Offensive Children’s Books

I’m not on Facebook anymore but that doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy taking offence at stuff people post there. I just have to do it via my wife.

The below linked content is a set of images from a children’s book aimed at very young children. This book is about how babies are made.

As you can imagine, there are people in the comments section upset about the idea of teaching children about sex. I’ll try to be kind here by saying that these people have some hang ups that they need to get over. This book barely mentions sex. To read their rantings you’d think the author had produced a Disney version of the Kama Sutra. But worse than this is that I see nobody complaining about the truly offensive part of this work; the perpetuation of the idea that “maths is hard” alongside the belief that it’s OK to be innumerate.

You see, there is a running gag wherein first our hero, a sperm confusingly named Willy, is repeatedly shown to be not “very good at sums”, and then later the little girl born of this sperm demonstrates the same weakness.

Here we also need to contend with the gentle nod to the idea that “girls aren’t good with numbers” which is another dangerous seed to plant in the minds of the small children at whom this work is aimed.

I don’t think that any of this is deliberate on the part of the authors but I can’t help but be disappointed nonetheless. When writing for children you have to be careful not to send out damaging signals. This book isn’t about maths but I suspect a good number of children will come away with two lessons: babies are made from an egg and a sperm that grow in a woman’s tummy, and maths is hard but that’s OK. One of these lessons is good, the other is not. And it could so easily have been avoided.

For the sake of a little humour we often lazily fall back on stereotypes. We can always get a cheap laugh with some observational humour about how “women love shopping” and “men won’t ask for directions”. And when you’re dealing with adults I can let this slide, to a point at least. But when your audience are impressionable children the cheap gags come at a price that just isn’t worth paying.

I’m going to have a daughter soon and I know the dangers of stereotype threat. I know that if I let the idea that maths isn’t for girls creep into her head then even if she did have a love for the subject I would have let that love become tainted with the belief that it is somehow at odds with being female. And the idea that not being good with numbers is somehow a consequence free, throw away joke? This is exactly how we give young and old alike an easy excuse for not learning.

When my nephew asked me recently why he should care about subjects in school that he didn’t particularly like or that didn’t factor in his present plans for the future. I told him this: education is self defence. Ignorance is weakness. Teaching that it is OK to be ignorant of something as important as maths is telling children to go out into the world as cannon fodder.

You can’t control everything that influences a child’s beliefs but you can control what you choose to teach them at story time. Please do tell your children about how babies are made. It’s not rude. It’s just biology. But until they bring out a revised version that drops the anti-maths nonsense, I’d urge you to choose a different book.


My Maisie – thoughts on preparing to be a father

Sonogram of Maisie at 20 weeks and 2 days.
Sonogram of Maisie at 20 weeks and 2 days.

Today I learned that the little creature growing inside my wife is a girl. She’ll be called Maisie and we’re expecting her in October. I have some thoughts.

Obviously I’ve known for close to twenty weeks that I’m going to be a father. But something about knowing the gender adds a degree more clarity to what that means. I suppose, at the least, it lets me begin to make some broad predictions about what exactly is heading my way. And while I can’t say much for sure, there are things I know.

Gender is an open question in our society. Like it or not, your gender will determine some of the things you experience in life. Maisie will enter a world where women still aren’t given the same opportunities as men. That being said, I think that the decades long feminist struggle has at least furnished her with a vibrant, modern interpretation of what it means to be woman; a deep well of clear thinking from which to drink. Perhaps if I were having a son I would be more worried about how to help him deal with what it means to be a man in the 21st Century.

For my part I now know that I will be responsible for her first, most formative idea of what men are and what it means to relate to them. How I behave towards her, how I treat her mother, these things will shape her idea of gender relationships. It’s an awesome responsibility. I hope I rise to the occasion.

Beyond that there are many things which are more applicable to children in general. And while these haven’t changed, I can now conjure a stronger image of what they will be like. What I do as her father will shape Maisie’s understanding of the world and her place in it, it will hard wire within her a sense of her own worth and purpose. I can help her see the world as a realm of possibilities or I can bring her up to fear. Every choice I make, every small gesture, will communicate profound ideas to her. Maisie’s home, in her early years, shaped in large part by my actions, will be her normal.

I’m under no illusions that any amount of thinking on my part, any amount of philosophy, will make me a flawless father. Imperfect as I am my parenting will leave Maisie with her own quirks of character. My tendency to overthink things, my fear of failure, my phobia of eating things which contain bones! All of these will do things to Maisie. But now that I think about it I realise that it is not right to assume that my flaws will translate into weaknesses within my child. After all, isn’t it struggle that makes us strong? Perhaps, for all my grand plans, it will be the ways in which I fail as a father that are Maisie’s greatest gifts. Perhaps.

Anyway. She’s on her way. I’ll do my best to be ready for her.

Ugh, Hosts.

Inviting someone to join you at your home for dinner is, for me, the quintessential display of friendship; its personal, intimate, perhaps a little vulnerable. To shelter and feed someone, that’s a wonderful thing. And like all good social interactions it comes with some important, pretty much non-negotiable, elements. Most importantly: the guest offers to bring something to share.

This is a token. It’s not to say the host is unable or unwilling to provide everything. It’s a gesture. And it doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult either. Guest asks “what should I bring?”, host says “oh, a bottle of red would be lovely, thanks.” See. Easy.

Unfortunately some people are just too polite. Now, this specific post relates to two of my very best friends, two lovely people. But they are both monsters in one specific way – they refuse to say what they want me to bring to dinner. When asked they say lovely, affirming things like “just bring yourself” or “oh, it’s fine, we have everything” both of which miss the point entirely. I don’t care if you have everything. I’m not bringing something out of fear you’re a poor planner or haven’t budgeted enough to properly feed and water me. No, I’m bringing it because that’s what I do!

So from now on I have chosen my revenge. Anyone who refuses to tell me what they want (a bottle of wine, something to enjoy with coffee, and so on) will receive a half eaten bag of Doritos and a bottle of Blue Nun.

Be warned. If you invite me for dinner, you bloody well better tell me what to bring. Consequences. All things have consequences.

The Best War is One You Don’t Have to Fight

At the moment it feels almost as if we are edging towards war with the EU27. Our Prime Minister is talking up the conflict as a way to boost her election campaign and we are, it seems, lapping it up. Fighting feels better than sitting back and waiting, thinking. Fighting feels proactive.

That feeling is common. It’s also dangerous. The bias towards action has to be considered carefully because it may well be more of a way to manage our inner turmoil than to achieve meaningful results. It may feel good to shout at someone who has hurt you but does that do more harm than good in the long term?

When I think about this I’m reminded of a session playing an improv game I call Chaos Chairs. The general idea is that a team of a dozen or so Sitters has to prevent one person, the Walker, sitting down by moving between chairs, covering the available chair before the Walker can sit. In this game it’s always a question of when and if to move because if you move to cover the next chair you leave your current chair open. In this particular session a moment came when the Walker was closing in on the free chair. Everyone froze, no one seemed to want to take the action to cover the chair. Then, as the Walker came closer, feeling the pressure to just do something a woman moved to cover the open chair. Sadly she vacated a chair even closer to the Walker. She felt pressure to act. Acting, even if that action made the situation worse, was preferable to the pain of restraint.

It’s not wrong to feel this way. Feelings are never wrong. They’re just part of how we understand the world. What matters is that we reflect and consider what those feelings mean, where they come from, and what we should do. Why am I looking for a fight? Is this action skilful or simply self indulgent?

Theresa May wants us to respond to her fighting words as a mindless crowd. She doesn’t want us to think. She just wants us to react, unreflectingly, and deliver her an election landslide. We might blame her for such a cynical ploy but if it succeeds we have only ourselves to blame.

The EU27 are not our enemy. They represent our most important partners in trade, security, culture, and so much more. We are a continent united by shared history and shared values. May wants to make them our enemy so that she can fight them for us, be our champion and defender. She seems unconcerned with how this might damage us.

Now is a time for measured words and skilful actions. Not a broken record of rhetoric and perverse patriotism. It might be too late for this current disaster cycle but as we angrily argue ourselves into the abyss I am reminded of and reaffirmed in my belief that the next stage of human culture must be to embrace a more mindful, more nuanced understanding of what drives us. Remember the opposite of mindfulness is mindlessness.


This morning I awoke to find that some Republican senator or some such had upset a number of those I follow on Twitter by suggesting that people who are sick have not “lived good lives” and thus shouldn’t expect those who have to subsidies their healthcare costs. Which gives me an opportunity to rant a little about meritocracy.

On the face of it meritocracy seems good. It’s sold as a fair way to distribute wealth and power. Instead of doing it based on birthright or some other arbitrary privilege, meritocracy promises that we can do it on the basis of who deserves it most. I mean, that seems fine doesn’t it? Until, of course, you realise that it’s essentially impossible and ultimately tautological.

You begin with the problem of how we define merit. Merit is, according to my dictionary, the quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward. So merit is whatever is good. Do you begin to see a problem? Who exactly gets to decide what is good?

The question of what is good and what is bad has been bugging philosophers for thousands of years. It seems unlikely, therefore, that we are close to a consensus on this topic and even if we were would that consensus not be merely a temporary construct? In which case the thing that we currently consider to be “merit” is essentially arbitrary. There was a time when being a strong slave owner was seen as worthy of praise, when beating one’s wife when she got out of hand was smiled upon, when it was good to put people to death for blasphemy, and so on. Would it be anything other than hubris to imagine that our concepts of good and bad will seem any less strange to our decedents?

But, people argue, we don’t need human opinions on this, we can simply use the Invisible Hand of the Market to decide. Which is where we go from impossible to tautological.

If the market decides what is good and what is bad, how do we learn of this decision? Why, we learn of it through how much wealth the market decides to bestow upon various people. Ergo, we know what is good by how much money that thing makes. In other words, if something deserves to make money we know it deserves it because it is making money. See, tautological.

This isn’t the end of it, however. Because once people begin to believe that they live in a meritocracy you start to see the most powerful perversions of the idea. If we are meritocratic then what happens to someone, either good or bad, is deserved. The poor deserve poverty, the wealthy deserve wealthy. Sick people should not be helped by the healthy because they clearly do not deserve health. We should not tax the rich or provide relief for the poor because to do so would be to undermine meritocracy. Why strive if your deserved rewards will be taken from you and handed to those less deserving?

Taken to the natural conclusion a believer in meritocracy should also support eugenics since inferior genes do not deserve to be passed on. To enable someone who is inferior to breed would be to pass a burden to the next generation.

The very idea of meritocracy depends on the belief that life is in some way fair to begin with, that good decisions will always lead to good outcomes and that people have an abundance of control over their lives. The most passing inspection of the world would put pay to that idea in a moment.

First of all, we don’t have control over our lives. Every day decisions are made, forces act upon the world, that are beyond the understanding, let alone control, of any individual. The weather, random fads and trends, infectious illnesses passed around invisibly through a thousand unpredictable vectors. How many people might have invented Facebook had some small variation in history taken place? A chance encounter, a misdirected communication, a car accident, or some other random event?

And that doesn’t even begin to address the question of free will. Even if we allow that we have free will, it’s very difficult to argue that we have actively chosen our starting points. Did Mark Zuckerberg choose to be born in the USA and have the genes that coded for a well above average intellect? And had he been born with the exact same genes only ten years early or later would he have been rewarded so richly for these gifts?

None of this is to diminish the role of hard work and ability. To achieve something we need effort and we need talent. But we also need luck. Had Mr. Zuckerberg been struck down with a nasty ailment at just the wrong time he may have missed the window to create his fortune. Perhaps he’d have found another window but this we cannot know. We can know, however, that with our frail bodies and chaotic universe, we are all subject to the powerful forces of fate no matter how hard we work or how talented we are.

What can we take from all of this? I think there are two lessons.

  1. Be humble when you succeed because no matter how much it feels like the result of your own hard work and abilities any success must come along with a great deal of luck, even if that luck is merely being born at the right time and with the right genetics.
  2. Be forgiving of failure, your own and other’s. Just as the fates must have smiled on those who succeeded, it is likely that failure is as much down to poor fortune as it is to poor choices.

It is right and good for people to strive for what they want. Fulfilling your life’s purpose must be your ultimate goal. I am not arguing in favour of a world of nihilism and self denial. But be flexible in your goals because fate may have other plans for you. Forgive yourself your failures and be grateful and humble in the face of success. You may deserve your success, but that doesn’t mean someone else wasn’t equally deserving but just a little less lucky.







Maslow’s Hammer

“If I had a hammer,
I’d hammer in the morning
I’d hammer in the evening,
All over this land

I’d hammer out danger,
I’d hammer out a warning,
I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.”

– If I Had a Hammer by Peter, Paul & Mary

A lot of people think this song is just a catchy, hippy singalong about peace and love. But I disagree. I think that Peter, Paul & Mary were under appreciated philosophers trying to warn us all about the danger of Maslow’s Hammer, otherwise known as The Golden Hammer or The Law of the Instrument.

The Law of the Instrument is usually summed up in the following saying:

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
– Abraham Maslow

More broadly the Law of the Instrument applies to the idea that as soon as you give someone a tool to use he or she will begin to see everything through the lens of that tool. Immediately shutting out alternative solutions that would not be approachable via the familiar tool at hand.

Examples include medical specialists who will seemingly always interpret symptoms such that they lean towards their own area of expertise, car mechanics who, if specialising in a given part of the car will more often than not come to the conclusion that this part is faulty, or almost any business professional from Lean Practitioner to Systems Architect who will invariably find that whatever ails your company is due to a fault that they have the tools to fix.

In the end, are these people using their tools or are their tools using them?

This should be worrying if you’re either using a lot of creativity tools or processes and even more so if you’re someone who makes a living selling them.

“Just because you’re *allowed* to use magic now does not mean you have to whip your wands out for everything!”
– Molly Weasley in The Order of the Phoenix, chastising Fred and George for overusing their newly gained magical freedom

And if you think about it, isn’t that what Peter, Paul & Mary were saying? After all, if they had a hammer, they said, they’d never stop hitting things. I certainly hope nobody ever gave one to them.

This is why I tell my clients to be very wary of tools. And by tools I mean anything that is designed for a person to use to achieve a certain goal. Tools, you see, can end up using you.

Some things that I define as tools within the world of creativity:

– All idea generation techniques
– End to end creative processes or systems
– Mechanisms for converging around a single solution

I don’t teach creativity tools and techniques as a core part of my business. I’ve actually argued directly against paying anyone to do such a thing. Tools are fine, but we all too often begin with the tools and before long we have fallen foul of Maslow’s Hammer.

And here I am happy to say I can once again join forces with my friend and colleague, David Birss, after last week’s unpleasantness. You see, David has recently written an article on why brainstorms are terrible and we should all stop using them.

He is absolutely right and has happily provided an excellent real world example of what happens when people find a tool they are familiar with and just keep hitting things with it.

They’re much like people who needlessly risk RSI shaking Polaroids. It makes no difference but once the idea is out there it’s hard to dislodge.

Brainstorms are terrible but I would go even further and urge readers to let go of all the tools they use. Or, if not entirely let go, begin to hold them far more loosely.

“My policy is to have no policy.”
– Abraham Lincoln, 1809–1865

To bring this to a more personal level, I think we can all remember a time when we’ve learned some new tool or technique and found ourselves endlessly applying it. I recall when I first learned of The Myers Briggs Personal Assessment and took the test. From that moment I became obsessed with understanding myself and others through the lens of this tool.

I had fallen prey to narrow minded instrumentalist and it has taken me years to fully rid myself of its restrictive effects.

Perhaps I’ve convinced you to be less in thrall to tools, techniques, processes and methodologies. What, then, do I recommend instead?

– Get back to basics. If you happen to have a set of tools or a process you follow, put it aside and improvise. See what happens when you go in with no agenda, no techniques.

– Change the situation so that your old tools don’t work. If your tools are dependant on some kind of technology, switch it off. Need to be in the same room? Go elsewhere. Need pens and sticky notes? Lock the stationary cupboard.

– If you must use tools, mix them up as often as possible. Learn new ones all the time and rethink the use of old ones.

These are useful short term fixes but the only sustainable way to avoid being whacked with Maslow’s Hammer is to get past the idea that creativity is something separate from your normal working life.

Creativity happens now – in the moment. It’s not something that lives in workshop rooms or studios, it’s part of life. If you can find ways to increase your awareness of creativity in the moment, become more flexible and responsive just as a part of how you live, then you’ll find that you no longer feel the need to reach for the toolkit and plan a workshop every time a problem needs solving.

“If you put an empty gourd on the water and touch it, it will slip to one side. No matter how you try, it won’t stay in one spot. The mind of someone who has reached the ultimate state does not stay with anything, even for a second. It is like an empty gourd on the water that is pushed around.”
– Takuan, Japan, 1573–1645

Stepping Stones: a meditation on the nature of creativity

Today's post is very short. That's because I want you to spend less time reading and more time reflecting on what you've read. For the reading allow about 60 seconds. A good rule of thumb is to spend ten times that long, ten minutes in this case, reflecting.

Last week I shared some thoughts on the danger of Maslow's Hammer; the tendency for the tools we use to narrow our perspective and leave us blinkered, rigid, and predictable.

This brings us to the single hardest problem for creativity:

  • We use tools to help us express creativity
  • Over time we get better at using the tools
  • The better we get the more we rely on the tools
  • The more we rely on the tools the worse we get at expressing creativity

In my view it's wrong to think of creativity as a set of skills or tools. I see creativity as a relationship, a way of existing in the world. People who have a strong relationship with creativity are somewhat like children, driven by curiosity, open to change; keeping a beginners mind, ready to receive. Tools can help us to achieve this relationship but they aren't a substitute for it.

Where last week I shared the intellectual basis for this argument, this week I want to share with you a meditation that I find helps me both to understand this idea more deeply and to communicate it more clearly; I call it 'Stepping Stones'.

Stepping Stones

If we want to get to the other side of a deep, fast flowing river, it would be very risky to try to swim unaided! Instead we look for stepping stones leading to the other side.

With each stone we come closer to where we're going. The stones feel solid and safe but the river is rushing past and, with each moment, a stone might slip and we might fall in!

It's wise to use the stones but it's foolish to stand on them for too long. Remember our confidence will only grow until the moment we fall.

Keep them guessing

This morning I attended Jabber, a local networking group in St Albans. And I came away with a completely unexpected insight about communication.

I worry constantly that when I tell people that I’m a creativity coach they immediately put me into a bunch of boxes, many or most of which aren’t quite right. The issue is, you see, both creativity and coaching are frequently misunderstood concepts.

Many people think that coaching means giving advice or guidance, being the expert in a given field. The truth is that traditional coaching is more about helping the client think and solve his or her own problems.

Creativity… well, I suppose it’s a good thing for me that so many people believe so many wrongheaded things about creativity otherwise I wouldn’t have a job. Here’s three:

  1. There are too many rules and regulations in my industry for me to be creative
  2. Creativity? You either have it or you don’t
  3. Creativity is art and stuff, right?

So when I call myself a creativity coach I fear that many people assume they know what that means but get it entirely wrong.

My response to this has been to attempt to make what I do more and more clear and, in fact, my coach of the term “creativity coach” was the end result of trying to find two words that were easy to understand. But what if I’ve been going about this all wrong?

Speaking to a couple of chaps at Jabber we got on to the problem of pigeonholing and how people are quick to try to stick you in a box and then, once they’ve done that, stop thinking about you. This is, as it happens, exactly the problem we face often when trying to express creativity; we have a desire to solve problems quickly and save mental energy. This kind of thinking is effortful and so we have a strong drive to want to simplify and categorise.

Perhaps, in using these plain English words, what I’m actually doing is reducing the cognitive load of my listeners at the expense of them failing to understand what I really do.

We know that when something is too simple, too easy to parse, people have a habit of not thinking about it at all and delegating it to their automatic systems. To stimulate recall, therefore, it actually helps to make something ever so slightly harder to parse. Simply printing something in a smaller font can increase recall in the reader.

All this is to say that perhaps I should be using a description, a title that is less apparently clear, that people will not assume they understand even if they don’t.

Maybe I should call myself a conceptual relationship manager or a solutionisation bridge builder. Or possibly an unseen value materialiser…

This may take a little more thought. But the point remains: perhaps in struggling to reduce the complexity of what we do into words that others will believe they understand we run the risk of miscommunication. It comes down to this question:

Is it better for someone to wrongly believe they understand or to correctly believe they don’t?

The Powerful Play is Improvised

Errors, mistakes, unexpected problems for which we not only are unprepared but could not possibly prepare come up time and time again in my work as I help people to build stronger relationships with creativity. Today I want to share one of the techniques I've used to explore this challenge.

Several weeks ago I lead a workshop for a group of young people at Trestle Arts Base, in partnership with my good friend Shayla Maddox. The concept was simple – we asked the children to draw a circle in a single stroke, similar to the Japanese enso in that you must complete the circle without removing your pen from the paper and without going back and cleaning up any imperfections. It's worth noting that even this unchallenging request was met with some anxiety, so deeply ingrained is our need for perfection.

The next step was to ask the children to draw inside and around the circle any image they wanted to draw, importantly, to use the flat bits, the wobbly bits, the "mistakes" in the circle as the basis for what they chose to draw. The desired insight was that the children would come to see errors as opportunities for creativity rather than value destroying limitations.

I had three experiences on the day that stuck out to me and I want to recount them here.

A little boy in the group looked despondent when he was finished with his circle. In his words it was "rubbish". A young girl, similarly, was very upset with how flat her circle was at the bottom, how lopsided it was. Finally another girl was irritated by the way her circle spiralled in on itself. At this point all three of these children felt very unhappy with their artistic skills.

This is when I got to feel like a hero (yeah, that is why I do this). To the little boy who's circle was full of irregularities and lumpy bits I said that all those imperfections made his circle, as far as I was concerned, the best one in the room. He was taken aback by this but I told him that I knew he would be able to see something great to draw in that shape. By the end of the workshop he had drawn a giant rhino, the nobly bits serving as his horns and ears.

The girl with the squashed and lopsided circle needed something a little more analytical so I asked her why her circle might be flat at the bottom and leaning to one side. Immediately she brightened and said that it must be sitting on something and, she added, leaning because it's falling off of the edge. By the end of the workshop her circle was indeed sitting on a table and being pushed off the edge by a small figure.

The girl with the spiral circle actually didn't need my help at all. By the time I spoke to her she had already decided that spirals were beautiful and had chosen to draw an intricate pattern growing from that one, inadvertent spiral with which she had begun.

All of these children and the rest who took part, it is my hope, took one lesson away with them; that mistakes can lead to something beautiful. And I have some evidence that at least some of them did internalise the concept.

We were carrying out this workshop specifically because the next weekend these children would be performing at the Fun Palace, a weekend activity for school children. Four of the girls, Erin, Elyse, Elizabeth and Fola, would be performing a show about the early days of midwifery. I was fortunate enough to watch their hilarious rehearsal and I was sure they'd be fine on the day… but disaster struck! Fola was sick and unable to attend (ironic since she was playing a doctor). So the group had to improvise a new show on the spot.

Improvising a show is hard. And they found it hard. But they used the unexpected challenge and, by the end of the day having performed this new show three times, what they had created was possibly better than the original show. This creative challenge might have stopped a group with less robust relationships with creativity.

I'd like to think that, in a small way, being able to think about their circles and how imperfections lead to beauty might have played a part in helping them roll with the changes and make something great out of the unexpected.

Creativity means solving problems under conditions of uncertainty. That's a very nice definition of life, too – solving problems under conditions of uncertainty. In this sense, being strong with creativity is about being powerful in life. I feel very confident that these children, if they maintain their present relationships with creativity, will have no trouble dealing with whatever life brings their way.

Three Quick Tips for Making Creativity Normal

On Monday we talked about the social multiplier effect and I promised you some quick tips on how you could make use of this effect to boost creativity in your business by making creativity a normal part of life. So here goes.

One: don't imply that people aren't able to or expect to be creative

Many companies have teams or departments with words like creative or innovation in their titles. While this in and of itself isn't a problem, unless you're clear that you don't consider those and only those people to have what it takes to be creative then you're probably sending the signal that everyone else in the "uncreative" team.

Two: Champion and recognise self directed learning

Self directed learning is a creative process. Give some one a piece of clay and ask them to learn to sculpt they will have to be creative, experimental, self orienting. This is as opposed to learning through instruction in a classroom which can be anything but creative – relying instead on our ability to listen, memorise and reproduce what we have seen.

Unfortunately most businesses only recognise this second type of learning. If you have a personal development plan it probably only includes formal learning with standardised tests. This is fine but it only rewards learning what is already known. Self directed learning can lead you to places nobody has been before.

If you want creativity to be normal where you work, find ways to champion and recognise self directed learning. Encourage your teams to go off book. Maybe even make self directed learning an integral part of how appraisals work.

Three: Find the intrinsic motivation

Motivation is important in work and while they say that necessity is the mother of invention I don't agree. In fact, while we may well solve a certain class of problems under pressure from external requirements most of what is most creative in the world flows from intrinsic motivation. A delicate but powerful force.

Intrinsic motivation simply means to want to do something for its own sake. Words like meaning and purpose become important whereas reward is a secondary consideration.

What's the quickest way to make meaning important? Make it OK to talk about it. Right now I suspect most people in your place of work don't talk much about their motivations. If asked they might mention the company bonus scheme or the promotion they're after. But those are external motivators. To be creative at work it helps to be driven by something a little less rational.

Help people discover and follow their true motivations by making it OK, even essential, that this is a part of all conversations when setting goals or making plans. Build the motivation muscle little by little, day by day.

For more tips and ideas, why not book a free thirty minute consultation? Find out how at