January 23

Body language

Aside from the occasional confusions, frustrations, and anxieties over assessment I am really enjoying learning BSL. One of the most enjoyable aspects has been learning it with other members of the Graeae community. It is not often that an opportunity arises that allows board members, staff members and freelancers to come together on something that is not purely focused on the business of the company, although access clearly goes to the core of what we do.

While a few people did have some background knowledge we have effectively been learning something completely new together and I have found that to be a great leveller. We are all in it together and mutual support is an essential part of making the chemistry work. It is not uncommon to see

What’s the sign for…?


Or to share resources we have found useful.

This is all supported by a trainer who seems to have infinite patience and an uncanny ability to read our faces and know whether something has landed or not. I am quite familiar with learning environments, but it has been a very long time since I have had to learn anything by rote. I do feel that both literally and metaphorically I am surfacing and flexing muscles that haven’t been used from some time if ever, and this had made it all the more fascinating.

The last time I can remember having to focus so much on my body, it’s placing, shapes and expressions was when I learnt trampolining, not a comparison I had expected to make at the beginning and it is not intended to be a trivial comment. If anything it highlights for me that this is a truly embodied learning experience.



January 22

What has your gut taught you?

Try and recall:

A. The gut feel that worked

Think of an instance where you relied on your gut feel that resulted in a positive outcome. What was the context? What happened and what were the consequences? Try to identify the assumptions and inferences that led you to follow the gut feel. What were they?

B. The gut feel that failed

Think of an instance where you relied on gut feel that resulted in a negative outcome. What was the context? What happened and what were the consequences? Try to identify the assumptions and inferences that led you to follow the gut feel. What were they?

Source: Sadler-Smith, E., & Shefy, E. (2004). The intuitive executive: Understanding and applying ‘gut feel’ in decision-making. The Academy of Management Executive, 18(4), 76-91.

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January 21

Logic and Intuition

A couple of years ago I attended a great presentation by Prof. Sadler-Smith on intuition. It was lively, visual and intriguing. What struck me as particularly interesting was that it was given at a conference not on the creative industries or the arts but on human resource development. We all know that there is a difference ‘between the cerebral, which is based on words and numbers, and the insightful, which is based on images and feel’ (Campbell, 1991: 109)

Yet our formal learning environments often foreground the rational–analytic paradigm—the “diagnose, decide, design, and decide” approach. (Mintzberg & Westley, 2001) That is not to say there isn’t a role for that approach but it is most appropriate when;

 the issue is clear, the data are reliable, the context is structured, thoughts can be pinned down and discipline can be applied. (Mintzberg & Westley, 2001: 93)

There are of course many situations that do not have these characteristics, much of what we experience in our daily lives is open ended, ambiguous, fuzzy and messy. This is where the creativity and divergent thinking of our intuition come into their own. Where our emotions and gut feelings allow us to sense the situation and weigh up the options.

It also seems to me that the way our educational disciplines have evolved have further shaped these divisions – with science and management being mainly associated with the rational and the arts and design, and to a certain extent entrepreneurialism, permitted to be intuitive. It is also my experience that for the most part one is valued more than the other.

Surely what we need is not the either/or approach that has tended to dominate but a both/and approach. I know I have a natural bias towards an intuitive approach so I am mindful in my own development of reflecting on how I achieve an appropriate balance between my rational and intuitive domains.


Campbell, A. (1991). Brief case: Strategy and intuition – A conversation with Henry Mintzberg. Long Range Planning, 24(2), 108 -110.

Mintzberg, H., & Westley, F. (2001). Decision making: It’s not what you think. Soan Management Review, 42(3), 89-93.



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January 20


A complicated expressive gesture cannot be broken

down into a lesson plan. It can only be learned

through practice and repetition, with the goal of

reaching a point when it happens instinctively.

from McNiff, S (1998) Trust the Process: An artist’s guide to letting go

January 20


Two footprints in the snowWe played about in the snow today and as I watched the footprints build and cross and intersect it made me wonder about the paths we make and the tracks we leave.  Most people I work with talk with passion about wanting to make a difference, yet these are perhaps challenging times to hold onto such a vision. I think this makes it even more important that we are considered in the paths we take.

We will be known forever by the tracks we leave. Dakota proverb

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January 18

Changing perspective

It’s funny the things that make you look at the world differently. As some of you will know we’ve had a hefty dump of snow in the UK today. Suddenly the familiar becomes unfamiliar and even the simplest tasks that involve going out become adventures. Such a change is also easier for some to deal with than others.

It put me in mind of Jan Carlzon and his ‘Moments of Truth’ approach that helped turn around Scandinavian Airlines, incredibly his book of the same name was published in 1987. It is an approach that focuses on every moment or interaction that allows the customer to form an impression of an organisation. I liken it to trying to see things from a different perspective, to look at our work and world with new eyes.

This is not easy to do as we quickly become too familiar with what we do or our surroundings, as Malcolm Forbes once said

It’s so much easier to suggest solutions when you don’t know too much about the problem.

So how might we make a shift in perspective, we can’t always wait for it to snow! How about:

  • Asking someone else for feedback or to tell you what they experience, what are the things they notice?
  • Thinking about what you are doing or the problem you are trying to solve from the perspective of a blogger or journalist, what might they say?
  • Physically take a different viewpoint on whatever it is you might be looking at, sit in a different chair, turn it upside down, try and imagine seeing it for the first time
  • Take photographs of your workspace or activity, then really study them, what do you notice that you might not have noticed before?
  • Take your notebook or tablet device and make detailed notes of everything you notice as you move through your space, or experience your work. Try and make them as detailed as possible capturing everything from smells and sounds to feelings and what you see
  • Or as I mentioned elsewhere, simply take a brain break, take time out from whatever it is you are focusing on and come back with fresh eyes and a new perspective
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January 17

A new way to learn

For the last eight weeks I have been learning the basics of British Sign Language (BSL). Looking back I am not entirely sure I knew what I was getting myself into at the time, in fact between you, me and the laptop, had I known at the time I might not have signed up! That said, as with a lot of my best learning experiences, sometimes it is a good thing just to do it and see what happens.

You can imagine that at Graeae (yes, of Paralympic Opening Ceremony fame) it is important we all understand the importance of what we have come to call the aesthetics of disability. I refer to aesthetics in its true meaning, of knowing through the senses, and what it might mean when those senses are configured differently to others. As part of the etiquette of our training we are asked not to verbalise and this means that much of the training is conducted in near silence. I have never experienced anything like this before and it has been extraordinary. Don’t worry I’m not going to go on and say it has given me new insights into how it must be to be Deaf or hard of hearing for that would plainly be a nonsense.

What I mean is that it has taught me something about me, what I rely on, how I learn, and how important it is to come out of my comfort zone from time to time.


January 17

Those assumptions again

I started today’s blog thinking it was going to be something about personal reflections, how over the first few weeks of this New Year I have been both concerned with how I have come to this point in my history and what it may mean for my future. I find my usually optimistic self a little tentative about what is to come in 2013.

Then, through the wonders of connectivity I came across Regular Marvels a beautiful site/blog by François Matarasso that within just a few short minutes of reading had me wondering about my own assumptions about aspects of the arts I have come to know. To wonder about my own aging and how different that appears to me than that of my grandmothers.

Regular Marvels looks to be a project in its early stages but it feels like discovering something precious in the making.


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January 16

Strength of a Colour

Red letterbox on a wet day with leaves on the foor

I was really looking forward to the colour module and was excited about the opportunity to experiment. However, in doing the exercises through the Autumn/Winter months I have been quite frustrated about my ability to find the colour combinations I wanted.

In controlling the strength of a colour I was lucky to catch the last of the Nasturtiums. Although I haven’t included it on the website I also repeated the exercise with a red post box just to test the results. It seems to me that as the image becomes underexposed it looks to have more of a blue hue and as it becomes overexposed it has more of a yellow hue.

As an aside I also found it a useful opportunity to get a better feel for using the manual controls on the camera and how I can use them to manipulate the image before using Photoshop.



January 15

Explore, deplore – what more?

We’ll explore and deplore,
only that and nothing more.

I came across this quote towards the beginning of Alex Osborn’s book Applied Imagination, who was best known for coining the term ‘Brainstorming.’ He was also someone that believed in the need for thinking time. John C. Maxwell in Thinking for a Change advocates the same process. Both suggest the need for making appointments in your calendar for yourself, for just thinking, and keeping a notebook of your thoughts and ideas.

Anyway, back to the quote. I was really struck by it because it seemed to capture so much of what I hear from people these days, and I have probably been guilty of it too. We spend so much of our time and energy ‘fact finding’ or analysing that when it comes time for new ideas and imagination the metaphorical tank is empty.

I have also seen people staring blankly at mountains of data, knowing that it is telling them something but not being sure what it is or how to access it. It is almost as if the exploration has become an end in itself. I wonder what might happen if we spent more time on evaluation and elaboration.

What changes might we see?



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