Creativity unleashed! Interior designer: John Jackson


A few months ago I was invited in to Chwarae Teg to discuss revamping their offices. This wasn’t going to be a cosmetic revamp, but one that would make people think and work more creatively and collaboratively. It truly was about making Chwarae Teg a great place to work. It was also about putting into practice their thinking around modern working practices, which is replacing the work-life balance agenda.

As I listened to John talk about his vision for the office and the difference he wanted it to make to the way people worked, and felt about coming into work, it was obvious that rather than outsource the design work John could do it himself.

As well as having the underpinning knowledge of the Chwarae Teg brand, ethos and future direction, John has a great sense of colour and style.  I’d done an interior design diploma years ago so I showed John how to draw out his ideas for key parts of the office. I also suggested he start a mood board to collect samples, ideas and colours together.


Today I had the pleasure of seeing the outcome.  I heard John explain the reason for each new addition to the office. The yellow type writer, in the new entrance space, not only looks cool and retro but is ‘a nod to the secretarial and clerical roles traditionally associated with women in the post war workplaces.’

Female carpenter, Phillipa Skinner was commissioned to create transparent screens that allow them to section off part of the office for training events.


They have hot seating for most of the staff and areas for ‘huggers’ who prefer the same space. Consulting with everyone in the team was a key part of the process. There is a vision board with the heading ‘Dream Office’ which everyone has contributed to. Now tell me one person who wouldn’t love to do this in their workplace?

Other features include a creative space, although I think the whole office encourages creativity, a ‘zen den’ for quiet time and  one to ones, and a hot desking area for female business start-ups.

Radically the ‘boss’, Joy Kent, doesn’t have an office of her own but hot desks too! Talking of the boss, it takes a certain kind of person to trust her staff with such a huge ‘outside-of- job-role’ task. Enlightened leaders know that their staff have a multitude of talents and it’s often a question of opportunity and permission to allow those talents to emerge- for the benefit of the organisation and the person themsleves.

The rewards for the organisation are exponential.  When people feel empowered and inspired they will contribute far more than their JD.  John was given the opportunity to access the interior designer within– just imagine what other talents lie within the rest of the Chwarae Teg team and where that will take the organisation?

The project is the subject of an academic study- so watch out for details when it’s complete.

I must admit I feel a little proud to have had an input into this- through a gentle nudge of encouragement.

Read more about the office revamp here.



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?!

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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?