Be a Leader in All Things Creative

Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 9.48.59 am

You all know that unforgettable first experience. Your heartbeat quickly increases to the point where you can actually hear that rhythmic booming sound of blood throbbing in your ears. You look sheepishly with a sense of nervous reluctance and trepidation up and down the street, just in case there is anyone that may know you. Then you dare yourself to do it. You finally muster up the courage, place it hurriedly on your head, pull it down a tad to achieve the requisite appearance, and then lose your fashion virginity. Yes, you are now a beret wearer.

You think that all eyes are upon you as you surreptitiously walk to your destination. But actually, those who observe you only have thoughts of deep admiration and respect for your individual fortitude and creative head wear selection.

As your days of fashionable beret wearing progresses, you will quickly find that your feeling of head self-consciousness completely diminishes and you will laughingly question yourself as to why you had the initial apprehension or thoughts of doubt. However, you have unwittingly placed an innovation stake in the ground that is a landmark creative catalyst to your fellow workers, those that pass you by on the street, and to your family.

Yes, many people are scared to speak up, to share an idea, or to challenge the status quo for fear of looking foolish. But, like your first beret wearing experience, when you have done it once, or even twice, you achieve a confidence to stand up and portray your personality. This act not only empowers you, but those around you to follow in your beret wearing footsteps!

So, if you don’t yet have a beret, go and buy one and place it with innovative pride upon your head. Then go forth and show the world that you are a leader in all things creative!

Claim your Pantaloon Freedom

office-shorts

On standing up from my desk chair, I immediately felt the unexpected gaze of my colleagues. Some of the looks were based on admiration; others on envy, there was even the occasional involuntary gasp of astonishment. However, to me, the experience was refreshing and reminded me very much of my younger days.

Regardless of your sex, you have all experienced the feeling. It was in the days when we were unashamed to flaunt it all, our bare skin, free to the world, purposefully unhidden below any wads of consolidated fibres of corporate cloth.

We wore our innovative adventures with pride, and accumulated countless scars that testified our forays into the carefree and creative world in which we lived, unperturbed about the potential future consequences.

In our unprotected state, we immediately experienced the changing moods of our surrounding environment. For those of us with an abundance of hairs, these quickly stood erect in complete barometric harmony with the prevailing climatic conditions.

Yes, we were the wearers of shorts and our knees relished in their uncovering.

But at a certain age, our lives changed significantly when we decided, or were instructed by those that knew better, to wear trousers. At this point in time we became pantaloon conformists. No longer would our knees enjoy that continual breeze woft that symbolised our youthful exhilaration of openness.

As the years progressed, that haphazard child-like naivety and knee-free explorative thought slowly became extinct, particularly for those in the corporate office who habitually and unthinkingly wear a suit.

But relax, yours knees are quite resilient and will with the right air stimulation quickly revert back to their native state of youthfulness and inspiration. The corrective process is simple, just start wearing shorts in the office.

Don’t worry yourself about rules of fashion, you can wear long walk socks, short ankle length socks, or go ankle commando.

For that professional look, a tailored short does look the best, together with the belt that used to reside in your conservative suit trousers that will instantaneously welcome your new, and refreshing lease of life, now less rigidly “waistful”. Should you wear a business shirt, tie or jacket with your shorts? The choice is entirely up to you, but definitely not the corporate branded T-shirt, as you will want to vehemently maintain the creative personal innovation that your knees have fought so hard to physically obtain.

Yes, I was enjoying the experience of wearing shorts in the corporate office. My knees were once again unhindered, and so was my thought. In direct thoughtful knee correlation, my mind now gratefully welcomed its cloth shackle-less freedom, and acknowledged that I had once again rediscovered my true source of innovation.

Jazz – The Poignant Innovation

davebrubeckthequartet

Looking for business improvisation in your office? Well, focus on music as it provides a poignant innovation key.

According to one of the world’s greatest jazz musicians, the answer is to deliberately focus on the “white”, and not the “black”. Most traditional players of music are captivated by those pesky black notes, carefully placed with much thoughtful deliberation by the composer on the five well regimented lines of the staff. The orchestral focussed musician then, without any allowable hesitation, follows without question the vast array of strategically positioned crochets, quavers, semibreves, and even the occasional minim, with a well-practiced systematic bow, blow or beat of their beloved instrument. The result is a perfect and consistent replication of the musical selection, just as the composer had stipulated.

However, if you are a player of jazz, you tend to not be a musical conformist, but one that focuses more on the creative freedom represented by the unrestricted white score background devoid of all black notation. These innovative musical entrepreneurs utilise their deep, fundamental understanding of their instrument to collaborate in joint mutual harmony with a range of other diverse thinking performing colleagues to create the true essence of improvised jazz.

To complement the jazz player’s unhindered creative style, no formal orchestral dress attire is typically worn. Rather, you will observe a selection of them occasionally wearing a diverse range of coloured paisley patterned shirts, stylish mod-suits, denim, boots, dark glasses, and even a stylish hat.

Now consider the corporate office with all its conservative business rules and regulations, its staff brandishing the standard business suit, shirt, cuff-links and ties, analogous to the large, classical symphony orchestra lead by the CEO conductor. But don’t get me wrong, as for many businesses to succeed, this long standing and proven tradition is essential in ensuring that all employees are working off the same musical score, are working together with a common objective to manufacture a high quality performance that is appreciated by the expectant shareholder audience.

But should your business be striving for the development of a culture in which innovation can flourish, consider how a “jazz room” environment can be established where your employees can mix with other likeminded paisley clad individuals, can experiment with corporate melodies previously untried or heard, and are free to let their creative talents loose without any critical judgement or fear of failure. With time and practice, the result will produce some new and dynamic sounds that may be the start of a new direction for your business.

So what’s the key to business improvisation?  Try to not always focus on what you typically see, but allow yourself the opportunity to expand your creative horizons and explore the innovative vastness of what could potentially exist in the background.

 

The Cardigan Effect

cardigan

If you are still searching for that illusive light bulb moment of inspiration that illuminates you on how to develop a culture of innovation within the corporate office, well, cover your shrinking expectant diluted pupils and look no further!

Those organisations that publicly acknowledge that they have attained this cultural goal of ongoing creative status fully understand, and vehemently practice, a little known law that many of you I’m sure have never heard of, or have ever been exposed to. The law is never discussed in any external academic of business journals, or in a public forum. Those CEOs that utilise this law protect it, and value it on an equal footing with any other prized intellectual property that they own.

The power of this law is like that of a welcome virus, and when unleashed without any senior management constraint within an organisation, it quickly takes hold and generates an uncontrollable innovative forward momentum.

The law is known as “The Cardigan Effect”. So how does it work you may gleefully ask? Let me explain.

The “cardigan” is a metaphor and is used to describe the relaxed, unhindered mental behaviour of an employee when they are not in the corporate office. When exhibiting “cardigan” behaviour, the employee speaks their mind openly; they have an opinion that they happily express with their family and friends. They solve problems, have suggestions and are not scared to challenge the status quo. They may be introverts, extroverts, or anything in between, and are content in realising and accepting their own unique persona.

But when many of these employees enter the corporate office, they remove their snug and comfortable “cardigan” and take on the excepted foreign characteristics and behaviour of the organisation. They become a different person, and all their inherent creativity becomes stifled, suppressed or non-existent.

Those organisations that have mastered the “Cardigan Effect” to drive a culture of innovation within their businesses allow, in fact fully encourage, their employees to wear their personalised “cardigans” in the office. The have created a work environment where their employees want to be their natural selves both in, and out of the office, there is no behavioural separation. However, there is one defining and strategic filter used for this “cardigan” behaviour, that being the organisations corporate values. Here the corporate values are not used to hinder the individual’s creativity, but rather to ensure consistency and a reference point for behaviour.

So how does an organisation create a work environment to fully reap the ongoing benefits of the “Cardigan Effect”? Well, it starts at the top with the Senior Executive team happily wearing their very own personal (not company supplied or corporately branded) “cardigans” publicly in the office. Some of their cardigans may not be that fashionable, may be a tad dirty, or may have a hole in the sleeve, if so, that’s even better. They need to consistently “walk the talk” and wear their “cardigans” everyday, not once off as part of a fad or promotion which most employees recognise quite quickly.

So on Monday as you dress for work, why not leave your usual corporate attire in the wardrobe and pull on your old and trusted “cardigan”. But more importantly, make sure that your home persona accompanies your “cardigan” as you enter the office. Then watch and behold just how fast this new and highly welcome innovation fashion trend quickly prevails!

Read My Lips

Jumbo Mumbo Doll

“Read my lips”, was the instruction.

As always, my earplugs were deeply inserted into my ear canals as I tried to block out the unwelcome background noise on my early morning Virgin Australia flight from Melbourne to Sydney.

The air-hostess, dressed impeccably in her swish fashionably styled Virgin Australia uniform was making an announcement on the PA. I heard not a word, but I understood everything that she said. Yes, I was reading her lips.

A few minutes later, I pondered why? Then it dawned on me. It was her intensely bright red lipstick. Yes, I was fixated on those lips! It wasn’t the form, nor the shape of her mouth, it was the colour. This was the beginning of a theory that needed to be tested further, and I was the man for the job.

That day, I focussed on trying to read the conversations permeating from those around me, what influenced my interest and receptivity in how they delivered their words. You will be pleased to know that I was very academic in my research. I ensured that my analysis environment included a vast number of different types of cafés, restaurants, office foyers, and a rich and random selection of outdoor locations where a full range of men and women (some nude lipped, others lip coloured) were talking. I racked up a long list of expenses on my corporate AMEX card as testament to my investigation, just in case some yet unknown university wanted to continue my research at a later date.

That night, as I sat exhausted in my lush hotel room in Darling Harbour, I collated the copious notes that I had taken throughout the day. After what seemed like hours of intense analysis, the solution became all too clear. The key was in the lipstick colour, the winner, most definitely being bright red.

Now, there is a learning here for those working in the corporate office. Should you want your colleagues to listen to what you say, or to read your lips (should they be audibly challenged, or not really paying attention), then make sure that you wear bright red lipstick as it is the visual reader’s colour of choice.

Although diversity is indeed a requirement in business, I’m not suggesting for a moment that my male colleagues adorn the bright red lipstick (Note to HR: yes, I know, not unless they want to), but a bright red pocket hanky will suffice just as well.

Yes, embellish your body with red, and you will be seen, and most definitely heard.

Words Unspoken, But So Understood

ARTS010181

“Click” went the camera.

“That was a brilliant pose Janice! You looked fantastic with the bright light warming you as you stood in the doorway with your arms raised. Who would have believed that it’s the middle of winter here in Melbourne and it only stopped raining an hour ago”, said Henry Talbot (1960s Fashion Photographer*).

Janice laughed. “I hope you aren’t doing a close up as the large goose bumps on my arms would want a special credit in the photograph owing to their prominence!”

The photo was taken sometime between 1956 and 1961 and it had pride of place on the wall in my corporate office. The dated dialog between Janice and Henry was completely unknown to me; however, I just loved the look of the black and white photograph. Every time I saw Janice, I smiled as she provided me with a brief moment of inspiration that momentarily took me on a mental journey into a glamorous and unknown world that mingled with her past.

A thought then arose as I pondered her photograph.

Janice and Henry were in dialog when the image was taken; they were communicating and embellished the cultural mood of their time. The photograph was a snapshot in history that I, as the observer, brought to life in my mind approximately 60 years later. Other corporate colleagues visiting my office would also see Janice, yet their fabrication of her persona would indeed be different to mine.

So what if a photographer took an image of me sitting at my desk? How would observers view me in 60 years from now? Would they comment on my suit, my bow tie, my cuff links, or my corporate image?

No, I suspect none of these, but hopefully they would notice my smile. A smile that should be responding to a business culture that was innovative, creative and one that made me happy and content. Yes, a photograph does indeed tell a thousand words. The key is a want to listen.

Now for those HR Managers reading this blog post, take note. Why don’t you walk around your corporate office and surreptitiously shoot a candid, unprompted image of your employees. Look deep into the photograph and make sure that you analyse the true and honest feelings that your colleagues are portraying. Take a range of images over time and study the trend. The true answer will be in their smile.

I again looked up at the image of Janice and once again gave her a silent nod of appreciation. “Thanks Janice for your timeless and continual inspiration”.

Image: Fashion Illustration for Sportscraft, Model Janice Wakely, Photographer Henry Talbot

* http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/ebooks/HenryTalbot/index.php?chapter=2

All it takes is a Jump

woman-flying-through-sky-side-view-1761303

I felt quite smug as I sat in the middle of my corporate nest as I delightedly acknowledged the numerous platitudes from my fellow bird siblings as they complimented me on my latest innovative feat. Yes, no other bird could match my skills in nest cleanliness and twig weaving; I was a bird who had no equal. I had spent all my working life perfecting my ability and I was the envy of all those in my nest.

However, with an unexpected rustle of feathers, my formidable life as I knew it changed forever as an older sister bird unexpectedly flew in from a distant tree. How she got there, I did not quite understand, but it took all of us nest bound birds by great surprise.

She cooed up to me with a confident waddle and greeted me with a beak expression that was definitely from out of this nest. I was in awe of her and needed to know more! She folded her broad colourful wings and together we sat perched in a quiet corner of the nest.

As we jointly partook of a nice fat juicy green worm, the dialog commenced and she told me of a life beyond the nest. I listened intently as she described an array of different branches, insects, water and other birds. My eyes, ears and feathers strained to comprehend the world that was being described to me. I had to experience it and asked her to show me the way.

My older sister smiled, and with a gentle melodious voice beckoned me to tail her to the edge of the nest. I immediately followed her with uncertainty and trepidation as fear tried to stop me from waddling to the top of the nest. But I refused to give in, I was now in “no birds land”, one foolish step and I would fall to the depths below.

Once again her calming melodious voice instructed me to open my virgin wings. I copied her wing movement, became totally petrified and shut my eyes as she instructed me with confident authority to “jump”.

I obeyed the instruction. A second later, as I saw the bottom of the forest rush up to me, I began to panic! But, after a short moment, my beady bird eyes suddenly saw the bright blue sky as an intense whooshing noise accompanied me as I reached unknown lofty heights. Wow, this is amazing as I looped the loop, and enthusiastically flapped as I glided around the forest with a new perspective on life.

Now, my dear reader, I’m sure that you can see the application of this feathery story in the corporate office. Yes, many employees look to within for innovation. However, the catalyst to creativity is achieved from experiences outside the “nest”. Sometimes, employees just need some encouragement to open their “wings” and “jump”.

 

Fashion’s Icon Origin

3790d122f8f9391069d75c71495355dd

The year is 537 BC (Before Celtic). Frolicking in a thick thistle field, Angus McDougall shrieks with such gusto that his cry is heard in a neighbouring valley by his good friend Lachie Tartain. A few hours later (although the definition of “hour” was not actually known at that stage in time), a hairy bare bottomed Lachie quickly dashes to his friend to identify the origin of his voluminous outburst of consternation.

He quickly finds his friend sitting cross-legged in a grassy field with deep scratch marks that not even Angus’s copious hairy legs could conceal. To his great alarm, Angus was still fuming in a Celtic expletive dialect that was quickly expanding even Lachie’s quite broad vocabulary. “Enough is Enough” Angus shouts, pointing to his thistle beaten legs, with his hands strategically pointing higher up his body with a manly concern regarding his long term procreative dignity. “Give me a flint, let’s burn the whole of this thistle infested terrain down for the sake of future Celtic generations!”

Just as the flint was about to ignite a massive bonfire positioned centrally in the obstreperous thistle field, a thoughtful representative from the formidable King’s Guard just happened to be passing by and loudly proclaimed the “26th Law of the Celtic land” that prohibited any incineration that might affect Scotland’s natural heritage. “Stop in the name of the King you hair embellished man!” to which Angus immediately ceased his destructive thistle life endangering combustible plan.

Angus quickly rebutted with yet another rich array of complex Celtic expletives and pointed emphatically at his red, bleeding legs. A real Celtic “barnie” was about to eventuate, but thankfully Lachie quickly interjected before any dangerous use of the large, sharp thistle held in Angus’s hand could be thrust in a very forceful manner into the annoying King’s Guard’s body.

Fortunately, Lachie had a curt cunning plan that would provide the perfect solution. He pulled the monochromatic saddle cloth off the horse of the King’s Guard and quickly wrapped it around Angus’s legs. With a look of dismay, Angus used the cloth to wipe the red blood, and the green and yellow thistle smears from his body, and then threw it vehemently back in the direction of the King’s Guard. The cloth landed flat and unfurled on the rough Celtic landscape. All three men looked in wonder at the criss-crossed coloured patterns that Angus had created.

Yes, my dear readers, this was the origins of the Celtic tartan. In what was typical Lachie Tartain fashion, he claimed the idea as his own, but through the passage of time, the Tartain eventually became the well-loved “tartan” (with the dropping of the “i”) that all Celts now claim as their own. Yes, it is indeed a “true” story, or so I’m told.

NB: But the “i” was never forgotten. If you listen to a Scotsman or Scotswoman today, the word “aye” (aka the “i” from the Tartain) still lingers which accurately personifies a true Celt, complete with his or her own tartan.

Working from Home

skype-20100805-042610

It’s 8:29 AM and I’m still not dressed for that important customer presentation that I’m making in one minute. No problem, I think my new dark grey suit with the white shirt and spiffy gold cufflinks will indeed do the trick! Yep, with a simple “click” it’s achieved and I look quite professionally impressive, even if I do say so myself!

Now for that lunchtime catch-up with the girlfriend. This suit is far too abundant in clothing for that rendezvous. For this interaction, a much more informal and seductive look is most definitely required. Arrh yes, “clothing outfit #37” is the choice. I look quite good, but my hair, it needs to be a tad longer. One “click” later, the job is done. Hang on, did I just notice my girlfriend’s dress change length? Whatever, she still looks great, not sure about the colour of those stockings though, a bit different, but I’m sure I will get used to in the short term.

Damn. I forgot about my meeting with the boss, which is right in the middle of my lunch date. All good though, I will just replicate myself, put my duplicate in a conservative looking suit and tie, and then in a highly focussed manner communicate with her at the scheduled time, whilst continuing my much more important girlfriend interaction (both of which will be none the wiser!).

It’s now 4 PM and time for my brainstorming session with my work colleagues. For this interaction, I think I might become 6’ 5” tall, add a few pounds to my weight and grow a straggly beard. Might even change my name for additional effect! That should test them a tad.

5 PM. Phew. What a day! I’m exhausted and these pyjamas that I’m wearing are feeling a little bit too loose and shabby. I might put a different pair on for tomorrow’s business activities. However, this working from home via an avatar and computer simulated virtual meeting room does have it’s benefits, and I don’t need to travel to a proper corporate office.

IM to Self: Might go to the gym tonight, my real avatar is starting to look a little bit too rotund for my liking!

 

That Bushy Benefit

TR-TOGU-000005

At the age of 61, Dame Chloe Smythe DCVO, MP decided it was finally time to retire. She was an acclaimed Scottish politician with a unique personal attribute that was very rare these days in public office, that being, everyone seemed to genuinely like her, and still even more unusual, they actually respected her.

As a lifelong friend of Dame Chloe, I had the privilege and honour of interviewing her in her private Westminster office on her last day as a British politician. She was dressed impeccably in her signature body hugging tartan trousers, complete with white satin long sleeved shirt, as she invited me to sit down in one of her well-worn leather chairs and promptly poured me a large glass of Edradour whisky (neat, no ice, as was her custom).

After some polite warming banter, my friend signalled with the customary tweak of the top undone button on her shirt that she was ready for the interview to commence, to which I took my cue.

“Dame Chloe, the readers of The Times newspaper want to know the core essence of why you are so popular with your political colleagues on both sides of the fence? You appear to have only supporters, no enemies? What is your secret?”

After many hours of polite and honest conversation that enabled the full contents of the bottle of Edradour to be consumed, I was educated on the true source of her niceness. However, the origin was most unexpected. I thought it might have been due to her ever-pleasing manner, her dark blue seductive eyes that neither man, nor woman could resist, but no, it was none of these. So what was it you may ask?

The answer was in her eyebrows. Yes, her eyebrows.

Dame Chloe was a ladies lady. She was not one to trim, nor style the hairs above her eyes; they were allowed to propagate with a growth freedom not normally reserved for a woman. Dame Chloe was also very quick to condemn men for the grooming edict that swayed them to similarly trim their eyebrows.

According to a slightly known study done at Glasgow University in 1923, a soon to be famous Research Psychologist named Dougal Edradour, discovered that eyebrow hairs have an inherent sensory ability that can “read” people’s emotions. However, this capability only works when the other person is in close proximity, and only when the emotion reader’s eyebrows are in a natural, uncorrupted hairy condition. Chloe and Dougal were close whisky drinking colleagues in their student days, hence the connection.

Dame Chloe’s prowess was in being able to utilise her eyebrows to read how her political opponents were feeling, and then to modify her behaviour accordingly. It was no wonder she was so well liked! But, this was no easy feat, particularly as she needed to be in a close eyebrow receptivity distance, to which she used her charms accordingly to masterly effect.

So dear readers of The Times newspaper, the answer is simple. Should you want to improve your empathetic ability with your family and work colleagues, just leave your eyebrows alone, let them flourish to their natural, thick bushiness ability.

 

%d bloggers like this: