Is your organisation being blinded?

Is your organisation being blinded by too much data, information, and insights?

Without data, information, and insights you cannot plan. However, too much can pose a challenge.

Just like highlights blind an artist or photographer, the shadows may hide important shapes and texture.

What might be the consequences if you and your team filter out the most abundant and most obvious data?

Could you get a better picture of your organisation by shining a light towards the teams and departments that are less prevalent at expressing their ideas or suggestions?

AiST is a program that provides you and your team with an introduction to an additional way of thinking about your organisation that could enable you to outsmart your more conventional competitors.

Light and Shade Poster A4 01b

No more death by PowerPoint

Extract from Air Law InforGraphic
Extract from Air Law InforGraphic

For the past few months, I have been working on a major project for a drone training company in the UK. The vision of the business owner was to develop a course that was as far removed from what appeared to be common the marketplace. Let me explain.

Some time ago I went through drone training to get my permission for commercial operations from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). There was about 25 of us in the classroom, just like being back at school; being talked at for a day and a half with the instructor reading from 200 or more PowerPoint slides. It was a good thing he was reading from the slides as the text was so small on some I could not from the back of the room. The two-day course included the exam in the afternoon of the second day so the material I had managed to memorise was still fresh enough in my short-term memory, and I managed to pass the exam. This was classic ‘death by PowerPoint’.

Within a few days much of what I had learnt (out of context) I had forgotten. This is a typical shortcoming of the traditional type of instructional course. Reviews of social media sites would suggest that there are still courses being run where candidates have remembered sufficient to pass an exam but then need to ask basic questions on topics such as air law because they too have forgotten, or were not instructed in the material.

An acquaintance who experienced the same training had a vision of setting up an NQE (National Qualified Entity) but one that would do things differently. They knew I came from a learning and development background and asked if it was possible to develop a course that fulfilled the requirements of the CAA but was different from and better than the rest. I made a few suggestions and earlier this year we started to develop the course that would use experiential and accelerated learning techniques.

The first big hurdle was to abandon the reliance on PowerPoint slides. In a conversation, I stressed the importance that the predominant vehicle for candidate learning must be through active engagement with the material and in some sort of context. The client had already devised the idea of a ‘Workflow’ covering all aspects of a project from client enquiry to post project administration. This provided a perfect platform upon which we started to create an experiential learning programme that was integrated across pre-course learning, ground school and operations manual development.

In August, the client had their NQE audit with the CAA where the Air Law module was trialled. The auditors were taken by surprise by the level of engagement and immediately recognised the power of the technique. They commented that this was the first time they had encountered this method and praised the client for their unique approach.

Exploratory training course

Would you be interested in being part of an exploratory training course that creates an environment to practice an innovative way of learning to think strategically?

I am looking for between six and eight corporate individuals, from one or more organisations who can provide space to conduct a one day Art in Strategic Thinking programme.

There is no direct trainer cost to this course. I will need to recoup expenses such as travelling and or subsistence. It is developmental and will inform further work in expanding the course and other material I am writing.

Email me direct if you would like to explore this idea further.

Looking for co-authors

The Art in strategic thinking

Art as a vehicle for learning to think strategically

 

A call for anecdotes

For the past 15 or more years I have been periodically exploring the opportunity to relate artistic endeavour with organisational development, in particular strategic thinking. Finally in 2017 I came up with a framework that connects the two thought processes. I have a creative background and have substantially developed the principles of artistic endeavour and now welcome others’ thoughts from a philosophical, artistic and organisational standpoint. I have some education and experience in strategic thinking, however to fully explore, expand and embed the premise of creativity in learning to think strategically I feel I would benefit from dialogue with others who have anecdotes to explore.

The requirement

I am looking to engage with between three and five individuals who have been or who are currently involved in the strategy element of business development. Two or three of these contributors will take a key role in developing the book and be co authors. The other contributors will be acknowledged as such for their input but will not be expected to have input into developing the overall narrative.

There is a fuller description of the principles and an outline of the book at: http://peterjmayes.studio/art-in-strategic-thinking/

 

The rewards

Rewards for any engagement will be highly speculative. The contributors who are co authors will be rewarded though the sale of books and any speaking, consulting or training engagements that are derived from the publication. An option for this is the creation of a company. The other contributors will be rewarded with book credits and a batch of the first published edition for their own use.

The process

Potential contributors should email me (peterm@peterjmayes.studio) with a brief overview of past or current involvement in leadership and organisational development. Also include an anecdote that might fit one of the following principles:

  • Looking and seeing; the art of challenging limiting beliefs
  • A question of style; choosing the strategic objective
  • Big picture and ignoring what isn’t needed
  • Negative space and what isn’t there
  • Perspective and the changing power of detachment
  • Light and shade, the blindingly obvious and darkest recesses
  • Colour, where cold, calculating and warm, fuzzy have their place
  • The medium; a look at tools to create a strategic plan

 

There is a fuller description of the principles and an outline of the book at: http://peterjmayes.studio/art-in-strategic-thinking/

 

Train the trainer course outline

Recently I have started to work in a regulated environment where a number of instructors originate from military service. My experience of attending a number of courses delivered by these highly experienced subject matter experts is that military instruction does not always ‘fit’ with modern, experiential learning and development practice.

The following outline is a suggestion of knowledge and skills that could be gained from an intense TtT course by up to three, possibly four subject matter experts who may not have previously been involved in an instruction role. The focus of the sessions is knowledge of learning and development delivery, learning evaluation and management of the learning environment. This course does not tackle learning analysis or design which one would normally expect of a conventional train the trainer programme.

TtT Course outline v2

Session title

Learning outcomes and topics covered

09:00 start

Introduction

A quick overview to the day, the context of adult learning and the learning objectives.

Case Study: What went wrong

List areas for improvement of a course, session, module or activity that was unsuccessful and why. (Participants should arrive having considered this element).

Relate understanding to what is to follow.

The environments

Demonstrate how environments can be made more effective.

Space, location, scene setting, layouts, and other assets. Dealing with elements outside instructor control.

About the candidates

Identify how candidates learn, and how to manage them professionally and diplomatically.

Personality of candidates, learning orientations, is a candidate difficult.

10:45 – 11:00 Break

Developing participation

Use different methods to encourage participation in training and recognise and manage a lack of participation.

Removing barriers to participation, enhancing participation, humour and banter.

Visual aids

Demonstrate effective use of flipcharts, slides and other display assets.

Flip chart management, holding areas, AV protocols, displaying material.

Fail to plan, plan to fail

Be able to follow the plan, demonstrate confidence in delivering from trainer notes.

Structure of the plan, trainer notes and their importance, getting back on track.

12:30 – 13:15 Lunch

Activities management

Recognise the importance and benefit of activities and how to manage them.

Activities or games, types of activities, getting buy-In, activities toolkit.

Facilitation Skills

Develop active listening and clear questioning skills through facilitation.

Question types, probing: digging deeper, questioning as a learning technique. Your listening skills, active listening skills in training

Has learning taken place

Conduct evaluation to continually confirm learning has taken place.

The difference between formative and summative evaluation, methodology.

15:00 – 15:15 Break

Activity

Learning by doing. Engage in a learning activity to practice some of the knowledge gained.

Participation, facilitation, action, management.

Review

What have you learnt from today. What more do you want to learn.

Evaluation in action, pointers to other materials. CPD

16:30 Close

Art in Strategic Thinking

Art as a vehicle for learning to think strategically

 

Introduction

“So what does participation and experience in the artistic endeavours bring to the development of strategic thinking? It has nothing to do with artistic talent per se; the aim is not to achieve fame and fortune as an artistic master but, rather, to develop the attributes and critical reflective processes necessary for strategic thinking. An arts experience ‘opens the doors of perception,’ as poet William Blake wrote in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.”
(Learning to Think Strategically. p233. Julia Sloan. 2006)

In this programme, participants explore and undertake a variety of artistic endeavours and relate these activities as prompts, metaphors and tools for learning to think strategically. The program engages participants in creative thinking; on the right side of the brain some might say, by experiencing eight principles of artistic endeavour.

Principles

Looking and seeing; the art of challenging limiting beliefs

A question of style; the strategic objective

Negative space and what isn’t there

Light, shade, the blindingly obvious and darkest recesses

Colour, where cold, calculating and warm, fuzzy have their place

The medium; a look at how to create a strategic plan

Perspective and the changing power of detachment

Big picture and ignoring what isn’t needed

 

Outcomes

Participants will:

  • [looking] engage in producing an accurate piece of artistic endeavour and conduct an exercise in challenging self-limiting beliefs
  • [style] demonstrate different styles of artistic endeavour and identify different types of strategic objective
  • [negative space] demonstrate the ability to observe all elements of a scene and report on the importance of what is not evident
  • [light and shade] enrich an image by adding tone and identify which dark recesses of an organisation might shed light on strategic intent
  • [colour] describe the relevance and impact of colour and document the rich reserves of staff with different temperaments, knowledge and skills
  • describe different art medium and list a variety of planning tools available for different strategic objectives
  • [perspective] identify how a different viewpoint changes what is observed and suggest how they might get a better view
  • [big picture] select one or more elements of an image on which to focus and assemble or refine the scope of strategic intent

Target

This programme is aimed at individuals who are open to the potential of thinking beyond current practices.

The programme is applicable to all levels within the organisation, particularly:

  • team leaders and first line manager
  • project and operational managers
  • directors and business leaders.

The idea of including the team leader level is to develop a ‘pipeline’ of staff who have learnt to think strategically. This develops the capability to outsmart and out compete those organisations that continue to rely solely on senior business leaders for direction.

 

Programme content

The programme consists of eight sessions within which participants will be actively engaged in artistic endeavour. The participants will relate these activities directly and indirectly to aspects of thinking strategically via a selection of real life case studies. The exercises are intended to prepare a participant for the task of strategic planning by creating an environment where they can grow their ability to think strategically.

Looking

To engage in the production of an accurate piece of artistic endeavour and conduct an exercise to challenge self-limiting beliefs.

This first principle, the act of looking at something with a view to undertake a creative endeavour has two grounding factors; what is it that we are looking at and are we able to represent it appropriately. Both of these factors are governed by interpretations made by the brain.

Starting with the latter idea of representing an object; a guestimate is that 80% + of the population say they cannot draw; this is a self-limiting belief formed at an early age, likely through an inability to ‘match reality’. Within the programme readers will be guided though an activity that will demonstrate that these and potentially any other limiting belief held by them and others can and should be challenged in the pursuit of developing strategic thinking.

Moving on to interpretation; existing constructs within the brain may cause us to ‘see’ something that the object is not. Common optical illusions can play havoc with our ability to match reality. For the strategist this may be similar to behaviours like confirmation bias which undermine the thought processes that underpin a strategy process. Dealing with these two ‘brain deceptions’ is paramount before moving onto some more creative artistic endeavours.

Style

To demonstrate different styles of artistic endeavour and identify more than a single type of strategic objective.

Different styles of artistic endeavour all have their relevance and fulfil different aesthetic requirements; interior design, commercial and domestic being a relevant example. Internal or external strategies such as the following have different characteristics and are also relevant to the strategist depending on their objective:

  • Increase Market Share
  • Strengthening Financial Resources
  • Physical Resources
  • Productivity
  • Innovation
  • Action Planning

But which style/objective is most appropriate for what?

Negative space

To demonstrate the ability to observe all elements of a scene and report on the importance of what is not evident.

In order to create an object, it is sometimes appropriate to focus on and draw the background around the object rather than the object itself. For the strategist, this is about becoming aware of what is not evident from analysing data, information and insights.

Light and shade

To enrich an image by regulating or adding tone and identify which dark recesses of an organisation might shed light on strategic intent.

The light and shade principle has two distinct and appropriate aspects relevant to both artistic endeavour and strategic thinking. These are; the view of a scene and the representation of an object.

Viewing a scene on a bright sunny day presents challenges for an artist and more so for a photographer. Highlights blind an observer and shadows may hide important shapes and form; neither provide any detail.  Just as an artist has to do; the strategist will need to regulate the brightest and most obvious data, information and insights and investigate further areas of the organisation that are less prevalent at putting forward ideas or suggestions.

From a representational aspect, two dimensional shapes do not necessarily have any form or substance; a circle is a circle, a rectangle is just a rectangle. An artist will add light and shade to these shapes to create the illusion of three dimensional objects. How might a strategist add form to data to provide a more wholesome representation of the organisation.

Colour

To describe the relevance and impact of colour and document the rich reserves of staff with different temperaments, knowledge and skills.

Colour is often used by artists to represent emotion; the cold of the blue range of colours and the warmth of the reds and oranges. There will be staff within an organisation who are cold and calculating and others who are warm and friendly. All will provide data, and/or information and/or insights valuable to a strategist.

Medium

To describe different art medium and list a variety of planning tools that are available for different strategic objectives.

An artist has a plethora of media from which to choose in order to undertake an artistic endeavour. They will, or at least should choose wisely. Likewise, the strategist has a raft of tried and tested as well as new and innovative tools and instruments which they can use in the strategic analysis and planning process. And yes; mixed media is a valid endeavour.

Perspective

To identify how a different viewpoint changes what is observed and suggest how they might get a better view.

An artist working in two dimensions uses perspective to represent three dimensional objects. The same object seen from a different distance or elevation will be represented by a different shape. For a strategist, the requirement is to change a viewing position so as to create a different representation of an organisational issue.

Big picture

To select one or more elements of an image on which to focus and assemble or refine the scope of strategic intent.

An artist has the capability to be selective about what and how they use elements from a scene they see in front of them; removing, including or rearranging the essentials of a composition to suit their purpose. And a strategist must decide which of the unlimited sources of data, information and insight are relevant to and will provide for their strategic intent.

 

Facilitator

I; Peter J Mayes am a qualified illustrator (GlosCAT 1977), business information systems analyst (UWIC 2000) and long time educator (1981). For as long as I can remember I have been creative and a habitual ideas person. My mind seems permanently in ‘innovation’ mode, almost without thinking; forming new concepts and designs. As an eight year old my artistic abilities were recognised and I recall I did not consider myself to be any more talented that my classmates. As a mature student, part of my studies were management and business; again, my abilities were recognised with a number of distinctions in coursework and exams. For the past 15 years I have been exploring the notion of art as a vehicle for business thinking. My rational stems from a combination of artistic ideas based exploration (divergent thinking) and logic based systems analysis (convergent thinking). As eluded to, I have long held the belief that we all have an aesthetic side and have sought to substantiate this premise in both personal and business endeavours. In 2004 I devised a programme: Anyone can draw; the art of challenging self-limiting beliefs. In 2017, after much deliberation and exploration, I finalised the eight principles that form the basis for the Art in Strategic Thinking concept.

The two key books that have now formed the catalyst for my approach are:

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Betty Edwards.
Learning to Think Strategically. Julia Sloan.

 

Most recent articles include:

Springborg, Claus (2012) “Perceptual Refinement: Art-based Methods in Managerial Education,
Organizational Aesthetics: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, 116-137.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.wpi.edu/oa/vol1/iss1/15

Schein, Edgar H. (2013) “The Role of Art and the Artist,” Organizational Aesthetics: Vol. 2: Iss. 1,
1-4.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.wpi.edu/oa/vol2/iss1/1

 

Other books that I have read and that have played a part in the development process include:

Strategic Management. John L Thompson
Exploring Corporate Strategy. Johnson and Scholes
The Mind Map Book. Tony Buzan
Thinking Styles. Fiona Beddoes-Jones
Six Thinking Hats. Edward de Bono
Experiential Learning. David A. Kolb
The Fifth Discipline. Peter Senge