sketching!


Parkrun. Creating a community of runners


For those who aren’t aware of it, Parkrun is a 5km running event that takes place in parks all over the UK every Saturday. Participation is free. All you need to do is register on their website, bring along your bar code and join in. On completion, your race time is texted to you.

This Saturday morning at 9am, there will be around 250 park runs with around 50 000 people taking part. With more events coming on stream and the introduction of a Junior 2km run,  numbers will continue to grow. It’s a phenomenal achievement and in my opinion has done as much as the London Olympics – which remember cost £9 billion – to encourage participation in sport.

I think it’s success is driven by a number of factors:

It’s easy to participate: simply register, get a bar code and you’re ready to run. By the end of the year there will be around a million registered park runners in the UK

It’s Inclusive: anyone can take part. It’s not about winning, it’s about joining in. A huge diversity of people of all ages and all levels of fitness take part

It’s free: Parkrun does have a series of sponsors to help fund the events and you do get the opportunity to donate. However, there’s no need to pay anything.

It’s local: there’s bound to be a park run near to where you live, which makes It easy to squeeze into a busy weekend.

It creates a community: there’s lots of opportunities to participate. As well as the comradery of the event itself, Parkrun relies on volunteers to help organise and marshall the events and there’s lots of opportunity to connect via social media

So, once again well done to Parkrun. It appears now that Parkrun is spreading to other countries so no doubt it’ll grow into a global phenomenon

Now that the weather’s improving, I hope to see this Saturday at Brockwell Park.

Structuring a Creative Workshop: Key Principles

This is the scenario. You’ve been asked to facilitate a creative workshop. You’re clear on the task and the output you’re looking for, so how do you create a session plan? Here are the key principles you should follow

1. Spend equal amounts of time on divergent and convergent thinking

Divergent thinking is about generating new ideas – the classic brainstorming phase, whereby new thoughts are generated and captured. Convergent thinking is about colliding ideas, selecting the lead ideas and working them up in more detail. Both phases are equally important so you need equal time on both.

If you’ve got a 1 day session, spend the morning on the divergent thinking and the afternoon on convergent thinking. If it’s a 2 hour session spend the first hour on divergent thinking, the second hour on convergent thinking. Simply divide the time you have available in two.

2. Always start with an individual sharing session

Often in creative sessions, the high energy extroverts take centre stage. This is great because their energy is important and they’re often full of great ideas. However, we need everyone’s ideas. Beware of neglecting the more introvert attendees or the more reflective types. They need to be given their own time and space in order to ensure (a) we don’t neglect their valuable input (b) to make sure they feel included and more willing to participate. Therefore, ensure they get given the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas early in session.

3. Never undertake more than 3 creative exercises

After the initial download, the next phase is to undertake a series of exercises in smaller groups using a series of creative techniques to encourage people to generate new, fresh ideas. I’ve found that you should plan on undertaking a maximum of 3 exercises. Beyond this, either the quality / volume of ideas diminishes or else ideas start to become repetitive. I think it’s because

– people have only so many ideas within them to give in a workshop scenario – no matter how creative they are

– after 3 creative exercises, people have had enough – creative exercises can be quite challenging and their brains get too frazzled

4. Make sure each creative exercise is very different

There are many creative techniques to choose from to help you come up with new ideas. This is when you spend a lot of your planning time in thinking about the most appropriate technique to apply to the task. Make sure that each technique is very different because

(a) you need to attack the problem from all kinds of perspectives

(b) you need to keep the session engaging and interesting

(c) you need to push the attendees as hard as you can and challenge them to come up with new ideas

5. Plan for several, shorter breaks

In most conventional 1 day workshops, you tend to have a break in the morning and a break in the afternoon. However, I find that in creative sessions, people need more frequent time-outs. This could be for only 5 or 10 minutes maximum to just clear their heads, grab a coffee or get some fresh air. Plan for 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon and in between, work intensively. Never, ever attempt the ‘working lunch’. You either eat or work. You can’t do both!

6. Have a contingency plan

Timings will inevitably shift – despite your best efforts, so make sure you allow for this. If you get through the creative exercises early, have an extra creative exercise up your sleeve. If they go on a bit longer, be aware of which one you’re prepared to drop. And finally, give time back rather than take more. People are delighted if you decide to finish a session early. They’ll hate you if you keep them late.

My Favourite Books on Creativity

Here they are, in no particular order

1. Ignore Everybody Hugh MacLeod

A concise book of thoughts and ideas on how to unlock your creativity. I like it because it’s very insightful, has a refreshing, cynical perspective and is packed with the author’s amusing cartoons.

2 The Art of Looking Sideways Alan Fletcher

A huge slab of a book, that’s packed full of inspiration. Every page is different and I like to randomly choose a page now and again and have a read. It could a quote, a visual and long narrative. It’s endlessly interesting and inexhaustible.

3 Thinkertoys Michael Michalko

This book is full of creative thinking techniques. It’s a great reference book for when you’re facilitating a creative workshop and need some inspiration on how to get people to think differently

4 The Artist’s Ways  Julia Cameron

This is a classic book on how to overcome your fears and inhibitions and embark on journey of creative enlightenment. Lots of interesting suggestions for new creative habits and behaviours.

5 Steal Like An Artist Austin Kleon

A pocket sized book that you can devour in a couple of hours. It’s simple, contemporary, very concrete with 10 creativity principles based on the author’s life experiences.

How to publicise a horror movie

I’ve seen 3 examples recently that all follow the same pattern.

(a) go to New York

(b) create a stunt that scares the s**t out of people

(c) record it and create a video of that goes viral

Example 1: Carrie

This example is set in a West Village coffee shop. The special effects are great and I think for the people there, it was genuinely shocking.

Horror rating 8/10

Example 2 The Walking Dead

Nicely done, but I don’t think zombies are that scary are they? (At least they weren’t in Shaun of the Dead) Plus they’re hidden underground out of harms way

Horror rating 7/10

Example 3 Devil’s Due

Now this is a really scary baby. Everybody – apart from one guy – jumped out of their skin.

Horror rating 9/10

Clearly, horror pranks are very much in vogue in New York. I wonder if they’ll ever reach south London?