Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Cultivating Creativity in the Workplace workshop facilitated by someone who I’ve admired for a long time, Amy Burvall. (@amyburvall). Amy is an educator and based in Hawaii. She teaches creativity and her work exudes a delightful, wonderful creative spirit that I love. It’s refreshing to have Amy’s work show up on my social media newsfeeds because it’s unique. It stands out from the usual business or learning and development posts – and they make me think.
— Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn) April 11, 2018
What I love are her mash-ups where she mixes two genres and creates something entirely of her own. For example, #BardArt – where she mashes images of Bridgette Bardot with well-known works and paintings by artists. She uses her iPad or her phone to create her artwork and I can imagine her social media feeds and technology tools to be filled with wonderful photos and videos that fill her with joy.
Amy’s workshop was thought-provoking for me. (You can check out the snap story I did on the day below).
At a time when organisations and leaders are lamenting that their people aren’t creative, I wondered why she isn’t known in the business fields as she is in the education fields. I am sure that digital transformation, project management and change management teams could be well served with many of the different ideas, strategies and techniques that were presented at the workshop to get their minds ticking and devising solutions unlike the usual staid or traditional approaches.
One of the outcomes of the workshop was that it provided me with a few ideas for a new workshop I’ll be running in Belgium later this year for LearnTech Day in Ghent. The workshop is on How to Build Your Personal Learning Networks (PLN) and it’s a topic that is near and dear to my heart simply because my PLN has been instrumental for me to get to where I am today.
My PLN has been a supportive and wonderful network of people across industry, profession, roles and cultures that have not only tested my own thinking, challenged my assumptions and taught me so much I would never have otherwise had access to working within the echo chamber of my corporate life, they have also been instrumental in making me engage in things that I would typically have found frightening.
One example recently is…acting.
Over four months ago, I volunteered to be part of a Fake News Channel called CNT News on Snapchat, the brainchild of Cameron Murray (@cammysutra6). At the time, I didn’t know what I was getting myself in for and the team quickly settled into different news team roles.
We have our meteorologist, local news reporters and news anchor. I play Sharon (Don’t Call Me Shazza) Breaknews, a dimwitted (she doesn’t believe she is of course) foreign correspondent who laments working with incompetent cameramen like Mike (the invisible member of the CNT News) and wonders when she will win an Investigative Journalism Award. However, to Shazza’s frustration, she always ends up with incompetence around her (usually her own fault) and ends up with nothing to report back to the news studio. I use my Instagram account (which frankly, was forlorn and forgotten) as my canvas to develop her character.
My approach with Shazza was that I wanted to develop her character with the best and worst bits of myself based on my own frustrations with work and life and then distort them, or at least blow them out of proportion.
Most of all, I wanted a completely different way of looking at things that are happening in our work and life – through the eyes of someone else – a fictional character.
Playing Shazza has in some way, given me a freedom to separate my personal and professional views in an online world because sometimes, I feel that rather than social media opening up conversations, it closes them down.
There’s a certain “unwritten and unexpressed” view of expectations around professionalism on social media and at some level, I’m resisting this. I don’t want to be defined by someone else’s expectations of what is professional or not because when you incorporate expression of creativity into the mix, it’s going to become a minefield of subjectivity.
This week, I saw this tweet from Mark Carrigan (@markcarrigan) a Digital Sociologist whose work and writing I respect who started this thread (click on it to read it all):
What does it mean to use social media in a ‘professional’ way? I’m increasingly convinced this is an unhelpful framing which makes it difficult for people to come to their own workable understand about what is appropriate or inappropriate for them in their work place.
— Mark Carrigan (@mark_carrigan) April 10, 2018
So Shazza has given me the freedom to swear (I don’t usually in real life), to call out incompetence where and when I see it (I’ll usually not offend anyone) and to not follow the rules (begrudgingly, I follow because that’s what is expected – it’s the norm) because, in an online and social world, expectations and pressures of your peers and networks means that you stand out if you’re a maverick – and mavericks are “bad for business”.
CNT pushes every single boundary I’ve had. From the topics it covers, its cheeky logo and its liberal use of swearing, and yet it is loved by its viewers and the team gets positive feedback every week (and requests to be reporters!)
Being creative, has surprisingly given me the freedom to call out the bullshit, the absurd and the stupid but I feared to do it under my own name because of that peer pressure of having to meet “professional expectations” so I wondered if this was a cop-out – or some form of activism on my part?
While I was thinking that, I saw a tweet about LinkedIn exploring the addition of GIFs into its posts and lamented the morphing of all social media platforms and which one will finally hold out for me….and this was the frightening response.
In the end, do we end up imitating our art? Or our art imitating our life?
This blog post by Helen Blunden was written in Melbourne, Australia and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.