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Insights from Spontaneous Co-Creation

A walk on the beach led to an idea and several days of spontaneous co-creation ensued.

When was the last time you were suddenly in a situation in which you shared an idea with another person and yet had no process for moving forward?

As my friend (whom I have known the longest in life) and I walked along Folly Beach, SC, I was reminded of a beautiful mandala I had seen in San Sebastián, Spain. I saw “our” beach as a potential canvas…

I shared my photo and made the suggestion that we attempt such a feat. We set out to find tools/sticks, and began to talk about possibilities. I’ve made many mandalas in my day (I love The Mandala Guidebook and The Art of Mandala Drawing: Create Geometric Patterns). Nancy had never made one before. 

We both wanted to share in the creation, so we talked briefly about what we knew about mandalas. I didn’t want to share a lot because I didn’t want to influence how she came to this experience. We talked about taking turns: each of us drew a layer of the design, building on what had just been completed. Sometimes we weren’t sure what to do next. We would each offer up a few ideas and then whatever struck the fancy of the person responsible, became the next layer.

How do you approach co-creation when there’s a significant difference in the knowledge and skills of the people involved in the project?

No doubt, the import, and nature of the project, plus the timeframe are factors in how to proceed in the developing process of co-creation. We had the luxury of knowing that enjoying our experience was paramount and therefore we felt no pressure about achieving a particular result. 

We both encountered challenges with our tools and resources. The sticks were of varying widths (which became an interesting design element), and the sand on our first and second days was the same consistency across the diameter of our design (perhaps 8 feet). On day 3, in the same area of the beach, we were confronted with the sand so wet that it altered the strokes that we created. 

How do you work with a variety of tools, resources, and unexpected challenges? 

We finished our first mandala and were delighted! We approached the next two days with enthusiasm and without any plans in our minds. In part, that was the charm of our experiences.

I know that during this time together, we were in flow. The late afternoons at the beach were one of the highlights of my days.

What are some everyday experiences from which you have harvested insights? 

I was very conscious of letting go of what I knew about mandala design and creation. I wanted us to approach this as equals. And truth be told, the majority of the mandalas I’ve drawn have been, at the most eight inches in diameter, so working at this scale was a new experience. 

A few folks came and visited us every day, to ask questions and share their delight in seeing what we had created. On the first day, a man said to us, “This must not be your first rosette.” Nancy was excited to tell him that in fact, it was the first time we had worked/played together in this way… and that way we have been lifelong friends. Now that’s memory!

There are insights to be gained from all we do. I would love to hear some of your insights from similar experiences!

Learning &  Feedback—for Learners & Trainers (Facilitators & Coaches)

As a learner, I love sharing my thoughts and feelings about my learning experiences. Giving feedback is a gift.

As a trainer (facilitator and coach), I’m always interested in hearing from those with whom I work. I take people’s thoughts, questions, and future-oriented suggestions very seriously. Receiving feedback is a gift.

How do you ask for feedback and how do you use the information you receive? 

Just last month I attended a multi-day intensive online training. The courses and the speakers varied in their quality—the relevance of the content for the audience, the presenters’ styles of delivery, and group facilitation/engagement skills. Upon completion of the program, I happily filled in the Google Doc/evaluation. I endeavored to be open, honest, and forward-thinking – offering suggestions and alternatives, wherever I noted something I believed could be improved.

Just a few days after completing the evaluation form, I gave a Zentangle class. I have been teaching Zentangle since 2103. I LOVE teaching it as it is almost always a really wonderful experience for everyone.

This time there were a number of variables to work with:

  • the pattern was complicated—more so than usual—almost an optical illusion when finished
  • participants’ skills were at quite a variety of levels of expertise
  • people work at quite different speeds (from slower to faster)

It’s rare for me to complete a session and feel that there are a few things I could’ve done better. I say that because my business is being an educator/teacher/trainer. I’ve studied long and hard to hone my skills over the decades. I am very good at what I do. (I imagine you are very good at what you do too… I don’t believe in false humility, do you?) 

When things don’t go as I plan, and I feel learners could have achieved better results or had a more wonderful time together, I am curious about what I can improve and determined to make it so.

I reached out to the participants the next morning to ask direct and specific questions about their experiences. Happily, I received very thoughtful and helpful feedback. I went to work planning for my next session.

Last night we had another class and it was a resounding success. In part, the patterns that we tackled were not as complex, and yet I had also, perhaps, more importantly, re-imagined and changed my approach based on the feedback received. I also talked to the participants about the difference between the two experiences—I love those meta-cognitive moments!

It feels great to recognize the places where I can grow and change to facilitate and deepen learning experiences for my participants.

Over the years I have observed that feedback is often not requested. Is that your experience too? In those instances, I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that the individual and/or organization do not seek to assess the quality of their work — to discover what is particularly effective and what might need some adjustment. It is disappointing—though only slightly less so than when feedback is requested and then not used to improve experiences. 

Whether you’re a trainer, facilitator, coach, or truly anyone working with others, here’s my question for you: How do you solicit feedback about your work? What do you do with it when you get it? How do you grow and change through the process? I’d love to know!

PS: If you’re interested in tangling/learning about Zentangle, a meditative, relaxing art form, visit this page to learn more, and this page to see the classes that I am offering. 

(Mental) Space—the Final Frontier

I am in the middle of a really aggressive learning/training program.* My time is scheduled from the morning til way past sundown for 10 days. I am feeling it. 

  • Can you remember the last time when you worked with what was in front of you because that’s what you had to do, yet it felt big, good, and challenging? 

Happily, I had a break in the middle of this 10-day marathon. In that brief respite, I literally felt a sense of spaciousness in my mind. I had the opportunity to think beyond the immediate task to imagine possibilities. It was AWESOME! I felt on fire and couldn’t find a piece of paper or a device fast enough sometimes to capture my ideas… even great ideas can slip through my fingers like water if I get distracted by a phone call or even another thought.

  • When was the last time you felt the juicy expanse and immensity of space for dreaming, imagining, designing, planning, and more?
  • How did you take full advantage of the opportunity?

Now that I am returning to my practice, after the intensity of travel, work, and play in the US and abroad plus my 10-day learning extravaganza, I am seeing the elements of my work from a new perspective—I am shaking it up. It’s exciting!

I’m thinking that I need to take this insight to heart. “Dreaming time” needs to have a special place on my monthly calendar and not left to a delightful, perhaps serendipitous, alignment of the stars. It tantalizing to even think about scheduling those dates with myself! I’ll keep you posted on my progress with this new habit. And, if you want to join me, I’d be happy to have a buddy on this path. Lmk!

*Written last week… when I didn’t make a minute to post it…

The deliciousness of re-imagining work and play

The past few weeks have been flurry of activity—with travel, speaking at a conference, meetings with colleagues from around the world, a summit, and a wee bit of vacation too. The experience of doing something different every day was exhilarating.

Now that I’m back home, it’s time to dive into the work and play of crafting new aspects of my professional and personal lives. I feel a desire to find my way back into the comfort of a routine to support the changes I want to make. I wonder a bit about that feeling, though I realize that a routine can facilitate processes for me.

How are you experiencing your life right now? 

Have you had some time away from work? What did it feel like to step away? And to return?

The Visual Thinking Global Summit in Bilbao, Spain, SHAKE it to SHAPE it!, gave me the time and space to explore my world—where am I now, what will nourish, challenge, and support me going forward?

What existing and new knowledge, processes, tools, resources, and relationships can I tap into, explore, leverage, or amplify to move in the slightly new direction I am envisioning? I have ideas grounded in my reflections and insights from the summit. These questions  loom large for me:

  • What do I dream about?
  • What experiments will I design to discover the path I want to take?
  • What will I let go of?
  • What I will commit to?
  • What timeline I will create for developing these ideas, the pieces of the mosaic of my life?

Related to all this imagining is the practical piece… How will I carve out the time for this work and play of altering the course of my practice? As a maker, I need large blocks of time to work on projects — to dream, imagine, design, question, play, create, revise, and complete. As a solopreneur, I have to ”manage”/guide my business and the various projects that comprise my work.

A recent article in Upworthy on Paul Graham’s work, by Annie Reneau, describes how makers and managers perceive time (and meetings) made me pause. I felt that it explained a lot about my scheduling of myself. I am both a maker (for work and play) and a “manager” of my practice and my life.

I loved this visual by Reese Jones, it feels spot on to me. It made it so clear that I need to create blocks of time and then be certain to use them in the way I intend. It’s also critical to have those smaller chunks of time for smaller tasks. 

What’s your understanding of how you use time? Is it serving you?

I am going to recalibrate my schedule and keep an eye on whether I am using it in alignment with my intentions. A new routine seems in order for the present. When I have a new plan, I will need to assess my calendaring again—that feels right to me!

I’d be curious to hear your experiences with making the time to reflect on your business/work, how you plan for and make changes and what supports you in the process. I hope you will be in touch!

It’s about the how as much as the what, and definitely the why!

In my travels over the past few weeks, I’ve met folks who didn’t know me or my work. Answering the question of what I do, sometimes feels challenging!

Have you had that experience? What do you say? How has your response changed over time?

In the (recent) past I would briefly answer, “I teach people to think and draw so they can communicate more effectively” without getting into the details of visualization or bikablo.

My new answer is, “I help people visualize… (Wait, what does that mean?) to express, share, and capture ideas through combining drawings and words, to more effectively communicate.”

When sharing about visualization/Bikablo

It’s about the how…how to

  • hold the marker
  • draw the various types of lines
  • attend to the details
  • create layouts 
  • use color 
  • understand and use the methodology

and the what

Simple planning for the weekend.

Whether we are “talking” to ourselves (planning, strategizing, remembering, creating) or working with others (graphically recording a meeting, event or training, graphically facilitating an experience, coaching, or training) we are clear about our purpose—it is not art. We consciously do it all in service of clear communication.

When talking about Zentangle 

I share with people, “I teach a meditative art form.” (Wait, what does that mean?)

My new answer is, “I help students create beautiful designs through drawing simple, structured patterns. In the process of learning, they gain perspective about their capabilities and a new understanding of themselves.”

By learning the Zentangle method, its philosophy, and drawing techniques, I guide people in discovering their inner artists.

It’s about the how…how to 

  • use the five marks of Zentangle in a variety of combinations 
  • work within guidelines for drawing
  • integrate the philosophy so that it becomes a practice
  • become more mindful, relax and focus
  • breathe and let go when we make mistakes (as we will inevitably do… we are human)

It is an easy shift, for everyone I work with, to understand that we are the artists, the creators of our work and our lives.

As artists/people, we all face challenges— interacting with others, with materials, living within systems, learning and failing, and more. 

 

 

Why do you do what you do? What have you noticed about why you have chosen your work?

I’ve noticed patterns in my life. I have always gravitated toward transformational work—whether it is my personal growth or the needs and desires of those I want to work with or the systems that I believe need to change.

My work continues to evolve—now I seek to be more aware of the inner struggles, learning and growth of individuals… discovering and shining a light on people’s strengths, values, and capabilities, and asking people what supports them through challenges. I find that I can ask these questions no matter the content that I am sharing (or the hat I am wearing).

What is your thinking about your work… the what, the how, and the why?

If I asked you for a brief and rich description of your work and why you do it—what would you say? I’d like to know.