The creative yes comes with some hard
no's to say to anything that is not aligned with the yes.
The creative yes breaks old boundaries and creates new ones.
The creative yes means more life…and more responsibility.
The creative yes calls you to be bigger, bolder, and stronger.
The creative yes bumps you up against all that is not yet the yes…and that can suck
for a while.
The creative yes means committing to not knowing.
The creative yes means the stories around the no are no longer relevant.
The creative yes means owning it.
The creative yes means emerging more of who you are out into the world.
The creative yes doesn't just change what you do, it changes how you are.
~ Michelle James ©2015
Resistance gets a bad rap. It can be a natural, healthy
part of the creative process, and serve generative purposes. As the the unknown of what is emerging meets and the desire to maintain the known status quo, a dynamic tension surfaces and resistance happens. It's not about avoiding resistance, but learning to move through it. This can serve, among other things, to strengthen what actually is emerging. It's part of the expansion and contraction that comes with any new birth.
For more on this and ways to move through it, see my article on Natural Resistance in the creative process ...and learning from nature's creativity:
My short reflection on, and homage to, the Creative Source
--the creative, life-giving, mysterious, generative
source within us that gives birth to
all things creative and emergent--
as we enter a new year...filled with new potential,
dreams, directions, expressions and creations.
Inside us there is a spacious fullness, a coherent wildness...
The kind of power that doesn't always display
its full plumagein grand revelry.
Instead, one of swimming silently-boldy
throughout the ether waves
Creating its own energy currents...
Calling, leading, guiding, emerging.
It is the source, within, of full-on aliveness,
and your pristine uniqueness.
Creative source energy moves and meanders and twists
and turns and spirals into itself through our Selves.
It is spiraling dynamics embodified.
It is hide and seek, the seeker and the sought,
yearning and satiation all at once.
It beckons, but does not beg.
It captivates, yet holds no captives.
It thrives on your realness to reveal its true nature.
It is ever-generous and forgiving.
It mourns and rejoices simultaneously,
as it unites and differentiates...and unites again.
The creative source is
bonding, binding, bounding, boundarying,
unbinding, unwinding, unraveling,
pattern breaking and new pattern making.
It is both the riddler and the riddle...
The one-eyed gypsy dance of converge and diverge,
where what is isn't, and what isn't is.
(The other eye faces inward).
It leads the inside-out, outside-in dance of creation.
The creative source is at once yin and yang,
gentle and strong,
humble and bold,
nurturing and activating,
behind-the-scenes and front-and-center...
throwing streamers, lighting sparklers
to celebrate your uniqueness.
But it will settle for nothing less.
You must be you.
Stay in your ground and
no one, no thing, no way
can make you less than!
The creative source is mutable, fluid,
stable, hard, soft,
transactional and transformational.
It is honoring, sobering, intoxicating,
lifting, holding, releasing.
It is un-languaging and re-languaging.
First, it asks, break some rules.
The creative source can draw forth
the whirl in a dervish,
the bloom in a passion,
the fruition in a dream,
and the purpose in a soul.
It is serious, but does not take itself seriously.
It comes alive with play and fun and the delightful unexpected.
It gets top billing at the Cosmic Comedy Club:
"Take my life...please."
The creative source is not asking us to be filled,
but rather to feel - and engage - how full we already are.
It is the inflection point where the past, present,
and future meet and tryst...
and, as if by magic, a new creation is born!
The creative source catalyzes resplendent
deepening, ripening, opening, furthering,
recognizing, rearranging, aha-ing, relationshiping,
connecting, embodying, and aligning.
Birth, death, rebirth-
the spiral unfolds.
Truth bursts forth,
shakes itself off,
and settles in to, ahhh,
its own rightful space.
Higher order has organized
and breathes a sigh of relief.
The creative source is in itself a parallel universe.
It is human and divine,
generous and claiming,
shielding and revealing,
It is large and small,
epic and mundane,
reality and fantasy,
universal and unique,
gathering and fraying,
stillness and cultivation,
mystery and revelation.
It offers us an inner authority,
a knowing, and a beacon
to sustain and inform us
amidst fears and doubts,
hardships and crises...
our own or others.
It is the place within us
where life is ever-seeking and
ever-generating more life...
filled with infinite creative potential
just waiting to be cultivated.
It contains the meticulous balance
of flow and stucture for all of our creations.
Just show up, let it lead.
It will meet you at your dance.
It will swing you and dip you,
into your very Self.
It will kick up your heels
yet be there, sturdy and steadfast,
to catch you.
It will meet you in your pain
It will meet you in your joy.
Just show up - fully - from wherever you are.
It wants and needs to partner with us.
The creative source is not the answer,
it contains the question to the Universe,
"Who am I?"
It is a knowing, a wondering,
a paradox, and a circus.
YOU are the main attraction.
Step right up.
The world needs your uniqueness. :-)
The creative source is both speaker and listener--
the hearer and the heard.
It washes through the crevasses
of dried up hope and habit
until it becomes fertile,
alive, breathing potential.
I am. We are.
It allows the unique Being in me
to be with the unique Being in you.
With deep appreciation of your magnificent creative uniqueness
...and the celebration of what only YOU can create and offer in 2014!
Happy New Year!
By Michelle James©2013
the new within us is emerging, the old sometimes fights
back with a vengence to maintain its status quo. It can become an epic battle between the habituated, outdated familiar and the emergent, life-giving unfamiliar.
During the transition, being neither here nor there can be quite unnerving - and sometimes problem-causing. It brings up fears, doubts, insecurities...feelings of not being on solid ground. It also brings up the most amazing creative, generative opportunities if we choose to find and cultivate them, even amidst total discomfort.
It is not the time to seek comfort and direction by looking to the
past to inform the present. It is the time to call in the future to
inform the present...and see what is really ready to emerge. No matter
how deeply I know this, it is still requires all my presence and
commitment to it when I go through my own emergent transitions.
Follow the future by discerning what was from what is emerging; being present moment by moment to lean into the emergent impulses - and learning how to hear and feel them; and staying committed to the higher vision, not the returning limiting pattern. And...following that which fills you most with life - that's always a guide to a more creative expression of self, and a more generative emergent future.
When we first start living into our purpose, we
notice more "synchronicities" in our every day life - those seemingly
unrelated happenings that come together in an unplanned, yet meaningfully and
uniquely relateable way for us. They often seem like an uncanny answer to
something we have been thinking about. Beyond pure coincidence, they have
USEFUL meaning...and seem perfectly timely in supporting our path.
It can show up in all kinds of ways...like you might have been wondering how to do x and then suddenly you seemingly randomly sit next to the expert of x in the plane. Most of us have experienced that type of thing in different areas of our lives. As we experience living into our purpose over time, those seeming serendipitous happenings become more of a natural flow. Meaning is always there...and it feels as if we are being led to the right people and right events and the right time. Happenings, then, along a purposeful path eventually become more odd when they are not "synchronistic" than when they are. Separate synchronicities just blend into daily living.
I believe this is because inspired purpose acts as a
beacon around which purposeful people, events, and situations emerge - like a homing device. That's been the experience in my
own work over the past 17 years, and what I have observed, without exception,
with other purpose-centered folks. On the outside looking in, others may interpret it
as a lucky coincidence. But it is more than luck...it's staying present to your
path, open to possibilities, and doing what is yours to do - no more, no less which can change a lot. It is not about resting on laurels, or what worked at any given time in the past, but being present to the influences and invitations of the moment.
Purpose + creativity + serving a greater good breeds aligned purposefulness, which is holistically generative - for your self, for others and for the whole. "Magic" synchronicities become more of the norm and unfold purposefully. We still need to do the work, but there is a strong intentionality underlying it. Overtime, as we become more seasoned in "listening in" to what is ours to do, we can more quickly choose the who, what and why of our daily work choices.
Sometime we hear what is ours to do loud and clear, but we
resist doing it. (I've had that happen a lot). Moving through that resistance is another story...and a post for
Finding, Cultivating and Living Your Creatively
Below are just a few of many components. The discovery process always work best with whole-brain engagement, playfulness, body-centered practices, reflection, and other juicy stuff which I have written about a lot, but is not the focus on this post. This is a much larger - and longer - process than a blog post can begin to cover.
Here are 4 Reflection Points for now:1. Discovering your aliveness. What gives you juice, energy, engagement and meaning. Aliveness has many expressions: What's fun for you? What energize you? What do you like to play at? Tinker with? Explore? What engages your heart? Your mind? Your body? Your soul? What do you do because it's "so you"? How do you shine (or want to shine)? What captivates your whole self, not because it is interesting or cool to others, but because it is compelling to YOU? What triggers your curiosity? What did you love doing, being, feeling at any point of your life or now? What did you love doing, being, feeling at any point of your life or now? What does "Alive" feel like for you? How do you get that experience?
Included in purposeful aliveness is meaning. What
is meaningful for you? What moves you? What stirs you? What inspires you? What challenges in
the world call to you? How do you like to contribute? What is a vision you have for a better world? What roles would you like to play? (no need to limit to just one...old paradogm was being boxed into one role - in the emerging paradigm, you can play many roles). What are the needs you see out there that speak most loudly to you? How could the world use your help? Who are you most drawn to work with? For? How could that look? Dont limit it to existing channels or structures...play with creating your own. :-)
2. Cultivating your aliveness and embodying it
over time. There are so many
way to embody it, more than we can imagine. One aspect of living into it
includes being conscious of to what you say YES to and to what you say NO. Once
you start engaging your aliveness, and extracting meaning in it, you further cultivate your purpose by saying YES and stepping up to ALL of that which it requires...and, as
significantly, saying NO to - and NOT doing - everything that is no longer
serving it. With every healthy, live-giving YES, there come a series of healthy
Sometime the NOs are is the hardest part - to people, events, ideas, and
most often, old habits and ways of being. Committing can take a moment...but
living into it, embodying it, and choosing from it moment, by moment, day by
day is an ongoing process. It requires presence, consciousness, self awareness and breaking
old patterns...and cultivating new ones.
Sometimes it means embarking on trainings or events that have no seeming direct relationship to your work (even though they eventually inform it). For example, I spent 5 years is a psycho-physical healing, movement and bodywork training, CoreSomatics, and became a Master Practitioner. I took it becuase I was deelpy curious about the wisdom of the body after a bodywork experience I had, and the training had a lot of energy for me - not knowing if or how I would even apply it. I don't have a hands-on healing practice, but what I learned about the somatic intelligence in that training - and the ways I related it to creative process - deeply informed my work and the design of all of my public and corporate workshops. I bring movement and the body into everything I do, even when not a body-centered program.
3. Creating from it. Purpose always aligns self, others and the whole. I have worked with hundreds of passionate entrepreneurs who have created their own work in the world...and without exception, when each connected with his or her purpose and sense of "calling", it was always generative, aligned with serving some greater good. Serving something larger than just ourselves is NATURALLY embedded in our purpose...in some way or other - often requiring us to expand our mental framework to see that. Sharing something alive in ourselves seems to be an inherent part of purpose.
People who create their own path centered around their purpose discover it already has service built in. It many, sometimes, require us to expand our belief systems of what service means, and how it looks, not limited to conventional ideas about who serves and contributes. It is not just about carrying what you know in service, but also creating something that serves something larger than just you - and it does include you. (It is not about sacrficing who you are in service of others - that's not generative for the whole. It is about structuring your aliveness into an accessible purpose.
It can be anything - a service, product, a new idea, a framework, a computer program, a business, a work of art, a way of doing something, a design, a blog post... anything that is uniquely yours. There is a sense of inner empowerment that comes from accessing your “creative source” and creating from it, no matter how you do it. EVERYONE is creative and everyone can access it.
4. Claiming your Inner Authority. Noticing patterns
you have discovered as a result of "working it" gives you inner authority and ownership that's not dependent on what others think. When we leave our socialized beliefs and enter the juicy, messy territory of our inner resourcefulness, it can be scary. It can be challenging to discover our true voice, the one that contains our creatively unique purpose and expression, and weed out all of the other voices with which we've been socialized.
There is no short cut to this. It requires going under layers of accepted assumptions, and creating time to listen to a voice inside of us we may not even know is there. Sometimes that voice is loud and we get a clear vision or "aha" moment where we know what we want to do and how, but often that voice starts out softly, and we have to nurture it out. But it is always in there...waiting for us to engage with it.
Once we learn how to hear it, we become aware it's always communicating. Once we have engaged our work for a while, we pay more attention, we can begin to notice patterns, honor our own observances, see larger patterns at work that connect to our work, and formulate "wisdom" form integrating knowledge, experience, creativity and intuition in our unique ways. That is when we are less dependent on others for evaluation, and become more centered in our own inner authority. We can hear information from the inside out, and discern what resonates and what does not. We question everything. We run things through our OWN "resonance meter" to see how it feels. Does this feel right? Does it feel like it is mine to do? It can take time to hear the subtleties of the language of our “creative source” but once we learn its language, we begin to trust our inner voice.
There is a type of freedom that comes with engaging your own inner authority and crafting your path...and it's not always easy. In fact, it usually comes with messiness, seeming setbacks, resistances, fears and doubts....your own, and sometimes others around you. Cultivating your creatively unique purposeful work often brings up the "shadow" as well as the light. But being with it all, as it emerges, and making generative choices along the way is that’s how that life-giving voice inside of us gets stronger.
Mistakes within purpose are simply iterations in the emergence process. There is no way around making mistakes, probably lots of them...and purpose allows you to learn from them, to use them. They become awareness lessons, they strengthen knowledge and resolve, and they become innovations to create something new and different.
These are just a few reflections around purpose as they came to me to share today, based on my own experiences and from coaching others who are engaging their purposeful work. Not everything may resonate with you. You may even might disagree with some of it. My hope is not to persuade you on an idea, but simply offer some food for thought or inspiration. As with everything, take what resonates and leave the rest. :-)
Michelle James ©2013
Been on a turn-a-tweet-into-a-poster making kick lately, despite my limited graphic capabilities. Many years ago I had a life-chaging experience where I really got - at a deep, embodied level - that the void was fertile and alive and a source of infinite creativity. I spent the next several years learning everything I could about it through various teachings, domains and direct experiences...and created a business dedicated to its creative cultivation.
The void is there, always waiting to co-create with us. I consider it my co-creative business partner and guide, and feel grateful all the time that in my work I get to dance with with the life-giving "creative source" within others, within myself, and within our dynamic. The creative void offers a totally unpredictable, unique expression from each person, which is, for me, what keeps work - and life - engaging. This poster is today's tiny homage to the fertile void:
Navigating the Unknown: 7 Reflection Tools
Creativity is at the very core of who we are.
We are creative beings. It is at the essence of what life really is about and how life really works - creatively. We have been socialized and educated, and sometimes traumatized out of our natural creativity so we forget that we're all creative by the time we become adults.
In the past, some split off totally from their creative core (and think they are not creative), others relegated it onto the sidelines to do for fun after the "real work" was done, while others stayed connected, often feeling misunderstood. We've been a society of creativity witnesses more than creativity engagers. Thankfully, that's been shifting over the past few years as more people (and organizations) are tapping into and valuing their creative natures, but many still live and work from "old school" limiting assumptions around what creativity is and who is creative.
Reconnecting with our essential creative nature leads to an all-around more vibrant life...because it is how we are naturally designed! Just observe kids discovering, playing, exploring and creating before they were socialized or labeled or "corrected" out of it. Our creative core is so much bigger that our training or beliefs...and is accessible to anyone at anytime.
When we create (and reduce our self judgment), we feel more alive, enthusiastic and connected to the flow of life. The more access we have to our creativity, the more connections we make, and the more opportunities we cultivate. Stress reduces automatically as we access our creative aliveness - that which gives us "juice"! It is fully alive.
When accessing our creativity we’re happier and more joyful. The brain unleashes endorphins and we feel better. Working with creativity generally leads to a more engaged, juicy living. And we buy into what we create - it has meaning. Living an expressed creative life contains the balance between structure and flow, action and reflection, activity and renewal, the mind and the body. Creativity contains the dynamic tension of seeming opposites - sometimes working harmoniously through us, sometimes in struggle. The creative core needs us to engage it…explore, experiment, cultivate, be present and listen deeply.
We all were influenced by certain assumptions growing up. Whether they came from parents, teachers, colleagues, institutions, fears, shoulds, societal norms of "how business is done," etc., we could not escape them. But we can question them, challenge them, engage them, play with them, and test for ourselves which ones really work for us.
We can go beneath the assumptions into our creative core to discover what really brings us to life. We can then choose consciously which ones we keep, which ones we release, which ones we transform, and be present to what other, newer ones want to emerge to help us discover or create more generative ways of thinking, living and creating. The creative wellspring underneath our assumptions is infinite and generous - always giving if we get into the space to receive.
When we venture underneath that which we have accepted - our inhibiting assumptions about ourselves and the "correct" ways we "should" think, work, or use our time - that are not at our creative core, we can re-access our creatively unique flow. We can then really live our aliveness - our creative "juice" - out in the world.
It takes time, attention and intention. It requires giving ourselves space to listen into that inner voice and cultivate out it's creative riches (whether artistically talented or not.). It takes protecting the voice as it is emerging from our own inner judgments or the evaluations of others as it is unfolding. Sometimes we need to protect our creative voice as it emerges...it can be vulnerable and shaky when first coming to the surface - messy, untamed, and often not understandable or relate-able at first against our current context. In other words, easy to judge or negate.
Beyond our own juicy aliveness, reclaiming our creative core is essential for the world we live in. As we collectively expand our notions of what creativity means and how it can be expressed, exponential potential is activated...new insights emerge, new connections are made, and more generative structures and systems can be created. Enlivened, we can contribute from a place of our uniquely inspired purpose. Our world can more positively change because we come from more life-giving assumptions, not outdated, constricted, fear-based ones. And that begins with each of us...individually.
The awesome thing about the creative source is that, like water over rocks, it cannot be stopped. The creative life energy is stronger, and becomes more so as we value it and engage it. We have nature on our side!
~ Michelle James 2013
A couple yars ago I wrote an article on this blog on 9 Practices for Cultivating Creative Aliveness that goes into more detail with each of the practices. Today I played with making it into a poster (and shortening it) to go with a workshop I'll be doing. Thought I'd share it here:
The full-length article is at http://bit.ly/gx2Oyq
I am excited to host this FREE Creativity in Business Telesummit!
REGISTER at http://www.BizCreativitySummit.com/
Featuring 15 Pioneering Creativity & Innovation Leaders, Explorers & Practitioners!
October 22-31 ~ Calls at 12pm & 2Pm EST daily
The theme is Applied Discovery - setting the stage for discovery, generating new ideas and insights, and using your creativity to apply your discoveries in your work.
This event is for entrepreneurs, leaders, executives, managers, learning and innovation officers, facilitators, trainers, OD and HR practitioners, consultants, coaches and anyone who wants to be more innovative, adaptive, resilient, and expressive in the changing world of work, or facilitate that for others.
Leave with principles, practices, techniques, approaches, and frameworks you can start applying to your work, life or business right away to help you discover, create, and innovate!
Plus, you'll get a free Creativity in Business ebook when you register through October 21st, in which 32 thought leaders explore applied creativity and making it real at work.
Hope you can join us!
One of the things I've been most passionate about on my own work for many years is focusing my energy toward the emerging paradigm of work, one where financial generatively (making money) is only part of the whole and not, as in the conventional paradigm, the central bottom line...or even the only driving bottom line. The new paradigm has multiple bottom lines; multiple ways of creating and engaging; and includes new ways of being and interacting as well as doing and acting. It requires an entirely new foundations, not just new ways to "succeed" in the old foundational landscape.
There is a larger movement of integration underfoot, and more and more people are committed to helping bring this new life-giving work paradigm forward. It is already happening. We can focus on creating/unfolding a better future - leaving that which no longer serves, "yes-anding" what does - or we can carry the baggage of the past and be limited by what worked then. We get to choose where we put our intention, attention, creativity and action. In the new work paradigm, we can bring more of who we are into the structuring of our work, our collaborative partnerships, our companies and our service in the world. We don't have to silo oursevles or our company missions.
We can create work, businesses and organizations that are alive, creative, adaptive, resilient and holistically generative by establishing new foundations; integrating the isolated parts of ourselves and our lives; questioning the assumptions underneath our current beliefs and our value systems (including our current relationship with money and set of accompanying beliefs); engaging the creative unknown to go beyond what we currently hold as "the way it is"; forming life-giving collaborations based on resonance and aliveness; giving conscious space, time and attention to our creative imaginations; developing generative practices and rituals to help us "live into" our visions and embody new ways of being; listening to what calls to us from within; and expanding the conventional bottom line to include more of our creativity, humanness, connection and deeper contribution..
Related post: 27 Elements fo the New Work Paradigm - shifting our ways of working to ways that are expanding the notion of what work and business is and can be.
Once you connect with your calling, the question isn't IF it can
be done - it's an ongoing, "What's mine to do (no more, no less) to serve it?" Asking if it can be done takes you out of the present and into a place of guessing, hoping and trying to 'figure it out.' It is binary. It takes you out of direct experience.
Listen into what is yours to do
Instead, asking what's yours to do is an intentional practice that keeps you in the present, moment by moment, where you can unfold and cultivate it as it emerges. No more = not taking on more than is yours...and letting go of whatever is not. No less = stepping up to what is needed to serve it, even when it is uncomfortable and ambiguous. (See my blog post about difference between Just-do-it thinking, Whatever-will-be-will-be thinking, and What's-mine-to-do thinking).
Don't wait to start walking until after you get clarity
Unlike with conventional planning or goal setting, you can't see the end when you get started cultivating a calling. When you are called to into your truly alive work - your inspired vision and mission - asking if it is possible is no longer a relevant question. The daily whats and hows - in doing and being - are what's relevant. As is learning the discernment of what's not yours to do. With every healthy yes, there is a series of healthy no's.
You discover exactly what is possible and how as you engage the process.
You discover what is authentically for you, and what's not. And you discover an infinite resource within you (I call it the Creative Source since is contains pure life-giving creative energy - there are lots of different names for it) that you have as an ally for the rest of your journey.
It is this, our inner sherpa, that helps us navigate the landscape of the amazing, rich, abundant fertile unknown. It carries the most holistically generative choices for us at any time - creatively, financially, and spiritually/meaningfully interconnected. Working with it it to cultivate your unique calling is an intentional practice. It will not lead you astray. It's job is life generating more life.
Use your whole brain and body
There are many ways to cultivate its creative wisdom. The more of our whole brain's multiple intelligences we engage - and the more of our whole selves we bring to it - the more expansive our understanding of it can be...and the more fun we will have! In addition to verbal questioning, start drawing it out, painting it out, journaling with both words and images, embodying it, bodystorming (acting it out in your body - using your somatic intelligence), etc. Using non-habitual ways to generate answers "tricks" the habitual thinker in us into generating something new. I see this everyday in my work...once we intentionally use our brains and bodies in different ways, breakthroughs happen more quickly and consistently. Breaking patterns leads to breakthroughs.
The world needs your Creative Uniqueness
Time for us all to claim and create what is ours to do! I believe the world is waiting for your unique creation that you and only you can offer us. There is no competition for that role - no one can be a better you than you. And when we find what is ours do it. it is always connected to helping other in same way - that really is embedded into the authentic callings...they are never just for ourselves. It just does not have to be limited to society's views of what is means to serve...our true callings always serve a higher purpose. :-)
People can say, "I had better things to do. Same old, same old. I couldn't wait to get out of there" or they can say "Wow - that was awesome! We actually got A LOT done - and had fun doing it. I didn't even realize I had all those creative ideas." after leaving one of your meetings. They can feel anywhere from drained to motivated, mind-numbed to mind-expanded, detached to engaged. The good news is it's your choice. If you'd prefer the latter, come join us in the dynamic, fun, NEW session on creating and facilitating vibrant, generative, productive meetings - ones where people get things done, ENJOY the meeting, and leave feeling motivated.
Meetings come to life when you engage the whole brain and participants get to discover something new in real time. There is ALIVENESS in discovery. Come explore and experience divergent and convergent creativity principles and practices - including improv, storytelling, embodiment among others - that are easy to learn and apply for any meeting you facilitate. Learn how to structure meetings that bring out more creativity, discovery and motivation from the participants to better meet your business goals. Leave with practices you can apply right away; a set of guiding principles; greater understanding of how to integrate both divergence and convergence into a meeting of any length; and increased self awareness. And we'll have FUN in the process! :-)
Info and Directions: http://www.capitolcreativitynetwork.com/
This morning I heard someone being interviewed on the topic of conscious business (on Waking Up in the Workplace) and they were asked, "What is the question that drives your work.?" I love that. It's aligned with the concept that we are all living our questions (whether we are conscious of it or not) so we need to choose them carefully. In that, we become conscious participants in the creation of our work.
I was thinking about how I would answer, and it led me create the venn diagram below. My driving question is actually the intersection of 3 foundational questions. - not in any order, just holding all 3 questions on my consciousness - that I engage when I'm feeling the call to "what's next" in my work. My business tagline for over the past decade has been Consciously Creating What's Next and this intersection is at the heart of how I navigate that (and how I work with my coaching clients to structure their aliveness into income-generating work). Here is my attempt at mapping it:
I'm numbering the questions here, but there is really no order to them. It depends on which needs asking when - situationally adaptive.
1. What is most alive for me? That is what is alive for me to engage and create right now? Not all that I can imagine or that can ever be, but where is the juice right now at this space in time? For me that is the ripe fruit, and if you engage that, you remain in life-giving energy in your work. Most significantly, it is not about asking what makes complete sense first. Ask what brings you to life first...then find ways to make it work later. So often people approach it backwards and then wonder why work feels lifeless - it was not based on the foundation of aliveness.
2. What is calling to emerge? That is, what is calling to emerge at this time, in this particular situation? It assumes that we each have a unique purpose in the world, and that we are invited into serving this purpose through whatever is calling us the "loudest" at any given time. Discernment may take some time, but if given space, time and attention to the listening, we can learn to hear what is authentically calling us. We often do not know the complete answer to what wants to emerge until is has emerged, but by just engaging the question, we are in the emergence process.
3. What is mine to do to serve this unfolding? That is, what is mine to do - no more, no less - to serve the highest unfolding of this particular emergence? It assumes that we are working in harmony with the larger unfolding - something greater than ourselves that is generative and already happening. It is fractal in nature...our micro-unfolding is is connected to the macro-unfolding that is happening in the world. For more on the "no more, no less" part, see this blog post. No more: not over-controlling and taking over what is not ours. No less - stepping up and owning what is.
It is from engaging the intersection of these 3 questions over the past decade that I've created programs, products, service offerings, a creativity network and conferences that feel alive and engaging for me...and that are business offerings, not just creative expression. The foundational questions have not changed, but the aliveness and the call is ever-evolving so the structures do change.
Once the energy has run it's course, as happens in natural systems, then it's time to create something new...otherwise it feels like trying to revive life into a tree that already fell over in the forest - futile. It is important to be able to discern what you spend time reviving, what you let go, and what you create. There's no short cut - it's trail and error...why it's good to get comfortable with making mistakes. :-)
I have to keep reminding myself that certain questions are not as much about getting answers as they are about living into them - and it can be a messy process. Creativity is awesomely messy! That is what aliveness is - messy, nonlinear, and not having everything answered and resolved in neat and timely packages. For years my daily mantra has been, "What's mine to do to serve the larger unfolding?" and I still sometimes do not hear/feel it, or hear it loud and clear, but don't act on it. Like anything, it is an ongoing intentional practice to really live into the questions. The point is to make sure we are asking the right qustions - the ones that lead us to more aliveness in our work and lives, not less.
In a world of work that has been dominated by goal setting and getting from A to B in a sequential step-by-step (yang), this approach offers a way to first cultivate the meaning and aliveness of what you want to do (yin)...and then go about the business of setting adaptive goals around that. Both-and, not either-or. There are all kinds of other questions that emerge in the process - these are just the 3 driving questions, for me, that (along with some other key things) form a foundation for making a living by structuring aliveness in a way that serves others.
What is your question - or the inspired intersection of questions - that drives your work?
Just found a 12-year-old file with this message that I wrote (after a meditation) from my "creative source" to my conscious self in the midst of a particularly challenging and fear-based time for me in my business:
Walk confidently toward the promised land of your higher dreams that you know is there. Walk confidently through the fog of fear, doubt and the unknown. Walk confidently through the mine fields of imaginary threats and see them for what they really are. Don't make boulders out of wads of paper. Know you won't die or be irreparably wounded. Most importantly, know you will receive support along the way. Movement is the key. Go for it. Go for it with the courage, the belief, and the action to get there.
That guidance was right - movement was the key...and there's been lots of support along the way. If I were to write this now, there would be more to add that I have learned over the years through living into this message (definitely not always confidently) and coaching creativity...like how support would not only show up, it would show up in the most magnificent, emergent and unexpected ways; how that voice is part of our fullest creative aliveness; how it is about life generating new creative life; how none fo us are alone in the journey of our creative calling (even though it fees like it at times); and how that inner voice needs space, time and attention to be heard and known.
That inner "aliveness voice" within us always carries a more expanded, life-giving knowing about what is true and possible for us than the limited viewpoints our conscious minds carry at any given time. The key is feeling the fear, doubt, etc...and moving forward anyway.
It took me a few weeks to get to this post, after integrating what unfolded at and after our Creativity in Business Conference a few weeks ago. On October 23, we produced a (sold-out - yay!) conference in Washington, DC with the help of many amazing, generous souls. It was gratifying that people seemed to get a lot out of it - I think the feedback reflects a juicy and alive day. Everyone really stepped up, took risks, pushed their edges, had fun and engaged fully. Photographer, Alexander Morozov of Photography by Alexander, captured the energy of the day with these pictures.
It Started with Principles of Creative Engagement
|Improvisational Storyteller session|
Come learn, think, create and engage with applied-creativity thought leaders, pioneering entrepreneurs and business innovators from around the country - in the fields of creativity and innovation, organizational change, social media, and transformational leadership - for a full-day event focused on:
* Harnessing and focusing individual, group and organizational creativity
* Organizational structures/business models conducive for creativity & innovation
* The integration of creativity, purpose, business and serving the greater good
* Bringing your whole brain - and whole self - to work
This new breed of business conference conference is about going beyond talk-only into exeperiential immersion - immersing you into the experience of creative process and your own creativity. The content is is designed to be informative, intelligent and practical. It will expand your knowledge and understanding. The experiences are designed to be rich and revelatory. They will expand your self.
New ideas, new innovations, new systems and new structures depend on accessing new levels of creativity. At this event, we will explore different facets of creativity as the key driver in navigating and thriving in the new work paradigm.
Come engage your whole brain with practices such as applied storytelling, improvisation, visual thinking, creative inquiry and dialogue, movement and embodiment along with innovative business models and approaches you can apply right away to your work or business.
Conference: 9:00-5:30 Festival: 5:30-7:30
CONFERENCE: - Lively, Content-rich, Experiential Break-out Sessions each with a different focus related to the theme of Applied Creativity in Business - Engaging Thought Leader Panels explore the creativity-centered work paradigm through the lens' of leadership, social media and creative thinking. There are no keynoters - just thinkers, leaders and facilitators in service of YOUR creativity and your business.
IMAGINATION FESTIVAL: Improvisation, Live Music, Connectworking, Book Signings, Give-Aways and tasty hors d'oeuvres.
REGISTRATION: Earlybird discount through Friday, September 16, 2011. Seating is limited - early registration is recommended. http://www.creativity-conference.com
Hope you can join us! :-)
Today I was thinking about how my relationship with marketing has transformed completely over the past few years, and have noticed a similar shift in many passion-centered clients, colleagues and collaborators. It used to be the dreaded "necessary evil" of running a business...and now it is an enthusiastic sharing (in moderation, and with conscious respect for others). The shift had to do with learning to engage, trust and truly value my calling, and letting go of the old baggage I had associated with marketing.
As an entrepreneur, when your deepest aliveness - your soul's call combined with your unique creativity in the world - informs your business and you believe in and value it with your whole heart, marketing shifts from being the excrutiating "have-to" into sharing something really alive and valuable. You feel and know you are in service of something meaningful and greater than yourself. Financial energy integrates with creative energy and service energy. Aliveness, meaning, creativity and income-generation come together.
Marketing, then - within the context awareness and honoring - becomes an enthusiastic sharing of this aliveness so that others can join in, participate, and add their creativity, passion and meaning to the mix. It becomes part of a larger evolving process - simultaneously generative for self, others and the whole. The old static "What's in it for me?" becomes a dynamic "What's in it for we?!" It is not a means to an end, but an ongoing process of serving something larger than oneself.
Interview #26 in our Creativity in Business Thought Leader Series is
with Seattle based author and consultant, Peggy Holman, who works with social technologies that engage "whole systems" of people from organizations and communities in creating their own future. She consults on strategies for enabling diverse groups to face complex issues by turning presentation into conversation and passivity into participation. In the second edition of The Change Handbook, she joins with her co-authors to profile sixty-one change processes.
Winner of the 2011 gold Nautilus Award for conscious business/leadership, her latest book, Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity dives beneath these change methods to share stories that make visible deeper patterns, principles, and practices for change that can guide us through turbulent times. Since 1996, she has worked with a range of organizations, including Microsoft, Biogen Idec, Novartis, Boeing, and the Gates Foundation. You can find her at www.peggyholman.com.
How does your work relate to creativity?
PH: Much of my work is reminding people of their innate ability to engage with disruption and difference to achieve great outcomes. At the heart of their success is creative engagement - connecting
with ideas, each other, the whole system, even themselves.
When disturbed, most of us would rather hunker down someplace safe. This attitude kills creativity. Negativity and despair are all around. When you hear them, it’s a great opportunity to creatively engage. Ask a question of possibility. Take a stand for connection in a time of separation.
What do you see as the New Paradigm of Work?
PH: I see a shift underway from hierarchies to networks. The implications for what leadership looks like are profound. Not only can it come from anywhere, but if you consider the dynamics of networks, what constitutes leadership varies more.
Think about the difference between pack animals, with alpha leaders keeping others in line versus birds, ants, bees, or other animals that seem to function with no one in charge. In hierarchies, a few people make strategic decisions for everyone else. Increasing complexity – a more diverse public, greater access to a broader range of perspectives, technological innovations affecting scale and scope of just about everything – makes this strategy less effective. No longer can a few people with relatively similar backgrounds and perspectives make the best choices for the rest of us
In contrast, leadership in networks is collective and relational, as people form hubs and link with others. From the outside, hubs in a network look a lot like hierarchical organizations: groups of people organized to accomplish something together. That makes it easy to confuse leadership of a hub with hierarchical leadership, thinking the same rules apply. Not! Giving orders, chain of command, top-down decision making doesn’t function when people can choose whether to participate.
Hubs form because people are attracted to them. Hubs grow when people are drawn to the purpose and/or the people and believe that they can both give and/or receive something of value. The remarkable communities that maintain the Wikipedia or fill the Open Source software movement are examples of networks producing real-world benefit.
More elusive is “link leadership”— connecting people, organizations, and ideas. Why is connecting people or organizations a form of leadership? If you want breakthroughs, interactions among those who don’t usually meet is an essential ingredient. And when hubs connect to hubs, ideas can spread like wildfire.
What do you see the role of creativity in that paradigm?
PH: I think networked organizations are inherently creative, not to mention more responsive, resilient, and fun. Since leadership can come from anywhere, the possibilities are endless.
What skills, mindsets and behaviors do you see as most essential for effectively navigating the new work paradigm?
PH: A core skill that makes networks powerful is taking responsibility for what you love as an act of service. That’s a mouthful, so let me unpack it a bit.
This game-changing way of operating liberates hearts, minds, and spirits. It calls us to pay attention to what matters most, putting our unique gifts to use. You see, many of us live with an unspoken belief that to belong, we must conform. If we each pursued what we love, it sounds like a recipe for chaos. What a loss! Not only is more of the same the outcome, but by keeping our feelings and ideas bottled up, we become more isolated and the group’s creative potential is diminished.
In contrast, networks thrive when we contribute our unique gifts. Since what binds a network together is shared purpose, by pursuing what I love, my distinctiveness rubs up against other’s differences and suddenly we’re playing jazz. Everyone’s part is different and it matters. Not only do I belong, but I do it by being the best me I can be.
What is one practice that people could start applying today to bring more creativity into their work or their business organization?
If I were to pick on practice that is simple to apply and powerful in its affect, I’d say: welcome disturbance by asking questions of possibility. Creativity often shows up in a cloak of disruption. It makes sense when you stop and think about it. If there were no disruption, there’d be no reason for change. And change opens the door to creativity.
Great questions help us to find possibilities in any situation, no matter how challenging. Here are some of their characteristics:
• They open us to possibilities.
• They are bold yet focused.
• They are attractive: diverse people can find themselves in them.
• They appeal to our head and our heart.
• They serve the individual and the collective.
• What question, if answered, would make a difference in this situation?
• What can we do together that none of us could do alone?
• What could this team also be?
• What is most important in this moment?
• Given what has happened, what is possible now?
Some tips for asking possibility-oriented questions:
1. ASK QUESTIONS THAT INCREASE CLARITY. Positive images move us toward positive actions. Questions that help us to envision what we want help us to realize it.
2. PRACTICE TURNING DEFICIT INTO POSSIBILITY. In most ordinary conversations, people focus on what they can’t do, what the problems are, what isn’t possible. Such conversations provide an endless source for practicing the art of the question. When someone says, “The problem is x,” ask, “What would it look like if it were working?” If someone says, “I can’t do that,” ask, “What would you like to do?”
3. RECRUIT OTHERS TO PRACTICE WITH YOU. You can have more fun and help each other grow into the habit of asking possibility-oriented questions. But watch out: it can be contagious. You might attract a crowd.
Finally, what is Creative Leadership to you?
PH: Creative leadership is engaged, curious, open, focused, and bold. Boldness inspires us to rise to the occasion. Focus points the way. Curiosity sparks exploration and pioneering. And engagement brings the diversity of others.
Asking possibility-oriented questions as one means of exercising creative leadership. So the next time you face a complex issue or disruptive situation, ask a great question. Then jump in with others to discover a creative response.
Peggy will be a panelist at our upcoming Creativity in Business Conference in Washington, DC on Ocotber 23, 2011. Come engage emergence with Peggy in person!
Invocation, evocation, and provocation share the suffix voke, which means "to call."
Evoke - to call out, call forth, elicit, awaken, call forth, excite, bring to conscious mind, bring into being, brainstorm, bring about, generate, give rise to, originate, sow the seeds, dream up, make, produce
Provoke - stir up, arouse, incite, cause, make waves, stimulate, start, fire up, enthuse, lead to, motivate, instigate, pique, thrill, promote, challenge, kindle, electrify, bring on, induce, inspire
Invoke - to call upon, appeal to, conjure, call from within, call on inspiration/something larger, entreat, implore, summon, pray, solicit, urge, implement, bring forward, appeal to, quest for.
(Definitions are compiled from several online dictionaries and thesaurus's)
While the distinctions are subtle and not clear cut, I see each as an essential part of cultivating your unique calling - the place where your creativity and aliveness meet the needs of the world:
I have create a new summer program - a week-long immersion into the Creative Self:
Creativity for your Calling: Engaging Your Aliveness
Do you feel you have a calling - a purpose - but are not quite sure what it is? Do you yearn to connect with and express that juicy creative wellspring you know is in you? Do you desire to move beyond the voices of fear, resistance and judgment into the voices of aliveness, meaning and passion? And do you want to have fun doing it? Then come play with us as you become more of YOU!
Your calling is unique to you and you are the only one who can bring it out into the world. A purpose, a path, an invitation, vocation, contribution, passion and/or a business, it’s your most significant "mission" in life - the call you know is deep inside of yourself just waiting to be expressed out into the world. It can be challenging to clearly hear that inner voice in the midst of everyday distractions. The good news is that your Creative Self knows how to carry it out
In this fun, soulful and wildly creative program, you will use your whole-brain and your body to answer the call. You will immerse yourself in arts-based activities, improvisation, body-centered practices, storytelling, intuitive reflection tools and other forms of creative process to hear your calling, draw it forth, and discover ways of making it real in the world. You already have your unique “signature” set of gifts, skills, experiences, and talents. This retreat will give you the chance to indulge and cultivate them. This program contains a balance reflection and action, receptivity and generativity, heart and mind; body and soul; and lighthearted play and diving deep.
By combining your unique creativity with focused intention you can:
• access and use your rich inner guidance
• awaken deep layers of your creative potential
• understand your big picture patterns and archetypal drives
• discover delicious new possibilities and directions
• connect with your "creative source" to move toward inspired expressions
• channel anxiety and overwhelm into productive creativity
• feel more engaged and alive in your every day life
You are vaster and more creative than you can imagine. This program is designed to have you experience the full-on aliveness of your Creative Self as you unfold, shape and form your distinctive “Calling Card” - an Action and Reflection Plan to continue the journey beyond the retreat setting. You’ll also leave with approaches you can practice at home, and ways of navigating the resistances that can show up. Creativity materials provided - just bring an open mind and heart!
Check my the Workshop page on my website for the next one
A day of one's, 1-11-11 seemed like an appropriate time to talk about new beginnings! In the spirit of new beginnings and creating what's next, I thought I would share a few (of many) ways to engage creative aliveness as we shift into 2011.
9 Practices for Cultivating Creative Aliveness
The following practices are not necessarily in a linear order, and you might go back and forth between them. It's not as much about a sequence as it is about engaging and responding in the moment: sometimes listening receptively; others times creating it out actively. By intentionally and consciously setting the "container" with the first three practices, you can be more present to adapting to the rest. Our right brain, by its non-linear nature, isn't one to follow our pre-set linear path...that's the domain of left brain. Any whole-brain creative process includes both linear and non-linear engagement. The right brain also loves to imagine and create new practices as we follow any existing method or approach. If you have an impulse along those lines, go for it. I experience all the time with my clients - as we get deeper into an emergence process, not only do new ideas and directions emerge, but new approaches for cultivating and discovering them emerge in the moment. There is an improvisational quality to each creative emergence - what keeps it so juicy and alive!
1. Clearing. Give yourself space, time and attention. Consciously set aside some non-distracted time and attention. Like any healthy relationship you have, or creative project you engage, your Creative Self needs quality time to thrive. Make your creative self your most important client - even if that means setting official "creative self time" on your calendar. Just like (hopefully) you wouldn't answer an email or tweet when with a client, give your creative self the same focused attention - it needs that to be seen, heard and known to be more active and reveal its riches.
2. Centering. Get centered. During your designated emergence time, getting centered allows you to be more present to what is calling to emerge within you. It is about having an intentionality, a clarity of focus and a presence, to be able to begin to hear and connect with deeper aspects of your creative self. Do this is whatever way feels comfortable...whether you do this via visualization, meditation, affirmation, embodiment, or however else you get centered. It can be any small ritual that serves as a pattern break out of your normal everyday consciousness and centers you. I do this with my clients at the onset every coaching session, and the rituals we use vary based on who they are. Find what works for you. This is your "sacred" time.
3. Asking. Ask yourself what is most alive for you NOW. It's not about the entirety of your vision and all that you can imagine - just what feels most alive within you now. Listening to what's alive now is like picking the lowest-hanging, ripest fruit from your tree of potential - it does have to be the complete vision. I often ask, "What's calling to emerge for me now?" which helps take it out of future potential (all that can be) and into the realm of the immediately actionable (what is now and next).
"Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." ~ Howard Thurman
4. Holding. Release the need for an immediate answer...or a familiar one. Hold the question before rushing to an answer or "the" answer. Instead of writing down a list with the same thoughts that you always carry in your left-brain, try engaging your whole brain first. The right brain processes much more quickly than the left brain - and is not inhibited by habitual thinking. Let your left-brain take a mini-vacay. Emergence needs so breathing room before being analyzed, evlauted and figured out. It is not about rushing into sense making. Indulge non-sense-making for a while.
5. Listening. Listen with your whole self, and whole brain. not just the left brain language. Pay attention to images, feelings, thoughts, ideas, surprises, seeming disconnects that come out of nowhere, impulses that emerge. Pay attention to how it feels in your body. What feels most alive? What energizes you? Do not wait for it to make complete sense before you validate it (more passions are not realized because they are judged as ridiculous before they have a chance to evolve. A new emergence, like any new birth, can be messy when being born. Listen for incomplete and partial directions, not entirely clear and sensible answers. In a creative process they usually unfold through cultivation.
6. Cultivating. Use whole-brain creative processes - draw it, paint it, move with it, embody it, act it out, etc - to break habitual thinking patterns, open up the creative aliveness wellspring, and draw forth its insights and wisdom. It's not about the entirety of your vision and all that you can imagine - it is about what is calling to emerge from within you now. By creatively cultivating it out, you access far deeper levels of information and insights about it than just by thinking about it alone. Use both left-brain linear practices with right-brain practices and whole-brain storytelling. Every emergence is a multi-dimensional story that fits into the context of who you are and expresses what's unfolding.
"Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time." ~ Thomas Merton
7. Tending. Also pay attention to images, feelings, thoughts, ideas, impulses that emerge as you go about your days, outside of your "sacred" time. Record them. Ask the question to your creative source a lot, not just once. Let it marinate. As Rainer Maria Rilke said, "Live the question." Deepen into it over time. Notice the patterns that emerge, the key themes. As we engage the process of cultivating what's most alive for us now and in the near future, then the next level of the vision will emerge - like a rose which unfolds in layers, revealing one layer at a time. That's how an emergence works. Many dreams remain idle because there's too big of a gap between all that can be in that vision, and what is simply next - and we can feel overwhelmed, or judge ourselves if not "on track" - and then we can shut down. By working with what is next day by day, the bigger vision becomes more and more clear over time...and accessible. Instead of a target to be hit, creative aliveness is more of a garden to be cultivated...and shaped into something tangible.
8. Creating. Once you have more clarity - you have diverged out and expanded the creative "playing field" of new, emergent gifts - then look at how to structure that aliveness into you work and life. The key, though, is to not skip over the cultivating and go right to the creating-it part as so many strategic plans have us do. With that approach you can get an action plan, strategy, or goal that is attainable...but may not give you the passion-infused life energy to see it through. The conventional way to stay motivated is through will and perseverance. This is still valuable for those times you do not feel like doing it. To YES-AND that...I believe, and have seen this consistantly over the past 14 years of coaching passion-centered entrepreneurs, that once you have connected to your purposeful aliveness, it is the greatest motivator there is. Motivation is then embedded in the goal itself, and not just something we need to use to achieve it. It's there within us to carry us forth even when we do not feel the energy of it.
9. Adapting. Let the vision be mutable and change over time. Balance planning with emergence. Have goals and hold them focused enough to guide the process AND loosely enough for new information, insights, and awareness' in the moment can shift them into something more alive (and often unexpected) - something that you would not have known until you are in the midst of your process. Some goals shift. Some are released entirely. And some new ones show up along the way. By keeping the long term directed and flexible both, and focusing on what's next, you have room to move, respond, adapt within the goals, making them more accessible...and energized. I heard a great term by Holacracy founder Brian Robertson that resonated with me for this concept: dynamic steering.
There is an improv principle: "Be changed by what is said or what happens" that I find also applies to cultivating passion-infused creativity. In engaging your creative self at deeper levels, you tend to grow and change as a person and meet up with the parts of ourselves that held back our creative flow. As we engage our creative aliveness, this often shifts our original goals into something else - often a more expansive version with some unexpected, emergent surprises. The key is not to get stuck when best-laid plans do not look as planned. They are often "evolutionary invitations" in disguise. Creators and pioneers throughout history have made some of their most profound discoveries and contributions via what was not planned en route to what was. Like John Lennon said: "Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans."
Like an improv scene (which is more what life is like than a formulaic, unwavering, static direction), know that that your visions will probably not play out exactly as planned. It can be influenced by a variety of factors and conditions you can't know ahead of time. It is a living, apdaptive story that will morph and change over time with real-time feedback...and being present to your alive-feeling, creative impulses.
Unseen resources that we do not know when we begin our journey show up along the way as we are engaging the journey. In emergence, the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts, and it often leads us to happenings far more alive, fun and meaningful than what our original vision can possibly give us. Life shows up most vividly in the cracks. Aliveness rewards letting go of over-controls. It's important not to need to know the whole HOW before you begin, just a direction and what is most alive...and an entry point. Be kind to yourself in your not-knowings and have fun!
~ 2011 Michelle James ~ www.creativeemergence.com
The following are lessons learned and insights gleaned from the trial and error of facilitating creative process with hundreds of individuals and organizations over the past 12 years. It requires a different focus, skill set, way of being and "container creation" than facilitating analytical processes. Below are some of the many principles and practices I've learned or discovered. Take what resonates and leave the rest :-)
Dynamic Balance and Facilitating Creativity in the Workplace
1. Set intention and embody purpose. Get clear on your intention - not only from a business perspective, (i.e., leave with a Strategic Plan), but also from the human element. Creative process in human beings is organic, and contains emotional energy. In fact, the more passion and inspiration, the deeper and more coherent the creativity that emerges. If you intend to support the growth, creativity and awareness of those you serve, you facilitate from a more meaningful place than if focused only on the business goal. If you take time, both in the program design and in the room when facilitating, to think about what is the service you are providing - the gift you are offering - it frees up your own creativity more to support that in your facilitation. Focusing solely on the task limits the creative potential. By genuinely focusing on what is yours to GIVE, (not how you come across doing it), participants pick that up – either consciously or unconsciously - and are more receptive to trying new things with you. Creative Facilitation adds some new “yes-ands” to what already works.
2. Focus on awareness in addition to what happens. Focusing on the awareness aspect allows it to be transformative. In all facilitation, the debrief can be one of the most powerful parts. It integrates the learnings and serves as a bridge to what’s next. In debriefing creative process, focus on what was going on INSIDE of the participants as well as what actually was created OUTSIDE in the room. This leads to self-awareness, which increases the chances of continued creativity and co-creativity after the workshop, program, or process is over. The more aware participants become of what emerges within themselves as they create - both what was most alive as well as what was most challenging - the easier it is to continue to navigate and cultivate their creativity beyond the workshop setting.
3. Understand the normal resistance that occurs with navigating the unfamiliar. Resistance is a healthy, natural part of the creative process. It only becomes unhealthy when it is allowed to block the process (by overemphasizing it and spending too much time engaging it, or by not acknowledging it all and trying to barrel past it). Be prepared for resistance to show up. It's usually a result of fear of entering the new territory, and it can show up in a myriad of forms - deflection, sarcasm, distraction, disengagement or, most often and most subtly, talking about what is already known. It's not something to be pushed down or avoided, but rather something to be acknowledged and moved through if it shows up. Acknowledgment ahead of time gives it permission to follow it natural course when and if it emerges. It is the natural “contraction” to balance the creative expansion. You find this in all of nature’s creativity. The flower feels the resistance of the bud most just before it blossoms.
4. “Fail” gracefully - be comfortable with messing up. This is a great lesson from improv theater. Improvisers do not see mistakes as static failures. Instead, we see them as dynamic invitations to learn in real time and an opportunity to create something new. To authentically learn how to deepen your experience in facilitating a transformational creative process requires you to be the explorer as well. Unlike facilitation that relies on what is known, creativity depends elements of the unknown. You can better facilitate that which you're willing to experience for yourself. Applied creativity has vulnerability attached to it as being experimental means being vulnerable. And, that means something you try may not work, or may work differently than you had anticipated. Go with it. USE that information as feedback to either refine for the future, or, in that moment, to take the group to another place. The facilitator’s discomfort with the challenges of creativity can inhibit the group's craetive process. (If you can take an improv class, do it…it's the quickest way I know to free yourself of the “the fear of failure” and develop a comfort with thinking on your feet.)
5. Adapt in real time. There's always a dynamic balance between creating enough structure and releasing. If you as a facilitator need to control the process, do whatever you can on your free time to get comfortable with letting go, shifting gears, and modifying the agenda in real time. Use the real-time feedback loop: engage, get feedback, modify; engage, get feedback, modify, etc. It’s an ongoing process, and like with all things, takes practice to embody. Do this enough and it becomes comfortable and easy…and alive! In fact, you will get to a point where it takes more energy to try to stick to the exact plans than to follow the creative aliveness of what is trying to emerge in the room. Be ready to adjust your "agenda" at any time for what is REALLY going in the room. Otherwise, you can get engagement, and even expanded perspectives, but generally no real novelty. Novelty contains an unpredictability within it, and to facilitate creative process means adapting to that unpredictability in real time. May as well have fun with it :-)
6. Work from your own Creative Edges, not your comfort zone. This creates a palpable dynamic aliveness in the room. You are all in it together. This may seem antithetical to our "expertise" culture. The paradox is that you must still deeply know and understand what you are doing before you enter the room, but then once in the room, hold it loosely and respond in real time. Be in your own unknown - a co-discoverer instead of the expert on their creativity. Allow yourself to be surprised. Don't limit them, or yourself, by your creativity experience or pre-existing assumptions. While you are the one creating the container and holding the space, this role is balanced with your own openness to what emerges. Creative facilitation is an open system.
7. Respect creative style diversity. To further expound on #6, one size, approach, method, technique, or even paradigm does not fit all. One creativity model definitely does not fit all. Understand that each person in that room is at a different comfort level, and will have a unique relationship with the creative process. Each carries unique and different stories of creativity in his or her consciousness. You give them tools and techniques as entry points, but be ready to let their creativity show you ways of creating that you can’t imagine. This expands your own Creative Practices repertoire.
8. Understand patterns found in the creative process. This allows you to facilitate during times of resistance. Another paradox: while each person has different creating styles and approaches that work for them, there are also re-occurring universal patterns that tend to emerge in a creative process. The deepest understanding comes from your OWN experimentation and learning, and will most likely be refined over time. Start with what you know, and open up to being "yes-anded" all the time. Look for patterns, not just techniques. Techniques only get you so far…patterns and principles allow you to create new techniques on and ongoing basis. Start where you are, be gentle with yourself as you learn, and learn from direct experience. Insights that emerge from experience and observation are give you a real-time agility that book learning alone cannot offer.
9. Embrace dynamic balance. Divergence AND convergence. Left AND right brain. Structure AND flow. Reflection AND action. That is one of the re-occurring themes in this post because it permeates all of creative process...and the complexity of being human. Creativity is filled with paradox. Setting up conditions for creativity is as well. Like with all natural systems, every situation, project, and group has a dynamic balance that will allow the most amount of creativity to emerge in that situation. Too rigid keeps the creativity bound; too loose, it gets unfocused. There is a balance between structure and flow. This is why whole brain practices are needed...the right brain to access NEW levels of ideas and information, and the left to discern and organize it.
10. Allow for self-organization when facilitating a group project. Inherent in the creative process is a self-organization found in all of nature. You see this all the time in improvised jazz or improv theater...something larger than the sum of the parts emerges and it is a coherent whole and unexpected. It is similar to the experience you have in those moments when everything just seems to effortlessly come together in a brilliant, yet totally unexpected, way. This possibility always exists in any group. One key is to not over-control the experience and allow enough space for the next level of creativity to emerge in the room. This takes some trust in the creative process itself...and practices recognizing, like in an improv performance, when you need to step up and lead, or step back and follow. Without question, groups have the capacity to self-organize around a creative task - a collective creative intelligence can take over that is larger than any one person's idea. You have nature on your side. We are natural meaning-makers, and creativity is naturally self-organizing. By balancing both directing and following in real time, you can more naturally moving to higher levels of coherence, meaning, and sense. (All “Aha’s” are deeply grounded in common sense at their new level). We have simply been socialized, educated, and trained to over-plan. Instead, we can learn how to work WITH the natural creative process.
11. Seek to make it safe, not comfortable.
Safety will allow people to open up and move into
unknown territory without the fear of criticism, failure. Too much stability, and nothing new emerges. Asking people to share what they already know is different than guiding them into their unknown. On the other side, without doing the “container creating” to make it safe, taking people in too deep too soon can throw them into chaos and they will shut down – and they lose trust in you. In either case, nothing new emerges. Find the balance of the Creative Zone - the place of creative potential between stability and chaos. Create a safe space AND guide your participants into new territory, which can be uncomfortable. Discomfort is a normal part of the creative process. In fact, if everyone is the room is entirely comfortable the whole time, chances are you did more
of an information gathering process than a creative one.
12. Fun is functional. There is more research emerging all the time that shows how fun, play, and “lightening up” have a serious role to play in increasing creative thinking and establishing creative work culture - not just as an outlet to do on your free time, but as a driver to navigating change and working on serious challenges in work and life. It frees the brain to think more creativity, and frees the energy in the room for more effective and safe collaboration. In fact, I have not come across any research anywhere that points to not having fun and not being playful as a more effective way of living and creating. To facilitate creativity requires accessing and being comfortable with having fun yourself. And, knowing how to bring it in purposefully, and in a way it can be accepted (and not shut people down). It's different for every group and every culture. Once you access your own "deep fun" self, you have more choice on what methods to use and how. As with all facilitation, know your audience.
13. Your inner stories directly impact the container you create for others. Check out all the stories you carry around creativity, fun and play. Do you hold them as separate from a business bottom line? Most of us grew up with the programming that creativity is something you do on your free time after the “real work” is done. Facilitating Applied Creativity carries a new story – that it is an essential part of the real work. It is more than something fun to open up a group, but actually something to help transform individuals, groups, teams and organizations; create a thrivable work culture, and feed the bottom line. Do you carry a story that creativity is for the domain of the arts...or do you know it to be present, in infinite abundance, for every person, group and system? What stories do you carry about yourself as a Creator? In knowing yourself as a Creator, and knowing that you are walking into a room filled with other Creators (whether they are aware of it or not) allows you to help facilitate a new story for those in the room.
14. Diverge...and Converge with discernment.
Facilitating transformational creativity requires your presence, adaptability, agile thinking…AND
discernment. Discernment keeps whatever
emerges in the room focused on the objectives, relevant, and purposeful…not just random creative expression (unless that is your goal). This means having processes for Convergence as well as Divergence. Divergence explores, discovers, yes-ands, and accepts to expand the playing field – the increase the field of potential from which to draw. Convergence discerns, focuses, fleshes out, uses what is relevant and leaves the rest. For a visual with more on Divergence and Convergence click here. As with each of these points, the dynamic balance is the key: expand, contract; explore, refine; value logic and intuition; planning and spontaneity. Most people naturally gravitate to more comfort with diverging or converging…find out which is your preference and practice giving more time and attention to the other.
15. Prepare yourself with pre-workshop creativity rituals. Creativity, by its nature, contains a lot of energy and newness. Facilitating novelty is not "business as usual." It's about leading a group into the non-habitual. It requires being resilient, agile, compassionate and an "expedition guide." Taking some time to do whatever you need to enter your own non-habitual state first can makes a significant difference. One of the best ways to do that is by taking some alone time before the facilitation, to do pattern-breaking exercises to increase your own energy and become present, alert, and responsive. The more of the whole-brain - and whole-body! - you bring in, the better. Like an athlete who warms up by stretching muscles, you’re a creativity facilitator who warms up by stretching beyond your familiar patterns. Try different things, like moving in non-habitual ways around your living room before you leave your house. You'll be alone, so the more “out there” you can be in the privacy of your own space, the better. Surprise yourself at how “out there” you can get! It will also help you be more comfortable when something “out there” emerges from a participant. Do it until you transform any negative self-judgment or evaluation you have into the joy of exploration. It will increase your energy and aliveness, and help you be more attentive and at ease with what shows up in the room. Creativity is messy. Non-judgment of self and others during the process is essential!
I am so passionate about this topic that I could go on ad infinitum :-) I have covered some of the basics here. It's challenging to use words-only to describe a fullness of whole-brain experience. This is not about one right way - it's a loose guide and exploration. My hopes is that something in here gives you food for thought, inspiration or validation.
~ Michelle James ©2010
Go to http://www.creativeemergence.com/wbfacilitation.html for more on our next Creative Facilitation Workshop. Offerred once or twice a year since 2005 in the Washington, DC area.
2. Consciously engage uncertainty. Whether we like it or not the unknown has now become our working partner. By actively engaging the unknown in small ways at first - such as with a low-risk/high-ambiguity project - you develop the essential skills to work with it in larger high-risk/high-ambiguity arenas. What would it take for you to go deeper into situations, pushing past what you currently know, before going forward? It feels counterproductive in our fast-paced culture, but by taking the up front time to go deep and explore multiple dimensions, next-level solutions begin to reveal themselves.
3. Allow the process to be messy. When we start consciously exploring unknown, there is a period of time where logic, order, and organization are put on hold as we get into the unearthing of new information. It can seem illogical, nonsensical, and even foreign-sounding as it emerges. Like all births, new directions are not necessarily tidied up and pretty as they enter the world. Similar to a baby being born, the ideas, structures and systems that emerge from the unknown space can look unrecognizable at first. The task it to continue to draw whatever shows up forth, amidst it messiness, until the new order emerges. There is a natural, self-organizing system at play in every emergent situation. How much time and space do you give to ideas to go formulate?
4. Actively leave the familiar. Just because something worked for one group in one situation doesn't mean it is necessarily repeatable. Look back to the past for what is relevant to the new situation and bring it with you. Leave the rest behind. It is in our nature to seek the shelter of the familiar even if we know it is no longer serving us. Leaving what is comfortable and not working to dip into the "empty space" to draw forth the new is challenging. Do you have compassion for yourself (or others) when you are frustrated, overwhelmed and feel like you hit a wall?
5. Use multidimensional creative approaches. By using a variety of creativity tools, techniques and approaches you can engage more of your brain and more of your senses. The human habit is to approach uncertain situations with the same set of analytical tools each time. No matter how focused and capable your thought process, unless you do something different to activate new parts of the brain, the information will still travel down your same neural pathways in the same way and you will come up with the same types of solutions. If you purposefully integrate alternative methods, whole brain thinking and multi-sensory stimulation, awareness is heightened and you become more responsive and resilient. What are some ways you can intentionally do this?
6. Be the Beginner. Probably the most significant, yet challenging aspect of navigating the unknown is the willingness to enter the beginner mind. We live in a knowledge based society. We are educated to have the right answers. The more we know, the more intelligent, capable, and competent we are considered. We are rewarded and recognized for that which we know, not for that which we don't know. Yet, in a world where the word innovation is showing up in almost every mission and vision statement, this is often exactly what is needed to move forward. It's not about abandoning what you know, but bringing it to the table to sit side by side with what you do not know.
7. Accept the human paradox. Within the paradox of human nature, being what it is, the unknown is both dangerous and exciting, a threat to be feared and a mystery to be revealed. We are mystery seekers. There is a multi-billion dollar mystery industry--books, movies, adventure tours, Internet games, and haunted houses. There is something about walking around the corner and not knowing what will pop out that is inherently exciting and alive to us. Uncovering and discovering are in our nature--just look at a child exploring the environment, looking behind every crack and crevice for what's next.
While a part of us may love the mystery, we have another part of us, in our reptilian primal brain, that has been hard wired to fear what is around the corner. Our ancestors knew well knowledge of our surroundings gave us control of a dangerous world. There was a real danger in leaving the safety of the cave. This is still true today. When we perceive threats to survival, we like to know what is next. Ironically, the same world that makes people want to retreat to their caves to hide from the "predators" is this same world that is requiring new levels of innovation to adapt and thrive. When is change exciting and when is it threatening to you?
The more you work with the unknown as a co-creative partner, the easier it is to stay grounded in the winds of change. It takes more than just deciding to embrace uncertainty to be able to do it. It takes understanding where you are in relationship to the unknown now, and then consciously choosing to be with the discomfort, and perhaps excitement, of exploring new territory. Underneath business buzz words, mission statements and strategic goals, there is an unsure human facing a new world. It takes practice. As with mastering any new skill, navigating the unknown is an ongoing process.
I had the great pleasure of presenting at TEDxCreativeCoast in Savannah on Friday. The theme was "Designing Creativity." I did my presentation on what I called the Improvidigm - a paradigm of sustainable creativity informed by the generative principles and practices of improvisational theater. Some of the patterns that emerged throughout all of the presentations included convergence, hybrids/integration, trans- and meta-, the human touch, passion, using creativity for social good/serving a larger mission, working with nature/living systems, connection, presence/mindfulness, new structure creating, transforming challenges into opportunities, and the unwavering commitment to making a positive change in the world.
6. Creative thinking combined with purpose skyrockets
motivation and breeds more relevant and successful
7. With safe co-creating, a group collective intelligence
takes over and the “whole exceeds the sum of its parts.”
8. Every challenge or vision contains its "solution" - it just needs fresh ways of engaging the situation
9. Mistakes are invitations to learn, grow and evolve
10. Creativity peaks at inter-connections and intersections:
• thinking and being
• logic and intuition
• structure and flow
• left brain and right brain
• action and reflection
• generating and incubating
• masculine practices and feminine practices
• autonomy and community