Creativity is good for business

I had an interesting discussion the other day with a friend who works in the construction industry about creativity.  He pointed out that in his business the perception was that creativity was a distraction from the business in hand.  He didn’t want “creative” solutions.  He wanted efficient, repeatable processes that delivered results quickly and reliably.

I pointed out that it was creativity that came up with the efficient, repeatable process in the first place.  Sometimes I think there is an unhealthy association between “creativity” and “far out” or “whacky”.

This article in Psychology Today asks the question, “Is creativity the number 1 skill for the 21st Century?”

It draws the following conclusions (and links to evidence to support them.)

1 – Creativity and innovation are the number 1 strategic priorities for organizations the world over

2 – Creativity is part of all our day jobs

3 – Organizational profitability rests on individual creativity

4 – Creative teams perform better and are more efficient

5 – Creative organisations are more profitable

6.  Creative leadership is fundamental

7.  Successful economies and societies will need to be creative

My understanding is that the more efficient and repeatable are the production processes that we come up with, the lower the costs of production and the less profitable those processes become.  In a network economy where the cost of production tends towards zero, the only way to maintain and increase profits is through continuous innovation.  That demands, creativity, flexibility and a business strategy that puts individual creativity as a top business priority.

Here’s the link again


Walt Disney’s Strategy for Creativity

I’ve been working up some materials for Lighting The Creative Fire and I wanted to share this with you.  Walt Disney had three distinct phases to his creativity process: create, make and evaluate.

It’s a neat way of looking at your own creative process and identifying your strengths and preferences and where you might be getting stuck.


I went to see a business advisor the other day and told her what I’d been up to over the last couple of months.  When I told her about the Hypnotic Storytelling program I’d been working on she looked at me with a mischievous smile and a glint in her eye and said “Hypnotic Storytelling?  What The Devil Is That Mr Manuell?”

I laughed because I guess there is something a little devilish about the whole idea!

To start at the beginning. When I first began studying hypnosis and NLP back in 1996 I went to train first with Richard Bandler, the co-creator of NLP.  On the first day of the training he walked onto the stage and started telling stories.  This wasn’t at all what I had expected but it was very entertaining, it was like watching “Stand up” therapy, he was more like a comedian than a therapist.

He told us stories about Milton Erickson, the founding editor of the American Journal of Clinical hypnosis and how people would come to see him and he would sit them in a chair and start telling them stories.

As I listened, and as I watched the response of the audience around me I realised that as we were listening to him, slowly, one by one, people were beginning to drop into deep hypnotic trances.

It was like being hit by a train. I had an epiphany!  I wanted to be able to do this! I was an actor already, I had loads of experience with creating and telling stories and I knew how to improvise thanks to the teachings of Keith Johnson.

So began a 12 year adventure of learning. I read all the teaching tales of Milton Erickson, I listened to hundreds of hours of recordings of Richard Bandler,  I went deeper, to find their sources and stumbled into the bewildering tales of Gurdjieff, Steiner and the parables of the Rosicrucians.  I trained in NLP and Hypnosis and started to use what I had learnt in my trainings and client sessions.

The beginning of this year my good friend Igor Ledochowski skyped me from Canada.  “Robin,” he said, “I have learnt more about storytelling  from you than from anyone else- including Richard Bandler.  I have  30,000 subscribers to my Street Hypnosis and Conversational Hypnosis websites,  will you let me interview you and pick your brains about hypnosis and storytelling?”

Of course I said yes straight away to this generous offer and  you can hear the results at Hypnotic Storytelling


Bye for Now



Seeing the world through new eyes.

I’m working just outside Zurich for a few days so I thought I’d take the opportunity to explore the city today. I arrive before nine in the morning and the place is empty but then on reflection, Brighton probably doesn’t get going until 10 or 11 most days either.

I take my time wandering around the cobble streets, getting diverted down interesting turnings or winding side alley’s that promise to reveal their little secrets. I love the way, when you are walking around a place for the first time everything seems a little brighter than normal, the colours stand out and odd little details draw themselves to your attention.

Inspired by Stephen Cotterell’s photography, I am being a bit more creative with my camera work. Usually I take pictures of people because I figure actually, when you finally get round to showing some one your travel photo’s it’s more than likely that its the people they’re going to be interested in. A landscape or a picture of a church is all very well but what you really want is a picture of your mate in front of it with a cheesey grin looking like a tourist, right? :-)


Rose petals


Artcamp is a variation on the Barcamps and Unconferences that have become popular gatherings in the techie world recently.  Based loosely on Open Space methodology the idea is that participants bring a half to one hour presentation on something they’re interested and the whole agenda for the day is worked out collaboratively.

"ArtCamp is for artists to ponder art and the artworld, especially as we go into a depression. What does your artworld look like? How are you supporting yourself? What role does technology play in your artworld? If you could invent an artists funding system from scratch, what would it look like? What would your perfect artists social nework look like? Will we flourish or collapse under the strain. Where does art go in an increasingly networked world. What are we doing, where are we going. Maybe a day at ArtCamp can give you inspiration.

Bring work. Show work. Make work.  Propose projects. Network. Define movements. Find collaborators. Tell the world what you are doing and what you need to do it.

The idea of an ArtCamp is that everybody contributes and everybody benefits. A day of presentations, talks, show and tell, live art, whatever you want to do in the company of artists." 

You can sign up for the event, (it’s free) at the Artcamp homepage


I’ve been re-reading "Getting The Life You Want by Richard Bandler". It’s recent publication is a clever, some might say cunning move from the co-creator of NLP. He has certainly been learning a lot about presenting himself to the general public from his erstwhile student Paul McKenna.

I’ll be saying a lot more about that another time but I was struck by a synchronicity, a co-incident of meaning earlier today. I’d just been skimming the book for good quotes when I came across this in a passage about overcoming fear of public speaking.

“Fears always have to be replaced by sensory acuity” p55

He’s describing a pattern of change that basically goes

  • 1) Replace the bad feeling you were having with this new good feeling.
  • 2) Now open your eyes and your ears and look around while you feel good.

There are lot of techniques in NLP that are essentially variations on this meta-pattern, you can trace its history all the way back to the first collapsed anchor.

Anyway I put the book down to make a cup of tea and while I was waiting for the kettle to boil I I got a ping from twitter and someone had posted this quote.

"The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are."

Marcus Aurelius (Emperor of Rome 161-180 A.D)

There’s a very important reason why copyright law makes a distinction between ideas and the realisation of those ideas. The form of words you use to express ideas can be copyright. The ideas behind them cannot.

There is a recognition that ideas cannot be owned in the same way that property can. Even the expression of an idea returns to the commons after its copyright lapses.

By the way that quote in the title is from The Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 1 v 9

"What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun."

Allegedly written about 150 B.C.


I’ve just watched the most extraordinary film “Man on Wire” about the exploits of the wirewalker Phillipe Petit.

It’s a beautiful film. It has all the tension of a thriller with the poetry of an art house movie and at it’s heart is an amazing story: how in August 1974 Phillipe Petite and a team of his closest friends succeeded in running a wire between the Twin Towers and staged a 45 minute wirewalk half a kilometer above the streets of New York.

Petit had dreamed of such a feat even before the Towers were built and his passion and enthusiasm, his absolute commitment to the dream made it happen.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with Donna Close a while back. Donna had been helping a friend put together the props for a show. The budget was spent long ago, there was only a week to go and a months worth of work to do.  I started bemoaning the lack of finance and time that always seems to accompany creative projects but Donna stopped me midflow.

"Don’t you get it" she said, “Of course its not possible, of course we can’t do it in time. That’s what I love about it. It’s an impossible dream. It’s in the gap between the possible and the impossible that the magic happens. That’s what makes great art."

I didn’t argue because I realised she was right.

But I thought about the cost.

The most powerful scene in the film for me is where Petit’s childhood friend and collaborator Jean-Louis reflects on that moment when he finally sees Petit safely balanced on the wire between the towers.

He’s spent 12 hours in the cold night on the top of the North Tower; working under the constant fear of discovery; hauling a steel hawser across the 140 ft gap between the buildings, knowing that even if he succeeds he might be an accomplice to his best friends death.

Can you even begin to imagine how he felt in that moment of release when it was all over, when he could step back from the adrenaline shock and watch as his friend lapped up the media attention.

“Something was broken in our friendship that day” he says and then he starts to cry, the memory still all too real.

People say there is a thin line between creativity and madness. I say creativity is madness. It takes that kind of madness to dream something and then against all odds, to bring it to life.

How far would you go for your impossible dream?  And what price would you be prepared to pay?


One of the challenges that all businesses face is how to keep ahead of the game by innovating new products and services for their customers.

Back in the last century sometime, I was languishing, one year into a PHD in “learning in complex product systems”. The truth was I had got lost in academic theory and I was dying to get out and connect with people again.

So when Jack Martin Leith asked me to set up the Innovation Agency with him I jumped at the chance to work with someone with such a great record in innovation and organisational development and one of the foremost practitioners of “Open Space” in Europe.

Jack is a creative whirl wind. There’s nothing he likes better than dreaming up new ideas and processes and coming up with practical tools and techniques that people can apply in their own business and he’s been a pioneer in the use of large group interventions- big collaborative meetings that get all the stakeholders in a project together in one place.

Now one of the projects that he undertook while we were working together was for a well known fast moving consumer goods company. Jack and his long time colleague and friend Jeffery Hyman were faced with the challenge, how can we make the New Product Development (NPD) cycle faster and cheaper and yet still deliver quality products that the customer wanted.

The typical NPD cycle for this company was a 12 month affair. The market researchers would go out and interview the customers and use their flair and know how to come up with a set of needs and desires to present to the design guru’s in product development. The design team would then sit around for months in their laboratories and prototyping workshops and come up with a set of new ideas to test out. The accountants would cost it all up, the market researchers would set up a series of focus groups to get feedback on the product and then they’ld present their results to the accountants and eventually one or more of the new ideas might be chosen to see the light of day.

Or they might not. Then the whole process would start again.

Jeffrey and jack identified a number of shortcomings with this approach.

  1. Time scale. Customer needs and expectations change. In rapidly changing markets even 12 months is too long.
  2. Too many walls. Typically the marketing team and the design team are working separately in their own little walled garden. This limits interaction and sharing of knowledge during the NPD process.
  3. Self limiting-  teams get stuck with what they think they know and are less likely to question their own assumptions and beliefs about what is possible.
  4. There is no interaction between designers and consumers.
  5. Complexity- all of this has to be managed over 12 months with multiple teams co-ordinating their efforts at a distance.

Their radical solution was elegant in its simplicity and shocking in its audacity:  Bring the designers, the marketers, the consumers and the accountants all together in the same place and at the same time and compress the whole 12 month NPD cycle into one week.

You can read more about Rapid Innovation with Open Space on Jack’s resources page.

Bookmark the page, there are some great resources here for anyone who is involved, not just in idea generation but in the practical management of innovation.


Downs Junior School have £4400 for four artists to collaborate on running an Arts Week from the 15th- 19th June. The Theme is Brighton Beach. Budget is to cover fees and materials and artwork will be made out of recycled materials and sourced and built in an eco-friendly and sustainable way. Site visits are first week in February so contact if you are interested.


Aspex artist resource centre (Arc) in Portsmouth are offering a £1500 award to artists and designers in the south east.  The award is to develope and show work at Aspex

Deadline for applications is Saturday 28 February and interviews will take place at Aspex in mid March.

Awards for Artists and Designers in the South East, UK