January 15

Colour Relationships

Artifical Xmas tree with red stars against a red background



Blue ceramic jug next to a small glass of bright orange carrot, apple & ginger juiceViolet anemone petals with yellow cotton wrapped around them



Title: Proportions

Exercise: Produce one photograph for each combination of primary and secondary colours, adjusting your distance, focal length or framing to compose the picture in the following proportions:

  • Red & Green 1:1
  • Orange & Blue 1:2
  • Yellow and Violet 1:3

Approach: these images were taken over a period of several weeks as I became better able to ‘see’ possible combinations in the colours around me. The focus was primarily on colours in the domestic setting.

January 14

Follow that train

I have had some work to finish for a few weeks now and for some reason it was completely eluding me. I was aware of it lingering in the background but the energy and inspiration I needed just wasn’t happening. Today something shifted while I was doing my e-mails and my eyes wandered across the desk.

I saw something that caught my attention and while it didn’t give me the whole answer it started a train of thought that finally helped me to get started. I’m not claiming it was an ‘ah ha’ moment, I tend to agree with others that there is no single moment of creativity. The fact is I had worried away at this particular problem for weeks and finally all that subconscious work started to emerge and allow me the chance to decide if I had indeed stumbled across anything useful, instead of just feeling stuck. This put me in mind of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s writing on the creative process. He identified five steps (Creativity, 1996: 79) that certainly feel familiar to me:

  • Preparation – becoming immersed in problematic issues that are interesting and arouse curiosity
  • Incubation – ideas churn around below the threshold of consciousness
  • Insight – the point where parts of the puzzle start to fall together
  • Evaluation – deciding if the insight is valuable and worth pursuing
  • Elaboration – translating the insight into its final form
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January 13



We have a bamboo hedge and spent some time today tidying it up, A close up of several bamboo culms and leavespartly because it has got a bit ragged and partly because it was a good excuse to enjoy the crisp morning and get some air. As we trimmed and cut back culms and branches we noticed its structure and patterns anew. Each culm is effectively divided into a number of chambers, the culms get thicker every year, the branches sprout upwards in pairs and they always grow on the opposite side to the previous pair.

All this noticing made me reflect on yesterday’s blog and the value of taking time out. This wasn’t necessarily what I had planned to do with my morning but it really reinforced the value of taking time to look, think and feel. This week I am going to work hard to spot the patterns in other aspects of my work. It has also started me thinking more about curiosity and I want to look at that in more depth in the coming weeks.


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January 12

Take a brain break

Anyone who has done any training with me will recognise this phrase, while it does make a bit of a change from the usual ‘shall we have coffee,’ I do in fact mean it literally. Take yourself off for a while and give your brain a rest, use some different connections.

I was pleased to find a similar sentiment in Nicholas Bate’s book ‘Beat the Recession.’ It is packed full of all sorts of action ideas – well 176 to be precise. Under the heading of Tough Decisions he talks about making good decisions by taking time out. He entreats us to look after our brains and to give them a break.

Go home early and watch a film. Take a walk in the park at lunchtime. Go to bed with a great novel. Start swimming. Start walking more…Take your notebook to the cafe…

Whatever you do it is a good idea to give yourself a break from time to time.


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January 11

Brutal questions

Confronting the brutal questions (and facts) is an approach developed by Jim Collins (2001, 2009) from The Stockdale Paradox, which highlights the challenge of holding unwavering hope at the same time as confronting the brutal facts. Having listened to the news today it feels like this is an approach we all need to develop.

Admiral Jim Stockdale, was a United States military officer who was held captive for eight years during the Vietnam War. As Stockdale told Collins, he never lost faith during his ordeal: “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

The paradox is rooted in the fact that, while Stockdale had remarkable faith in the unknowable, he noted that it was the most optimistic of his fellow captives who did not survive the ordeal. They could not contemplate the brutal reality of the situation they found themselves in.

Sometimes asking the brutal questions and confronting brutal facts is vital. If this set of questions is not brutal enough for you, feel free to amend or add!

  • Are you happy?
  • So, you’re in charge. So what?
  • Do you or others put personal interests above your business interests?
  • What is working best in your business today? What do you do to contribute to it?
  • What is not working in your business? What do you do to contribute to it?
  • When was the last time you really talked to your customers/audiences/users about what they really, really want from you?
  • Are you prepared to give them what they want?
  • What are your most treasured assumptions about your people, customers, markets, products, services and yourself? What if one of them weren’t true? What would you do then?
  • Are you out of your depth?

Now, having looked at your brutal questions, what are your brutal facts? What are you going to do about about them?

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January 10


I had the proverbial flu over Christmas and it has made me really mindful of my energy levels at the moment. I had to do some pretty intensive concentrating this morning and was acutely aware of when I was alert and when I was fading, more so than usual.

I made sure I took some reasonable breaks, had healthy snacks with me and gave myself permission to daydream from time to time nonetheless by mid afternoon I was having to work hard to concentrate.

This evening I came across The Energy Audit and had some fun playing with the questions. Actually it was quite a useful piece of reflection, particularly seeing what emerged in terms of the four areas the audit looks at:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Mental
  • Spiritual

You do have to sign up to the site to get your scores, but even thinking through the questions might prove useful.

How are your energy levels at the moment?


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January 9

An infinite universe – or is it?

Hand drawn night sky with yellow stars and a wash of black paint
Finite or infinite

I am loving the anarchy on Stargazing tonight (BBC2).

A panel of cosmologists, astrophysicists and comedians are demonstrating beautifully that it is OK to say we don’t know or that there may be multiple answers.

As someone often involved in qualitative research, the phrase ‘physics envy’ has come up on more than one occasion and yet even with their calculations and scientific measurement the presenters are still talking openly about best guesses. This is not a criticism, far from it, I am delighted.

I often work with people who expend so much energy looking for certainty only to be constantly disappointed that it never materialises. Of course uncertainty causes anxiety but as I was once told …

 Confusion is your learning edge


It would be great to be able to be more mindful of our search for certainty, which is ultimately about a drive for control, and accept that through not knowing comes learning.

Stargazing summed this up beautifully with a great conundrum – it is as hard to perceive of a finite universe, as it is an infinite universe.

It was also good to hear lots of talk of beauty from scientists…

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January 8

Look up

Today I was reminded of the Stephen Hawking quote that featured as part of the Paralympic Opening Ceremony 2012.

Look up at the stars and not down at your feet … try to make sense of what you see … be curious.

This quote, alongside my beloved image of Alice on the home page, is a great reminder of my passion behind Infinite Curiosity. When asked about my research work I often talk about it in terms of curiosity, or more bluntly as just plain nosiness. For me it seems only too natural to be fascinated by what makes my world tick but I know that is not necessarily the case for everyone.

If you could follow your curiosity wherever it wanted to go where might it take you?


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January 7

Up ladders and down snakes

With all this talk of resolutions, goal setting and what 2013 might bring I was reminded today about the assumptions we make and how we are not always as good as we might be about challenging those assumptions. In my workshops I have often introduced the Ladder of Assumption as a useful tool., developed by Argyris and Schon it highlights our tendency to see the world as we are rather than as it is.

I find it such a powerful reminder that we need to check in with our assumptions from time to time and recognise them for what they are. We need to ask ourselves:

  • On what basis am I making this assumption?
  • What leads me to think this might be an appropriate assumption to make?
  • How might this assumption be challenged?
  • What might the consequences be for my assumption being wrong?

I find the metaphor of the ladder a great way of checking in with myself about conclusions I may have drawn all too hastily. Watch out for those snakes!


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January 5

Twelfth Night

Twelfth night is already upon us and the decorations now sit in a large heap; funny how bare it makes the house seem for a couple of days. They may be brash and sparkly but there is something delightful in their capacity to transform, I love the magic they weave and the memories they often carry.

Every year I have great intentions for how the house will be decorated, something just so, visually appealing and tasteful. And every year reality intervenes and compromises are made. It is one of the four tensions talked about by Otnes et al (2009) in their fascinating chapter on ‘Tinsel, Trimmings and Tensions.’

Where this used to fuel my anxiety I now accept it as part of what happens, something I try to acknowledge in my consultancy work too. I find it interesting that in my more creative work I am very open to the fact that where I end up is seldom where I think it will be, actually I usually regard this as a good thing. This may in part be the case because others are more accepting of it there too, being creative seems to give a certain licence to have change built into the process.


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