Where’s the play-doh Prith?

Do you ever get off track?

Do you sometimes do what you think you should do rather than following your instincts?

Earlier this year I was commissioned to run a bespoke development programme. This was a big project and I was pretty excited. It would combine sessions on leadership, management, marketing, and creative thinking. The content was a great mix of my skills and knowledge base–what could go wrong?

After lots of preparation, I delivered the first session. It was packed full of content- lots of theory and exercises. I thought I had delivered a sound, well thought out session. The evaluation sheets were all positive but there was something in the air- something less tangible- perhaps voiced most succinctly in the comment “Where’s the play-doh Prith?”

In case you don’t know me, play-doh has become a bit of a trademark tool for me. I use it to help people think differently, to rekindle some of that gorgeously innocent childhood sense of creativity and imagination.

The comment :”Where’s the play-doh Prith?” was really asking– Where were you in all of that content?  Where was the creativity? As I realised this, indeed as I write it now, my heart sank. I was trying so hard to deliver a ‘good’ management workshop I had succumbed to convention and lost my essence. Regardless of what I was teaching- it should have been inspiring, fun and creative- because that’s what I/my work is about.

Everything happens for a reason. The huge lesson I learned that day? Be you!

People don’t buy what you’re selling- they buy you and the way you do things. You might also want to add ‘why’ you do what you do- Simon Sinek.

It’s so important to recognise and value ‘your essence’- your USP if you like.

My question for you: Do you know why people do business with you? Why do they pick you over everyone else?

If not, take some time out and get clear on it. Don’t be afraid to ask people.  Once you’re clear- draw a picture of it, write it on a post-it note, do whatever you have to do – then put it somewhere prominent. Use it as your compass, your guide and add a huge splash in to everything you do.

How does the story continue you might be wondering?

I wanted to turn this around so the next session was going to have major creative input from me! I was going to do it my way. As well as having great content I wanted people to leave the session  feeling good, energized, excited and motivated – these were my new training objectives. It also, somehow, had to include play-doh!

Thinking through clay                Play-doh people

As you can see not only was play-doh woven into the session- we also had music and dancing!  (Yes we’re still talking management). We started and ended the session with Pharrell William’s ‘Happy’.  Did anyone get up and dance with me at 9.30 in the morning? Of course they did- the senior managers no less!

I felt good- they felt good- my world was now much better- happy in fact! The waters were flowing. I made a silent promise to myself- not to fall into the trap of convention again.

In words of Oscar Wilde:

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

 

P.S. Sometimes it’s hard to share moments of non-brilliance- but then that’s all part of the journey….and the learning can take us to new places.

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Amazed by people’s creativity

Last week was a busy week. Through it I learned so much- about people, about my own practice as a trainer/facilitator but the most remarkable,  amazing thing I witnessed was people’s natural ability and desire to be creative. It reaffirmed to me why I do my work and has encouraged me to develop a sharper focus in this area. Let me tell you more…

One session last week was based on the ideas in my book- Who says you’re not creative?  It was a new session with brand new exercises. One of these activities involved ‘big paint and big paper’. In my book I talk about ‘big pens for big ideas’ and this was a visual variation on that theme. I’ve been wanting to try this out in my workshops for a while but the opportunity had not arisen- until now.

Working in small groups, people were given big paint and big paper and freedom to create and explore in whichever way felt good for them. (They were given the option of creating around a theme- but they opted to go ‘freestyle’).

I equipped people with sponges and rulers to spread the paint but instead many of them dived straight in with their hands. They did hand-prints, hand-spreading, hand-glunking- (yes I just made that word up) it was fascinating and exhilarating to see. No one cared about the mess- they just got on with it and enjoyed it. Further into the session one group started picking up the paint and flicking it across the paper. How free is that?!

Image    Image

I wanted the exercise to be creative and liberating and thought people might be slightly anxious or nervous. I was wrong. People more than welcomed the chance to play. ‘I haven’t painted since I was at school’ said one person.

There were different degrees of messiness but everyone engaged and made their own sense- or no sense – of the process. ‘This arrow is about direction and these shapes are about the different things I could do.’ Is that an abstract artist speaking? 

I should tell you they didn’t do this from ‘cold’. This exercise came after a morning of film making- but even so the intensity of creative energy that flowed still surprised me.

There were other more serious parts to the session including a question around blocks to creativity- this too was amazing. Some of the issues that came up were not to be found in text books on creativity so were a ‘real insight’ into how people felt. Some of the illustrations that accompanied the words were also fascinating.    

So what did I learn? I had a hunch that people wanted to play, be free, get messy, explore….for no apparent reason. I had a hunch that the painting exercise would be liberating- freeing in some way- and I think it was.  I also learned that people are far more ‘up for it’ than I had imagined. The desire to break out and break free- and be creative- is strong. I am so happy that this is the case!

I have a great belief in creativity- if that’s the right way of putting it. I believe it can be freeing, enjoyable, connective, stress-relieving, engaging, an alternative form of expression….so that session or rather the response from those fabulous people, reaffirmed my belief and has encouraged me to continue to create and design more inventive, playful workshops.

Thus far I have taught creative thinking tools but had a sneaky feeling there was something missing- I’ve now found that missing piece. My insight: in order to be free thinking – you have to first set yourself free. To be creative, I believe, you have to engage in the creative process.

If you need some new thinking and you want to work creatively- drop me a line. You and your people have so much potential- isn’t it time you tapped into it?

Detox your mind…create

Ever wanted to detox your mind?

We hear lots about detox- usually about the body- but how do we detox our cluttered minds?

Before Easter mind was full. Full of the past, full of the future and a dash of the present. But I knew I wasn’t truly present.  My priorities were muddled. I was doing too many things and I was being influenced by too mainly people coming through my inbox- know the feeling? I needed to do something about it- but what?

A few weeks before, for a train trip to North Wales, I bought a book called ‘The Artists Way’ by Julia Cameron. It’s a classic book about getting over creative blocks and connecting to your creative self. I should tell you that I love reading. Mostly non-fiction: business and personal development books. I’m also a bit of a TED-Talk junkie. As I skim read the first few chapters I read a section that said – stop reading books, listen to your own voice. Wow! What was that? How could a writer suggest we stop reading? As I took this idea in, I realised just how important it could be- especially to a book-junkie like myself. I talk about creativity yet I’m also consumed by other people’s ideas through books and videos.

About the same time, I came across Eckhart Tolle being interviewed by an American actor/ director about his book – The Power of Now. I’d tried to read his book previously but I’d found it too difficult to grasp. But watching this interview- I understood his whole concept- which is simply but profoundly to be in the now.  He said something along the lines of ‘sitting on this park bench we have no business thinking about the future or the past. All that matters now is this. Simply observe.’

So pre-Easter- my head is too full. I’m a little lost. My mojo has gone- what was I trying to do in my business? Why was there such a disconnect between me and what I was portraying through my website?

The family holiday was coming up so I decided to use it as a total break- no laptop, no business books, no anything. (I didn’t even take my newest book- ‘Miracles Now’ by Gabrielle Bernstein- which all about meditating and being in the now). I must admit usually I’d use my holiday to create new plans/ visions or services. Not this time. I banned myself.

I decided to consciously take time out, to ‘sit on that park bench’ and just observe. I would take time ‘to listen to my voice’. (I’m also a bit of a hippy).  I would no longer consume- just create. So I packed a blank journal, a new watercolour paint box and a pad. My resolve was pretty strong until I saw my husband choosing books for the holiday and I thought- maybe just one for an emergency! So in a came a Paulo Coelho just in case my experiment left me unhappy- I was on holiday after all!

I read nothing at the airport- just people watched. I read nothing on the aeroplane- instead I had a great conversation with my son. If I was buried in a book I think his headphones would have remained on- but as I was open- we had an amazing conversation! The experiment was already paying off.

My son is 15- conversations generally between us are rare- but this one was about life and aspirations and was a great start to the trip. I forgot my son had this natural coaching ability. He put me straight on my business and helped me rephrase what I was doing in a much more marketable way. He showed me some quotes which he had on his phone and I felt better already. Thank you son.

The ‘no book’ diet continued for the next 4 days. I just sat on the beach and watched the sea. Sometimes I took out my paint box and doodled with colour. The first few pictures I did were muddy and confused but half way into the week they were much better- brighter, fresher, free-er.

One morning I attempted to meditate (sit quietly) on the beach while my son ran. This was so not like me! But we did it and it was gorgeous to just sit and watch the peacefulness in the cool morning air. As I sat there I thought something would come to me- but it didn’t. No insight. No voice. Where was I? But you know- the nothingness was good. I enjoyed the whole thing. There was nothing to judge, no responsibility for taking action- just the freedom of being.

At this point I may sound like an overworked stressed out exec- which I am not. I run my own business and the responsibility of self employment can tire you down- however many plus points there are to the position. I was now just enjoying the freedom of being responsible for nothing. I’d left it all at home.

I sat around and I painted. I also wrote on a couple of occasions. A friend had suggested I write as a way of healing some stuff that was still ‘getting in the way’. It was hard emotionally- but I made a start and noticed how I remembered certain things- and what a joy it was to recapture those memories.

During that week I had a second great conversation with my son. This one was on the last day whilst walking on the beach. We talked about life, ambition, having to do what it takes, being brave enough to show up, and being less concerned about other people. This advice was all from him. I just asked questions and waited to receive his wisdom on the subject.

I might be an unusual parent as I really do believe that our kids are here to teach us. As adults we think we know, think we should know, but really do we? Aren’t we a bit battered and bruised by life to see things as they might be? I love my kid’s ambition and focus- he aims high and knows he has to work- ‘you just got to want it bad enough Mum’ he tells me.

One of the most remarkable things he said to me on that walk was based around a rock in the distance. We’d been walking for a while and I said “Shall we head back now- the tide’s coming in and we might get stuck?”

“This is typical of you Mum- you’re afraid to go as far as you can. You stop when things get difficult. You have to have the courage to go beyond the rock”. My son had previously ran on this beach, beyond the rock, which is why he wanted to show me what was on the other side. He also wanted to carry on being ‘the coach.’

As we got closer to ‘the rock’ the waves were getting larger and we got soaked walking through them. That too added to his metaphor “don’t be afraid to get soaked- embrace the moment!”  Beyond the rock was beautiful, quieter and hardly a person in sight.

From that day ‘the rock’ has come to be a great reminder of the whole conversation we had whilst waking along Salgados beach. He recommended I keep a photo at my desk to focus on- what an idea- what a kid!

I never did hear my voice on holiday. Nothing came from within. But within a couple of days of coming back I started to have insights.

#1 I suddenly had an urge to put a stamp on my website that read “Under Creative Destruction”. I wanted to revamp and simplify what I offered.

#2 There was no need to create anything new- I just needed to put a spot light on one tiny part of what I did- and grow and nurture it- so that it and I could reach our potential.

#3 I am what it says on my business card- and a great one at that! There was no need to be anything else. I occupy a great space-creativity- have fun with it!

#4 You can work just by sitting and watching the sea- there is no need for a laptop or any writing device- you can do most things in your head. Being by the sea was restorative and completely natural for me. I must keep this up.

#5 Take your paint box to coffee shops. Using my new watercolour box was a great way to switch off- just pure playfulness. Out of the playfulness will come clarity and insights.

This was my voice- finally finding its way out into the open. Clearing away the tumble weed that had been floating around my brain. Showing me the way- showing me the hidden gems that had become obscured by the busy-ness of life.

Two weeks in and I am now back ‘on books’- reading again everyday. Sometimes it’s a necessity of my role- sometimes it’s just the book junkie in me.

Having said that, I now also realise it’s a necessity for me not to read- especially when I’m developing a creative workshop. I need to connect with my own voice, my intuition, my own knowing, my own curiosity.

Why this blog? I want to share how it’s possible to clear your mind. To encourage you to do your own mind detox so you experience some peace, be released temporarily form your responsibilities, to give your voice a window to come through. Be open for conversations you may have with amazing people.Take time to see how beautiful the world is.

How? Stop consuming, stop the flow of junk into your head. Just be, watch, take it in….and create.

Fancy a brain work out?

Developing your Mental Flexibility

Mental flexibility- the pliability of your mind- openness- the associations you can make where at first there seem to be none- a skill essential for innovation.

Most of us however are quite rigid in our thinking. We see a chair and we say it’s a chair and use it to sit on. Where’s the harm in that you might say? There is none. That’s how the brain works. It problem solves and takes that solution to the problem next time we come across it. It remembers, it learns, so that we don’t have to continually solve the problem of working out what a chair is every time we see it.

There is however a slight problem- because if we continue to bring previous solutions to problems we face- which are now coming to us in a different point in time- we never think up anything new. We come up with the ‘same old- same old’ as they say.

In some ways the brain functions, because of necessity and survival, in a very uncreative way. As a result we have to make an effort to develop that mental flexibility where we don’t just adopt the first solution that comes to us. We need to push ourselves to unlearn, to make new connections where there are apparently none.

Edward de Bono has developed a series of games based around the principle of word association- which helps us address this problem- you could think of it as a ‘brain work out’.

So it’s Friday lets play for a while.

brain workout

Take a sheet of scrap paper and list the following 8 words in two columns: tortoise, TV, stone, toilet, tiger, lipstick, tent, chimney. Now see how many connections you can make between the left and right columns. Give yourself 2 minutes. Maybe do this with your colleague sitting next to you and make a bit of a competition out of it!

How did you find it- difficult? Just like physical exercise- it gets easier the more you do it.

In my workshops I use this exercise as a precursor to brainstorming, using a random word, to help generate new ideas.

Just to continue on the game playing theme you could also select a few random words and think up a board game or perhaps a new sport. Just think of all the crazy games you’d play on a school sports day- not the serious stuff you see at the Olympics. So here are your words for new sport: Shoe, Sauce, Ladder and Skeleton.

Give yourself 5 minutes for this one and you can recruit a friend to help as its lots more fun that way. (Might also be a good party game at Christmas!)

So how did you get on? I’d love to hear what you’ve come up with.

A Rush of Creativity

A rush of creativity since the launch

Since the book’s been launched part of me has been eagerly awaiting responses from people but another part of me has allowed myself to ride on the wave/ vibe of my book launch and see where it takes me. I have experienced a huge rush of creativity and it feels amazing!

I’ve been working on ‘Break out Break free’  which is almost formed, so I shall be emailing out invitations for the pilot workshop soon(some scribbles on this below). More recently another idea has floated in…’Dare to Dream’.

Big pens for big ideas!

Big pens for big ideas!

The Process of Creativity

The process by which ideas are coming in is also interesting. In addition to my conscious scribbling in ‘work hours’ there is some night-time stuff happening too!

It might be the hot weather, but over the past 2 weeks I have developed a little pocket of work time, which is probably around 4-6am, where I have the most amazing thoughts, visualisations and conversations with myself. Well I did say in the book “Make the most of sleepy states” so here I am – my body and mind doing just that. Playing around with fuzzy ideas and then letting them take shape in this deeply relaxed state.

I have worked on the detail of a workshop I’m doing in Brighton in October- in particular visualising the all important opening. I’ve worked on a 3 hour Dare to Dream workshop which I have also presented to a whole audience from the stage! That was a tiring night!

Making use of my creativity ‘Sparklers’

Obviously not all my ideas are good ones, so I usually discuss them with trusted ‘Sparklers’. Dare to Dream has had 2 positive responses from people from the corporate and business world:  “We never give ourselves permission to dream and it’s difficult to make time in a life which is just full of stuff to do. Having a dedicated space would be great- do it!”.

So I’m going to trial this soon- Saturday morning- August 24th – in fact. Email me if you want me to post you details. Just as an inventor creates prototypes I create short pilot sessions, at a low ticket price, to test my ideas too.

On a conscious level I’m questioning myself- should I really be trying to implement all this new stuff- is it shiny penny syndrome? As well as my core work of running monthly Innovation workshops and my new Creative Mastermind Group,  this is a lot more new stuff to be developing and ‘getting out there.’

But some of this stuff I feel in my belly – so it has to be done! They are so exciting they need to be given a space to breathe and take shape. They may or may not work but if I run them as pilot sessions, at a super-low ticket price, then I can have fun with them and explore their potential.

As for my current process of creativity, I’ll run with it for now, always keeping a book by my bed. I do think however it is passing, as the nights draw in and we ‘go back to school’ in September my body clock may revert to more traditional working hours. (But you never know!)

P.S Comments on the book welcome.

You can buy the book ‘Who says you’re not creative?’ on Amazon

After the party

A party to celebrate "Who says you're not creative?"

Last week I threw a book party!

Over the last 18 months I have been working on a book “Who says you’re not creative?”

I finally published and celebrated this milestone in my life on Monday July 22nd- which also happened to be my birthday. (I usually ‘take stock’ on my birthday so this seemed like a good day to launch!)

I was overwhelmed by the support in the room- around 30 people came after work on a hot sweltering Monday evening. I showed my book to the world: business pals, close personal friends, my husband and son. My presentation went well, I felt relaxed rather than nervous and I had lots of positive feedback. A little light drinking was also had- including a matching blue cocktail which the Manager of the bar kindly supplied- what a party!

A week after the party

So after all the fun and celebrating what happens now? Now that people will begin to read my work? Am I nervous? Maybe slightly. Writing a book is an interesting process on many levels. During it’s creation you question your credibility for writing a book. You also think of particular people, maybe work collegaues or family members, that will read it. What will they think of it?? Will their opinion of you change for the worse?

For me to have published I had to confront these questions and be able to deal with them. On a concsious level I feel ok about everything. My job, for me, was to put the book into the world. I needed to see if I could do it, I needed to discover for myself what I thought about this fascination subject that is the basis of all my work.

I recently re read Susan Jeffers book Embracing Uncertainty and she said something that struck a chord. She gave the example of Drew Barrymore ‘letting go’ of her movies once they were released. She almost kissed them good bye and disconnected herself from what people might think of it- as this was beyond her control. Jeffers calls this the ‘scissors of the mind’ exercise. “As long as you are tied [to an expectation] you are not free”

An audio I recently listened to also provided a perspective on this situation I now find myself post party.   ‘You are not the opinion of others..in fact you are not even the opinion of yourself’. This took me a while to understand but once you get it- it’s great one to have as part of your belief system.

So it’s gone- I’ve done my bit to create it. Some people may not like it- others may love it. But if there’s one thing in there that inspires someone to change and create something positive for themselves – I think that’s pretty good. Also- as long as I like it- I’m ok with the opinions come my way.

Post party feedback

So far I’ve had a couple of tweets back. Saying ‘love your book’ which is great. A friend of mine Deborah Burdette also mentioned me on her blog today.

“I had a major clear out of my office this morning. I’m in need of some fresh ideas and the thought was that if I clear my desk for new things I’ll clear my mind for new things too.
I’m reading ‘Who says you’re not creative’ by my friend Prith Biant and will be doing some of the exercises she recommends to get some INSPIRATION!”

I’m meeting her on Friday so I’ll be able to chat more then.

Do I have post party blues? No not at all. Now is just the beginning of more that I want to create around the book. I have a vision board full of ideas! More new workshops, an audio version, note cards with quotes from the book, may be even a full colour version of the book. This is just the beginning- the party in my head has only just started!

The launch party photos

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Wow the launch – what a fabulous evening in beautiful Cardiff Bay! Thank you to all the lovely people who came to share the moment with me.

Steve Williams: At @prithb‘s book launch. Great to see so many here. Let’s start #daydreaming again!   Aimee Bateman: Great evening at @prithb new book launch party. Lovely to see @GreenGrassWales & @moneywales also. Victoria Dere: Great book launch @prithb. Looking forward to reading Who Says You’re Not Creative. Lee Sharma: Congrats to @prithb – great turnout at the new book launch in the Bay. Love the personal message in my copy #GoPrith Clive Thomas: Enjoyed @prithb ‘s book launch tonight – fabulous book “Who says you’re not creative” #buyitnow! Gareth Jones: Fantastic evening celebrating @prithb‘s book launch w/ @CoffeeAppleUK @meirionm @ZokitCardiff @GreenGrassWales and more. Very enjoyable. Neil Lloyd:  Looking forward to reading @prithb ‘s new book

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“I’m going to take this book on holiday with me along with Celestine prophecy which I haven’t read for ages. Will come back renewed!”

“Wow you were so inspiring. I have to give a talk later this week and now I feel much better about doing it. I’m going to read this book tomorrow morning first thing!”

“I’d like to buy 3 books please. One each for son and daughter and one for my business colleague who is my Sparkler!”

“I felt very inspired when I got home and can’t wait to read the book. It will probably live on my desk in work xx”

10 people also signed up to explore their creativity through for my new ‘Break Out Break Free’ workshop which is based on the book. Can’t wait to put that together later this month.

Please do post your comments about the book on here as the website is still under development.

The book is now available on amazon. http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1489574026

P.S Thank you so much to the gorgeous people at Salt who provided complimentary snacks and the co-ordinating blue cocktail! It all added to the magic of the evening.