Learn > Connect > Do : Wellbeing and the Thinking Environment

A week ago on 9th March was the latest Learn > Connect > Do : an event held quarterly in Leicester which is for people professionals who care about making work better through doing great people stuff.  These are also people who care about giving back while they learn and I’m delighted that we raised a fantastic £130 for Twenty:Twenty through ticket sales.  This will enable a young person to get support with transport costs to get to their local centre to learn, or to go for a day out to celebrate their learning successes!  And even more than that, with the professional backgrounds we have there are so many other ways delegates can get involved and support these young people into jobs they might never have considered an option before.

Each time we meet we have a topic to discuss and learn about, and a facilitation approach for people to experience so that, if they think it could be useful to them or their organisation, they can go away and explore more for themselves.  This time we talked about Wellbeing – what are we doing about it at work? – facilitated using Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment approach.  The event was sensational!  One delegate said she didn’t know what to expect of it “but that it over-delivered by far!”.  Makes it all worthwhile 🙂

Having chatted, got to know each other and captured the questions all the delegates brought, I started things off with an intro to the Thinking Environment and how we’d use it as a group.  It’s a very different way of behaving together and so it needs careful set up to agree with the group how it’s going to work and why.  I highlighted how the Thinking Environment really connects to what we know, and are continuing to learn, about how our brains respond to threats, and also it has a strong connection to the theory of Human Givens which is about the conditions needed to help people thrive.

Andrew Harris then shared 8 (plus a bonus 9th!) top tips about how not to be effective with wellbeing.  You can read more about these in a great blog Garry Turner wrote after the event.  It gave a great, concise injection of information and advice to feed the later conversation.

Janice Keyes then took the reigns to help the group choose the top question they wanted to focus on – the choice was broad with aspects like influencing top leaders, showing ROI, engaging managers and employees, developing managers to have conversations about wellbeing, communicating what’s happening and what’s working, developing a strategy…..From all those options the group chose this question: “If wellbeing means something different to each individual, how can an organisation develop a strategy with the flexibility to meet those needs?”   Great question!

We then got into the Thinking Environment group activity.  The evolution of everyone’s thinking was fantastic – there was great diversity and appreciation of each other for new ideas that were introduced.  And laughs, especially when Rhodri highlighted the (unfortunately too often) sad truth that we only need the term “work-life balance” to demonstrate the fact that when we come into work at 9am we die, and only come back alive when we finish for the day.  Like David D’Souza’s Reverse Superman Effect.

Something that struck me was that the same goals we have of empowering people to take responsibility in work, to have clarity of the end game and everyone’s roles in that, and to help people more often choose what they do and when they do it are the same for the topic of wellbeing.  Therefore if you have a great, empowering, coaching-centred and human organisational culture, wellbeing is naturally part of that and doesn’t even need a separate strategy.  Wellbeing is the vehicle, not the destination” as Mark Gilroy so beautifully said.  The addition an organisation might bring is around education about physical and mental health, nutrition, sleep and exercise….  For continued pondering…..

The discussion was so rich and diverse I didn’t feel I could do it justice on my own (these photos show a snapshot of the brilliant thinking that was going on) and so I asked the delegates to send me their thoughts on it.  Here’s what they’ve had to say…..

 

Jo Lee wrote a whole post about it.

 

“I read Nancy Kline’s book “Time to Think” a while ago and I’ve heard it talked about a lot but I hadn’t experienced the thinking environment in action.  The thinking environment that Helen created last week gave me the space to think, to go with whatever came to mind, to let my thoughts evolve, without feeling I had to compete.  I felt very calm.  My takeaway was how powerful something so simple could be – just being able to speak and listen without interruption.  Who’d have thought of that?

My individual takeaway about wellbeing was less about the organisations and strategies that the question we talked about posed.  More about personal responsibility.  How we all have a responsibility to recognise and say how we are feeling – like a wellbeing contract with ourselves.  How what we mean by wellbeing can change, for us as individuals, as a society and how we live our lives.  I am also mindful how important people managers are in the whole wellbeing agenda but how they may not feel equipped or mandated by an organisation to promote wellbeing or respond in an individual way to the people they work with.”

Karen Foyster

 

“The Thinking environment process is powerful, moving, insightful and challenging.  Powerful and moving in terms of the depth of listening and understanding that one draws from the process.  Insightful as one hears and learns on a completely different plane/level.  Challenging as, I at least, am used to competing to be heard (in relative terms), so the serenity and calmness of the process is genuinely mind-blowing.   This is a process that I have already promoted to some colleagues internally and I will practice it in my own time also.

The Fit for Work presentation from Andrew was excellent, very insightful and engaging.  I learned a lot about the aims and process of this organisation, but I also took away the consistency of challenge, like so many other people interventions, that exist around introducing effective wellbeing into organisations i.e. leadership buy in, effective line management training etc

All in all genuinely my best CPD experience of my career to date.”

Garry Turner

 

“The session was a perfect fusion of process (thinking environment) and content (wellbeing) with each being integral and complementary to the other. To have the opportunity to talk and listen in such an uninterrupted, focused and purposeful way was illuminating and made for one of those ‘moment in time’ sessions we all hope for as facilitators. What was most striking for me was the synergy between the process and the content – our own wellbeing (many of us reported feeling calmer and clearer) was being enhanced as were discussing the topic. I am already thinking of how I can use this approach for teams in crisis and for leaders who are under significant pressure”

Kirsten Holder

 

“So many gems. I appreciated hearing from others about how to promote wellbeing as a strategic consideration for any organisation. Helen’s facilitation of Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment was positioned expertly, and a timely refresher of a highly valuable facilitation tool, one which enriched the quality of the conversations throughout the session. All this, topped off by the knowledge that a portion of the cost is being donated to a worthwhile local charity. It’s easy to cover a lot of content in a short amount of time…but to also have time built in for reflection, networking and practical takeaways, that’s something special. Time well spent.”

Mark Gilroy

 

So thank you to all the delegates for their energy and wonderful thinking on the day.  Thank you to Janice and Andrew for facilitating the session with me.  Thank you to Mark for taking fab photos.  And thank you to Bianca for supporting me with the very important and hidden administration to make the event happen.

If you’re interested in joining a future event, the next one’s 8th of June 3-6pm at The Observatory in Leicester.  If you’d like to go on the mailing list, email me.  Or keep an eye on the website, or on Twitter (#LearnConnectDo) or on my LinkedIn.

It would be great to welcome you to this growing community!

 

The Chinese Buffet Effect

As I write this I feel like David D’Souza who’s an expert at these analogies with life (as an example, you can read about Chicken and Business Plans here). I hope mine hits the mark. It’s not rocket science, or brand new information (HT Phoebe), but it’s something I re-noticed while working with a leadership team this week – and I don’t think I’d ever previously made the broader connections of this effect in other activities.  Plus I love Chinese food!!

So here’s what started it. The leadership team I was working with were creating their collective underpinning beliefs for effective meetings, and then the tangible actions they’d display to live those beliefs.

What they noticed was that, in the two distinct sections of the morning, they worked more effectively and efficiently in the part where they had more structure to their discussions, where they had time limits applied to how long they spoke or discussed for, and when they began by getting all their ideas out on the table first to then distil, prioritise and refine.

And lo, the Chinese Buffet Effect was born.

Imagine you’re at a Chinese buffet restaurant. You’ve looked at the dishes available and taken what you want to eat. Then towards the end of your meal the chef brings out a new dish. By this point you’re already full or nearly full and you find yourself with two options – decline this new dish – even if it is the one you love the most! You’ve had enough already. Or push on through and indulge in the final dish so you leave feeling so full that you don’t know what to do with yourself.

What would be ideal is if the chef had brought out all the meal options from the start so that you could have chosen the right amounts of each one based on your favourites and appetite.

The same applies to so many aspects of work:

Meetings to generate ideas – get them all out on the table (thank you chefs!), choose which you want to go with (your favourites) and keep to the time available to make decisions (your appetite).

Personal time effectiveness – write out all the things you could possibly do with the next hour, prioritise the things that will make the biggest difference (your favourites) and decide how long you can spend on each (your appetite).

Creating a marketing, training, or any other similar plan – generate all the possible ways you could communicate, train, etc and then prioritise the activities that will make the biggest difference (your favourites) within the restraints of time and budget available (your appetite).

Create an agenda (for a meeting, group learning, regular 1:1, coaching, mentoring) – get out all the things that people could talk about (favourites) and then prioritise what’s most important for these people in this meeting and within the time limits available (appetite).

As well as being an effective way of working individually, when others are involved you also get the chance to hear from multiple perspectives which leads to greater engagement and commitment to the plan.

Plus rather than keeping on eating, and eating, and eating – adding more and more topics or ideas in – which saps your energy as your belly (or brain) swells, you start with everything you need on your plate and eat your way through what’s there, getting to a point of decision or closure – or leaving the restaurant.

And there’s a balance with this – you can’t stand in the restaurant until your favourite food comes out – you could be waiting a long time if they’re not serving it that day. So also know when to cut your losses. Know when to say – we’ve spent enough time getting the options / topics / tasks out on the table, there’s a “good enough” selection – we now just need to start distilling, prioritising and refining – or eating!

When else could you apply this Chinese Buffet Effect in your own or your team’s life?

When will you give it a go?

Bon appetit!

Building for Collaboration

Today I’m delighted to welcome Shirley Marshall to the Wild Fig blog.  Shirley’s an HR Partner at RCI and came to the last Learn > Connect > Do event in December.  I was delighted when I heard that Shirley took her learning back to work and wrote an internal blog post to get others thinking and talking about the topic of workplace and collaboration, and she’s kindly given permission for it to be re-produced on here.

This is what the “Do” of these events is all about!  Having met Shirley and experienced her commitment to making work better, I’m confident that this will be the start of some changes for her and her colleagues.  For now, it’s over to Shirley with her reflections and questions that may just get you and your colleagues thinking and talking too.

I recently attended a think tank session at the Beefeater Pub in Leicester and given the topic was “do we still need offices” it was pretty relevant not to have the session in the office environment! As I walked in, the atmosphere felt friendly and warm, not like the traditional “seminar” type environments which we are often greeted by when attending such events. It immediately got the creative thoughts flowing in my mind!

To kick things off, a guest speaker (Dan Pilling) took to the stage to demonstrate the facilitation technique which was Pecha Kucha; a presentation style designed to facilitate dynamic conversations and consists of 20 images over 20 slides, with each slide having a 20 second window therefore making the presentation just 6 minutes 40 seconds. Dan is in Facility Management starting his career in the functional world of, how do we make the most of this space? However, as the world has moved on, so has his role in terms of managing stakeholder expectations and needs to ensure the office is not only functional but meets the needs of the business in terms of organisation goals, culture, engagement and brand.

Pecha Kucha was engaging and I focused on the content of Dan’s presentation rather than what was going on within the slide. It gave me inspiration for future toolkit sessions or open days that offer short, engaging “bite-size” insights rather than long presentations.

Dan’s presentation was thought provoking, and sparked many questions in my mind, but on review, they culminated into one overall trail of thought: what stops collaboration across different office environments, be that across floors in the same building, or across different locations?

Is it culture? The facilities? The IT? The behaviours/habits of the people? The communication channels? A lack of empowerment? Is it a combination of all of these factors and if so, how do these things integrate? We often look at these topics in silo but perhaps we need to bring it all together to make sure the objectives are aligned and conducive to teamwork and collaboration. In order to do that, we require alignment cross function and physical location, ensuring that everyone has access to the same resources and opportunities regardless of physical location or the team they sit within.

After the presentation, we split off into groups to brainstorm some ideas and resolutions to the current challenges we were facing….. We discussed the “us” and “them” mentality, with one member of the group – Garry – explaining that within his organisation they had Finance & IT on the 5th floor and Sales on the 8th floor and although part of the same organisation they were two distinct functions, with no sense of commonality, even to the point that the Senior Leaders within each floor had not had regular meetings until 2 months ago. This got me thinking about our recent office moves, and those that may be upcoming. I have heard people talking about how a particular team have moved “to the other side”. Perhaps it is a natural inclination to box ourselves and others as it enables us to simplify our complicated lives, & gives us a sense of belonging. But how can we move away from that when it prevents a culture of collaboration?

I started thinking about how many pockets of collaboration are occurring across our region, different teams do this in different ways…. But how do we communicate these tools that are currently being used in isolation? Team collaboration is fantastic but if we are all working to the same common goal and purpose – to send people on the vacation of their dreams – then let’s bring all of this together! I felt like we have all the right tools and stepping stones, but there is an obstacle – perhaps an unrealised one that prevents inclusion/sharing of these tools and insights.

A possible obstacle to this is the natural desire to pigeon hole ourselves into areas of expertise – but who should be involved and who makes the final decision? How often do we take a step back when it is something we are an “expert” in, and ask for other’s opinions or feedback/input? People that are collaborating across the business at the moment, could really benefit from including other people in their discussions but how do we foster an environment that makes it ok to reach out and include others. In fact, how do we ensure that people across the business know who is the most appropriate person or team to involve?

Is it also true to say there is an out of sight, out of mind mentality? How many people in the Midlands office understand what the Spain or London offices do? Predominantly it is only those working directly with those teams that would have an awareness of that.

Further to this, we often hear people talking about how busy they are – is this real or is it for perception? What if people have loads of time to share ideas and participate in collaborative thinking sessions, or just catching up with other functions and organisations – does that give the impression they don’t have enough to do?

Giving ourselves time to think and improve and collaborate should be part of our day to day and accepted within the culture, not perceived as time wasting. Some managers might be better at encouraging their teams to take the time on such things than others. How do we make this ok?

Before you leave this blog, take some time to ponder these questions….

Who could you better collaborate with?

What stops you from collaborating?

Do you give yourself time to think and reflect?

If not, what stops you doing that?

What would be the benefit of making time to think?

 

And finally….

What commitment will you make to do things differently in 2017?

 

[Image credit : http://blogs.informatica.com/2014/05/01/pim-is-a-silo-breaker/#fbid=SBF1IUS70NT]

Do we need offices?

BREAKING NEWS! Ian Ellison now also speaking at Learn > Connect > Do!!  Read on….

On 1st December it’s Learn > Connect > Do, the event for people professionals who care about making work better.

This quarter we’re talking about our workplaces and spaces and stimulating the debate from the position of “Do we need offices?”.  It’s fantastic to have Dan Pilling and now, not just Dan, but Ian Ellison too!  They’ll be joining us to bring us their deign and workplace insights and get the discussion going.  As the Chair and Deputy Chair of the BIFM Special Interest Group they know their stuff!

So why this topic?  With the gig economy and our ‘always on, work anywhere’ technology surely we don’t need to all be in one physical space together any more.  But then even Google has offices – and they clearly invest a lot in how they look and feel.  Most of us don’t have those kinds of budgets so what can we do where we work?

google-offices-2 google-offices-3

What’s it like for you?

Maybe your business has a regionally or geographically spread team.  Are they based in offices, from coffee shops or from their homes?  What impact does this have on how you and they work day to day?  What’s great about it and what stops this being useful?

Maybe your workplace is tired, uninviting and temperaturely chaotic.  What impact does this have on the teams and their wellbeing and effectiveness at what they do?

Or perhaps your workplace is in one location but inside it feels like lots of separate spaces – physically and emotionally.  Which areas are seen as better off and which are the poor relations?  What does this mean for how people communicate and collaborate?  Does the space reinforce silos between teams?

And then there’s the whole open plan vs closed offices.  Introverts and extroverts and highly sensitive people.  How do we meet everyone’s needs?

We’ll be exploring these and no doubt many more questions on the day so you can leave with new ideas and practical solutions that could make work better where you are.

Join us by booking here, we’d love to see you there – and Pulp Friction will definitely appreciate it – all profits this quarter are going to them 🙂

birthday-fizz-and-cake

P.S.  It’s our first birthday so there’s the chance for a cheeky wee prosecco and some birthday cake!

P.P.S.  I’m currently working with Simon Heath on re-branding ready for the new year so keep your eyes peeled for the new logo to start 2017 off in style!

P.P.P.S. If you can’t make this one but you’re interested in future events, send me your email address and I’ll put you on the mailing list.  And in the meantime pop these dates in your diary for 2017 – 9th March, 8th June, 14th Sept, 30th Nov – all 3-6pm.

#cipdldshow – How comfy are you?

Next week sees the CIPD Learning & Development Show coming to The Olympia in London!  I’m fortunate to be on the Blog Squad again, alongside bloggers old and new, so I hope you’ll find what we share interesting, thought provoking with maybe a few giggles in there too.

CIPDLDShow16

Already, Jo, Ian and Jonathan have written some great pre-event pieces.  I’ve been meaning to write for a while and was wondering what might be most useful to share.  Then this weekend, inspiration came in the form of this TED Talk via a good colleague Garry Turner.

I recently learnt a new approach to problem solving called Polarity Thinking which is about solving the challenges we often come across, and which we believe are a choice of A OR B, but which are in fact something which we need to solve through A AND B.

The talk from Knut Haanaes highlights one of those such challenges – keep doing what we’ve always been good at OR be innovative?

To be at our best this isn’t an OR challenge to solve.  It’s an AND.  For individuals, as for organisations, we’ll achieve the best results by recognising and keeping our strengths (Exploitation as Haanaes calls it) AND by always pushing , always seeking, always discovering – staying at our learning edge (Exploration).

Haanaes refers to the quote from Bill Gates “Success is a lousy teacher.  It seduces us into thinking we cannot fail.”  Very true if we allow success to go to our heads and swell our ego we can believe we’re invincible with no fear of failure.  And, what Haanaes doesn’t talk about, is that success can also increase our fear of failing.  If we start to look like we might know what we’re doing then we don’t want to rock that boat and let anybody see we might not actually be “all that” which they think we are.  So we stay safe and keep doing what we’ve always done because that’s what got us success.  Minimise the risk.  Protect ourselves. A safe and comfy life where we’re good, but not great.  Where we might just lack some excitement, interest or motiativation.  So whether success grows or shrinks your fear of failure, both reduce your levels of exploration.

So, I invite you to ask yourself now.  How comfy are you?  How close to your learning edge are you?  How is your balance between exploiting your strengths AND continuing to explore?

If you’re noticing you’re more on the comfy, exploitation side of that continuum then why not book on and join the conversations next week with an open mind to see what might light a fire for you and start some exploration.

See you there!

#cipdldshow

Expectations in a Box

Think of yourself at work and how it feels right now.

If you imagine you’re in a box at work, what would that box be like?

Are you in a roomy box with space to spread yourself out and change position?

Are you cramped in a box that you feel you could burst out of any minute?

Do you remember once feeling like you could burst out and now you feel like you’ve shrunk to fit inside?

What about your team?  What are their boxes like?

“The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

man-stuck-in-box-no-control

Our brains are constantly scanning for danger, these days danger isn’t usually an animal that wants to eat us, it’s a threat to our self esteem, or our ego.  We’re raised in a world where being ‘right’ and ‘good’ are the things we’re meant to strive for*.  That’s what gets us praise, good school grades, a good job, a pay rise……stuff that boosts our self esteem and positively strokes our ego.  Interactions that make us feel like this are helpful to calm our fearful brain down which improves our thinking, helps us feel more abundant and generous towards ourselves and others, helps us become more creative by connecting dots.  This then leads to a growth in confidence and the desire to try more things, to push the boundaries, to come up with new ideas.  To coin the lyricist R Kelly, we believe we can fly! read more

Feedback would happen all the time if…. – by Margaret Burnside

I’m delighted to be hosting this piece for #FeedbackCarnival from Margaret Burnside.  Margaret works as People Development Director at ERAS Ltd with a focus on developing leaders, both locally in East Anglia and nationally.  Margaret has a passion for coaching and mentoring and here writes a practical guide to providing feedback to others in a way that is beneficial to the recipient.

Feedback would happen all the time if… we helped managers with structure and guidance

Giving feedback is a key management skill, yet, so many managers I meet worry about how to do it. Let’s face it – we don’t have many great role models out there, do we? Looking at some of the TV programmes with a ‘feedback’ element probably won’t help ….

Britain’s Got Talent has a great feature – if the judges don’t like someone’s performance they press a loud buzzer and a big red cross lights up, how well would that go down at work? To be fair, they do back it up with comments, ‘that was lousy’, ‘You have a dreadful singing voice’, ‘ I hated it…’ How helpful is that to the individual? How does it help them to improve?

The ‘X Factor’ works along similar lines, quite subjective – not always helpful even with the positive comments: ‘ I really love your voice’ ‘ You did really well tonight’ WHAT did the singer do that was good? We learn a lot from feedback about what we do well but it has to contain information about our behaviour or performance for it to be useful to us.

The reaction to positive feedback can often be one of embarrassment or discounting – “Oh, it was nothing” or “It wasn’t really me, it was a team effort”. As we are not used to receiving enough well delivered feedback we can be unsure about how best to respond to it. The more we give feedback the better others get at responding to it and appreciate it as it is intended. Behaviour breeds behaviour, feedback breeds feedback …

The Speaker

A series on BBC 2 – The Speaker, was looking for the Young Speaker of the Year and there were some amazingly confident 14-18 year olds on that programme. The judges and mentors were particularly good at giving helpful, constructive feedback. They clearly described what they liked or didn’t like, why it worked or didn’t work and if it didn’t what else the presenter could have done instead. So there’s a great structure for you …

What and Why for positive feedback and for things you’d like someone to do differently or better, use the What, Why, What structure. For example:

WHAT – you asked that customer some great open questions

WHY – that worked well because you were able to gather all the information needed in order to solve their problem.

Or

WHAT – you did most of the talking in the last meeting

WHY – that didn’t work because you didn’t get any ideas from the team

WHAT – you could have done instead was ask questions and pause more …

This simple structure ensures the focus is on changeable or repeatable behaviour and actions rather than on personality.

> What tips would you give to encourage managers to be more confident in giving helpful, actionable feedback?

In a crisis

In a crisis we come together.

While standing on the train station this morning, waiting for the fast train to London with all the regular commuters, the silence was deafening. Everybody was so separate. So isolated. So absorbed in their own world.

It felt desperately alien to me and I wanted to talk to someone – anyone – to create some human connection.

Our train was delayed, only by 5 minutes, but as the tannoy announced its arrival I thought about those instances when trains are REALLY delayed. Where people start to talk to each other; first about the state of the train service but then moving on to work and personal conversations. Sometimes discovering they have some kind of connection in common. And in those instances when the train finally arrives, people cheer together – connected through the adversity.

We see it over and over again. Give us a crisis and we come together. I remember in my last job when one of our shops was very sadly burnt to the ground. The team effort which ensued was incredible, there was pace, there was communication and collaboration across boundaries, deadlines were left for dust, people went over and above. And it resulted in a new store being built in record time. A store which then went on to outperform its previous sales results as it became a beacon of pride for the local team and community.

I remember at the time it was used as an example to say “we can achieve amazing things when we come together like that. If we can do that more of the time, we’ll be flying”.

So what stops us? What is it that means we only connect in a crisis? That means we only behave as our most awesome versions of human beings when the chips are down.

SOS

I saw this TED Talk of Simon Sinek recently and I think there might be an answer in here.

Our primitive brain still plays a significant part in how we operate today.

Simon describes in this talk about our primitive heritage when we had to connect and be social for our survival. We had to be able to collaborate to ensure someone was on night-duty and watching over the rest of the tribe while they slept. We had to work together to catch food so everyone could eat.

And in the days of our primitive heritage, a state of crisis was more the norm than the exception. Our stress response was a necessary physiological response to ensure we survived to see another day and ensure procreation would continue.

Bringing this to today, the stress response is still alive and well, it’s just that the sabre toothed tigers have turned into bosses, competitors, shop fires and delayed trains.

And so it’s in these circumstances of threat that we pull together, connect and collaborate just as we would have done all those years ago.

So this is perhaps an explanation for our innate ability to pull together in a crisis but how do we make it happen more of the time? And how do we make it happen without the need for the stress response to kick in? Because as much as our ancestors lived more on stress than not, pulling together more often than not, I would guess their life expectancy was a fair bit shorter than we have today. We know that prolonged periods of stress make us ill – physically and mentally – so the answer isn’t to create stressful situations more of the time.

So what is the answer?

Maybe it’s the opposite.

Positive Psychology is about making more of the good stuff. Finding strengths and doing more of those things that let us use them. Focussing on what’s gone well. Seeing what’s gone not so well as an opportunity to learn and adjust. Being appreciative of what we have. Being believed in.

When these things are present we’re awesome versions of human beings and even better because, in contrast to the stress response which narrows our thinking, being in an environment of positivity and safety broadens our thinking. Broader thinking means more opportunities are spotted and more great things are created.

This broader thinking is what enabled us to progress ourselves and our world from those primitive days. Although back then the predominant feature was threats, there were times when we did feel safe and it was in these moments that we invented stuff and created new solutions to help our subsequent generations find shelter, food and stay safe more easily.

So by now, you’d think we’d have invented so much of this great stuff that we’d feel super-safe and be at our best, most positive selves all the time.

And yet that’s not true. As Rick Hanson writes in Hardwiring Happiness, our mind is still like Teflon for the good and like Velcro for the bad. Another hangover from our primitive days to ensure we stayed alive.

So this positive stuff, we have to work on it. We have to re-train our brains to help us be our awesome+1 selves more of the time.

But imagine that: awesome teamwork, communication, delivery of results, going above and beyond – and all without the need to be in a crisis!

This is me – www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

WFS Tree

That money thing – a sequel

GFN Death Star

I was a bit premature with my money post last night. That left-field idea my son had might not be so left-field after all.

we are unstuckCQ_headerlogoToday I’ve been in Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema for an event called Think> Create> Do> hosted by Sarah King of We Are Unstuck, and the Nottingham Creative Quarter.

And what an event.

The first people I spoke to over a cuppa were brilliant and engaging – passionate about what they do to make a difference in their bit of the world. And this was just a hint of what was to come.  This post only covers the first couple of hours of the day so there may be more to come but for now…..

First we heard from Pam Warhurst. Pam founded Incredible Edible in Todmorden. Pam had spent her life in roles involving committees and papers and lots of talking but not much doing. That’s when she realised that the DOING of it is so much harder than the CHATTING about it. And she wanted to start some DOING.

Incredible Edible

She found the end of a thread that joins us all as a community – eating. If you eat, you’re in. So she’s found a pretty good hook to connect people! But this isn’t just ‘bring good food to people’ in an average sort of way. In her home town of Todmorden they created Propaganda Gardens. They just went to underused places, and used places, and took them over, and sometimes asked permission, and sometimes didn’t. Her and a team of volunteers have gradually planted up these areas with food – veg, salad, fruit, herbs – and invited local people to help themselves. It took some time for trust to grow – that it would be OK to take food from these communal garden areas. Some of which are even people’s front gardens that they’ve made accessible to passers-by.

But now, with a core team of about 10, over 400 volunteers are involved – finding new places, planting, growing, maintaining, eating, cooking, sharing ideas – connecting. And all for free.

And the Incredible Edible logo has become a symbol in the local farmers market for local food. The stall holders have seen growth in sales, which has grown their confidence and led to further investment in their businesses. Pam calls it ‘sticky money’ – money that stays local to the area.

They’ve even created a tourist route round the town so people can see all the gardens and they’ve made sure it includes local cafes and shops who’ve also seen sales grow.

And they’re going into schools to educate future generations on growing their own. Did you know that by 2050 40-50% of our food will need to be grown in urban centres?

People take as much as they want, and when it’s gone something else gets planted. People don’t vandalise the sites; when treated as adults we behave as adults. The police say community relations have improved and environmental damage is down.

Inspiring isn’t it? So inspiring that there are now 100 communities (UK and beyond) who’ve joined in and created their own propaganda gardens to connect their communities.

So, to my son, yes, you can grow and give for free and it works.

Then we heard from Tom Farrand, one of the founders of Good for Nothing. Sarah first introduced me to Good for Nothing last year because she leads the Nottingham chapter, and I’ve since joined the Leicester one led by Avnesh Pandya.

Good for Nothing

I can’t believe I didn’t think of these guys during the money conversation last night! The clue’s in the name. Good for Nothing (GFN) is all about doing Good in the world around us – for Nothing. It’s about bringing people together, in their own time, who might never normally otherwise connect, and making amazing things happen, with a common purpose to change something meaningful.

Often the work that’s done by GFN is in support of local charities, enabling them to access skills and experience they could never afford to pay for, and others’ time which can be worth 6 to 12 months’ worth of their own.

The events are run in an adult ‘self-managed / self-organised’ sort of way. People are given the option to choose which challenge they want to work on, then they get stuck in with the other people who’ve chosen that same challenge. It’s a hack. A collaboration. A chaotic brilliant creative environment where stuff gets done. This isn’t about chatting.

Tom and his co-founders started GFN after becoming disillusioned with the day job where they were creating and refining products and packaging that are part of the consumer economy we now have. An economy that we think will bring us happiness. But it doesn’t. And all that packaging that’s been worked on by immense brain-power in large organisations for months…….tweaking, adjusting, perfecting…….goes to landfill. There’s more to life than that isn’t there?

To run, both GFN and Incredible Edible rely on the generosity and donations of local people – web design, sign printing, communications food, drinks, and more. And they access a small amount of funding to remain sustainable.

But isn’t all this a fantastic step in the direction that my son suggested?

Products, time and skills being given freely to benefit others. No expectation of anything in return. Just the warm glow of being part of something good with others who believe in the same stuff, to fulfil a purpose to make a difference.

Currently, as the world is today, these people who give do also need an income to live.

But what if that starts to change?

What if these pockets of brilliance grow and spread?

What if this becomes the way we do business in the future?

What could it be like if there really was no money?

Thank you to Doug Shaw for these great additions –

Alan Watts on “If money were no object” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7rsTjQfxmA (just a few mins)

And this – Positive Money – how the current system is totally, well…..bonkers! –

http://www.positivemoney.org/ read more