Loss : how it’s essential

Loss is essential. Only through loss can something new flow in.

A thought. Dropped in a moment. New insight coming in.

A definite idea of a plan. Loosened and let go of, even the slightest gap. Innovation of something better appears….Keep reading over on Medium, and give it a few claps if you like it! Thanks

If you’re interested in talking more about the work I do, just get in touch here and we can set up a call. read more

Creating fresh from wisdom

Processes are great. They bring efficiency. Processes are awful. They drain the life out of life! Processes, as a human-created concept, contain no truth either way. Instead look for fresh wisdom.

When I began my coaching business five years ago, I thought I would have standard processes for everything (my background in corporate HR & OD had trained me to see process as good for efficiency and therefore profit)…keep reading on Medium…
https://medium.com/@WildFigSolns/creating-fresh-from-wisdom-37b1ba7db348 read more

Diversity and Inclusion comes to Learn > Connect > Do

It’s going to be big!! On 30th November Learn > Connect > Do is back with something a bit different. It’s our Christmas event – nice and early to avoid bumping into the partying and quality time with friends and family – and we’re bringing you four – yes four!! – experts to join our learning conversation about Diversity and Inclusion.  If you already know you need this learning jump straight to the booking page on Eventbrite!

(Thanks to Gabriella Driver for sharing this great image from the recent CRF Conference.)

On the back of National Inclusion Week (#NIW2017) last week, and research conducted by PM Insight, this is an essential topic for organisations to engage with. Whether you believe we live in a VUCA world or not, creativity and innovation are essential in work and those qualities will only come through bringing and genuinely including different perspectives and approaches into the workplace’s thinking.


So in November we’re inviting four experts to come and share their knowledge and experience on some of the hot topics in the world of Diversity:

> Disadvantaged young people


> Menopause

> Mental Health

Make sure you read about Joanna, Sean, Deborah and Karen at the end of the post.

At Learn > Connect > Do we believe in an adult approach to learning and we like to do things informally so, for this event, the experts will be available around the room much like a conference exhibition hall – but without any hard sell! So you’ll get to choose which experts you spend your time with – whether that’s 1, 2, 3 or all 4 of them. It’ll be about relaxed conversations – learning, asking and exchanging ideas.


But this event isn’t just about gaining knowledge. We’re also going to explore the barriers to diversity – what stops us when it comes to Inclusion. As a species, we’ve been scared of difference in others for many years – just check out this video if you need evidence for that (thanks to Janice Keyes for the vid). And recent events prove this fear is still prevalent all around us. So we’ll be talking about this barrier and any others you encounter, understanding them and sharing ideas together for how to overcome them.


If we keep doing the same things we’ll keep getting the same results. This is a chance for you to choose to do things differently, to make work better.

It’s going to be a bumper event with mince pies and, of course, chocoloate included! And as usual, all profits will be going to TwentyTwenty so they can continue to do their great work. All this for less than £27!

We’d love to see you there!


Book here now!

Email me to go on the mailing list for this and future events.

For now, here’s an introduction to our experts…..

Disadvantaged Young People – Joanna Burrows from TwentyTwenty

To represent the perspective of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, Joanna Burrows from TwentyTwenty (Learn > Connect > Do’s charity partner) will be joining us. TwentyTwenty is an award-winning employment support charity specialising in supporting and empowering disadvantaged 11-24 year olds who are disengaged from education or not in education, employment or training (NEET). We break cycles of hopelessness, worklessness and dependency in the most deprived areas of the East Midlands, operating through Lifeskills Centres in Loughborough, Leicester and Derby.

We aim to consistently put the right people, places and opportunities around each young person, to counterbalance some of their persistently difficult home, educational and social experiences. We support young people to develop self-belief and motivation, achieve in education, learn work-ready skills and attitudes and find and keep a good job.


LGBT – Sean Russell from Get Out Stay Out

Sean Russell is passionate about LGBT and enabling employment. He’s the founder of the website:

www.getoutstayout.org.uk read more

Humans vs Bots – how a human team can gain competitive edge over the bots

We’ve all seen the headlines.  The bots are coming for our jobs.

In recent research*, the skills managers reported they need in the next 5 years significantly underestimate the importance of people.  But people skills are exactly what we need to differentiate ourselves from AI.  The top 3 skills the managers reported needing were:

1.       Digital and technological expertise (42%)

2.       Creative thinking and experimentation (33%)

3.       Data analysis and interpretation (31%)


And the people skills came in at 6th place.

The thing that sets us apart as humans is that we have vast capacities to be creative and experiment – but this stops when we’re in an environment where we don’t feel safe or valued.

It’s easier to feel safe when we’re surrounded by people like us but this isn’t where the strongest teams operate and it isn’t where the best ideas come from.

So flip that, surround yourself with a diverse team – some reflective people, some who drive the agenda, some who have creative flair, some who pay attention to the practical details.  This is when interpersonal problems arise because opposing styles trigger fear in us.  We don’t understand them.

The paradox is that these differences are exactly what you need for creativity, agility and innovation.

So as a leader, how do you maximise the full potential of your team?  How can you be stronger as a team than you are apart?

Leaders we talk to know that this is what they want to achieve but don’t know how to go about it.  They want the business to grow and evolve but fear losing their original vision and entrepreneurial edge.

A critical way to embrace this paradox and benefit from it is to fully understand each member of your team – what their strengths are, what energises them, what frustrates them – developing their ability to talk about this in an open and conscious way, growing mutual appreciation for what each person brings.

This process enables the team to establish conscious team “norms” – norms are habits or codes of behaviour that become the accepted way to do things.  All teams have norms but they’re usually unconscious and aren’t always helpful for creating the safety for brilliance.

Sometimes an agreed norm can be as simple as allowing everybody the chance at the start of a meeting to say how they’re feeling and what’s going on, or it might be agreeing to co-create agendas in advance.  Whatever your agreed norms, the part which often gets lost is the continued practice of them.  The norms slip from the helpful and conscious back to the unhelpful and nonconscious, especially when the pressure’s on, and the team’s success slips with it.  Regular team reviews are essential.

Our top tips for establishing helpful and conscious team norms:

1.       Everybody inputs into what’s working and what’s not

2.       Agree norms that address what’s not working

3.       Each member takes responsibility for maintaining them

4.       Regularly check how they’re working

5.       Celebrate the successes that come from them

6.       Adjust them if you’ve experimented and they’re not working

Do this in your team and you’ll maintain your competitive edge over the best bots in town!



Zoe and Helen work with top teams enabling them to harness their collective power. Get in touch to find out how we can help you maximise the differences in your team.



Read more about what we do here.


*(Accenture Survey reported in HBR Mar/Apr 17)

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 🙂


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.

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.


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

When did you last do something random?

While updating his Christmas list on my phone, my son started playing around with the new iPhone feature where you can select the next word from what the phone suggests. This is what it/he wrote….

Days like this is not the same thing as a result of the year before that is not an easy to play the piano lessons and a great way to go out with my family and friends of a good idea of what is up with my life I love you so much for me I have to go out with a few years and years in a row in my room for a long way toward an amazing job and a great way to go back in time and it will take the bus driver. I just want to see the same thing over and over a month or two days after the game with a new phone is so much better than a fart to go back and the rest is the most beautiful and the first half of the year of high quality of life and the rest of the day before I get a follow back on my way home and I don’t think that I have a great way to go back and I don’t think that I have a great way to go back and I don’t. You are the only thing that would have to go back and I have a good time with the new year with the new version is the only thing that would have to be the first place in a row. I don’t think that the new year with a lot more fun if I don’t TY me to go back and I you have a good time with the same thing to say it was the best of the day before I get a follow back please I need a good time with. I don’t think that the new year and I don’t think I can see it as an excuse for the next. I don’t know how much you love someone else to say it was the best of the year. I don’t think that I can see it as an excuse for the next few weeks and months and the other hand the same as a whole new meaning of a sudden it was the first half of the day I have. I don’t think that I can get it right away with the same thing to say it is not the same……

And so it went on!

I thought this was pretty cool!

And I also thought, how often do we just do random stuff, for fun, just for the sheer hell of seeing what happens.

I don’t do enough. Do you?


I believe in people being the key to success in a business and that success is unlocked by great bosses. I’m an Executive Coach for SME leaders to help create success for you, for your team, for your business.

Get in touch for a chat if you believe in this stuff too and you want your business to be even better – helen.amery@wildfigsolutions.co.uk
or take a look at my website to find out more http://www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

#CIPD14 #streetwisdom

I was really gutted I missed out on the Sheffield Street Wisdom a few weeks back so I was delighted that David D’Souza was bringing it to #CIPD14.

All I knew about it was that you came with a question
You walked around
You tried to find answers.

I believe in mindfulness, I know the power of our subconscious mind and I even know the difference a good walk can make to my own creativity and problem solving.

And yet I still wasn’t convinced that Street Wisdom would really answer my question.

But it did. I slowed down, I stopped and observed, I allowed those things to show a meaning.


I’m not religious but this stuff echoes the times when people say their God has given them a sign to take a certain path.

And maybe Street Wisdom is the modern day version of connecting with others, connecting with your environment and finding your way – something which the majority of people used to do in their church/temple/mosque….

What I do know is that it makes a difference – different differences depending on your starting point, your question, your mindset – but it makes a difference.

If this stuff can help us take one step towards better workplaces, one step towards greater innovation, one step towards feeling more balanced, grounded and clear – then it’s really worth it.

Want to experience it too? Give me a shout and I can help make it happen.



I believe in people being the key to success in a business and that success is unlocked by great bosses. I’m an Executive Coach for SME leaders to help create success for you, for your team, for your business.

Get in touch for a chat if you believe in this stuff too and you want your business to be even better – helen.amery@wildfigsolutions.co.uk
or take a look at my website to find out more http://www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

The art of the possible

On Friday 24th January a bunch of us got together with Doug Shaw in Milton Keynes to get creative in an Art for Work’s Sake session.

We all came with different creative backgrounds – some hadn’t been artists for years, some were starting to reconnect with their artistic heritage, and others were active artists.  And we all came with different expectations of the session – to give it a try, to build on previous experience, to see what it could mean for work.

I’ve purposefully used the word artist in that last paragraph because one of the things we spent time exploring was the fact that we are all artists – we are all capable of creating something – even if it is a mass of brown, as my 4 year old daughter likes to do by mixing all the colours she can lay her hands on.  She’s delighted with what she creates and that delights me!

That’s how we all start out in life – enthusiastic artists, all believing in our ability to create art in whatever form that takes.  As we get older, that belief starts to disappear and only the ones who school / parents think are ‘good’ at art will continue to believe that for themselves.

We’re encouraged to focus our efforts in education on the things that we’re best at – not such a bonkers idea.  But why does it have to be all or nothing? What’s wrong with weaving disciplines together? As we know from the success of crowd sourcing solutions, bringing a variety of people together creates more than if all those individuals tried to get to a solution locked in a room on their own.  So why leave art locked in a room all alone?

The challenge is that art is often locked, all alone, in a room in our heads for a reason.  A room marked ‘don’t do this, you risk humiliation!’.  Similar to Carl Fitzsimon’s post (http://thehrdirector.com/blog/what-colour-is-your-black-belt-and-the-art-of-humbleness-in-leadership/) about trying out karate (incidentally, another subject which weaves beautifully into the world of work and leadership) art is often an emotive subject, one which our limbic brain shouts at us not to do because of some horrendous experience of being ridiculed for our art as a child.  Well, you can’t blame your brain, it’s only doing its primitively inherited job to protect you from danger.

So what’s the danger? What’s the worst that can happen?

The answer to that depends on where you are?  Who you’re with.

If you’re in an environment of command and control, where you’re led by people who rule through fear, and who laugh at others to make themselves feel big and important then that’s probably not the best place to start giving art at work a go!  As found in the army (http://www.iedp.com/Blog/Toxic_Leadership_A_US_Army_Perspective), an intense microcosm of real life, where this kind of leadership behaviour exists you find an extreme reduction in moral, productivity and innovation, and even suicide, because the neocortex has shut down from the stress and gone into protection mode.

So, first of all, do you feel safe? Do you trust those you’re with?  Do you feel like you can try something and you won’t be laughed at? Do you feel you can give something a go and it doesn’t have to be perfect because it doesn’t matter, you’ll still have learnt something along the way?

If all that’s true, and you’re in that safe, trusting place where it doesn’t matter, well, what’s the point?  What’s the point of art in our lives whether that’s at home or at work?

Two words – Divergent Thinking

George Land and Beth Jarman have a book called Breakpoint and Beyond (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Breakpoint-Beyond-Mastering-Future-Today/dp/0962660523).  Their research involved the study of 1600 kindergarten children and their ability to think divergently – this is the ability to generate creative ideas by exploring many possibilities.  What they found –

Age three to five – 98% of children displayed ‘creative genius’ levels of divergent thinking

Age eight to ten – 32% scored at this creative genius level

Age 15 – only 10% were at creative genius level

They then tested 200,000 adults over the age of 25 and found that only 2% were creative geniuses.

So I guess we’re pretty good at churning children through an education system that teaches them convergent thinking, and the ability to adopt fixed mental models.  And therefore creating a world where so much creative, problem solving, possibility thinking is lost!

But it’s not all doom and gloom!  Because art is one of those activities that can promote divergent thinking!  And so you can create a workplace, or home life, where possibilities are the norm, and where people query and problem-solve to get to better solutions all the time.

But, be ready, because it’s not necessarily the easy route.  We discovered in the session with Doug, and put so beautifully by Clare Haynes, “bring creative is hard work”.  Our brains are lazy and like the path of least resistance because it conserves energy.  This means following the path in your brain that is a well-worn groove of doing the same thing you’ve always done.  Trouble is, doing what you’ve always done gets you what you’ve always got, and we know that this isn’t going to be a solution to competitive advantage as we hurtle at high speed into the future.

So, if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend exploring your inner artist and thinking about how you could bring that experience to your workplace in a way that works for your organisation and your people – creating visions, coaching, building trust in teams………start drawing and you’ll no doubt discover many other possibilities!

[If you want to see a bit of what we got up to on the day, go to #artforworkssake]20140128-084530.jpg