Tag Archives: ECCI

Making it Happen in Brussels

Last month I presented at the European Conference on Creativity and Innovation in Brussels.

It was a wonderful experience!

The conference theme was “Make it Happen.” I presented a workshop on using literary and dramatic techniques for effective implementation of creative ideas. The conference was well attended, and very inspiring.

As I look back now on the months of preparation in program development and all of the logistics which are involved in presenting one’s work in a far-away place, I’m struck by the degree of “making-in-happen-ness” that was part of the whole process.

In this, I offer the perspective of one who teaches what they most need to learn.

When we aboard an important idea, energy is generated. Once we have agreed, in our hearts and our calendars and our wallets, that we are going forward with something, energy gets kicked up. I would argue that our ability to handle that energy is as much a part of the process as the experience itself.

One of the first impressions I had as I was formulating the workshop for the conference was the degree to which ideas and their implementation differ. They feel different. An idea is sparkly, promising, free. To “make it happen” will cost us something. What that cost is may be indeterminate, but I believe a part of our psyche knows that we are pulling up against something that may change us, and it will certainly cost us, and this feels qualitatively different from the sparkle of a brand spanking new idea.

To draw this into our awareness is to say, yes this is where the rubber meets the road, and it doesn’t have to feel easy. In fact, if it feels difficult, that may be a good thing. As I pointed out in the workshop, part of the structure of a good story is the pain of an obstacle, potentially insurmountable, and the development within us that it calls forth.

The conference was a fantastic experience. The ideas generated were made manifest in an environment of curiosity, bonhomie and generosity. “Making it Happen” cost everyone who was there, in terms of energy and time and money. Bringing ideas into the world will do that.

We all decide, sometimes on a daily basis: is it worth the price?

Is there an idea that is suing for your time/money/energy right now? How will you proceed?

Riding the Arc of the Story: Threshold Guardians


What’s up with the resistance?

You know the one. The resistance that comes shortly after you decide to launch a new creative endeavor. The resistance that whispers in your ear that maybe the idea isn’t that great, or you really don’t have the time, or you’re really not so good after all.

Maybe it doesn’t affect you. If not, I’m willing to bet you’re in the minority. For a lot of people, the initiatory phase of a project can be a very painful back-and-forth play of initiative and doubt.

I’m currently working on a program I’ll be delivering at the European Conference on Creativity and Innovation in Brussels at the end of the month, called “Riding the Arc of the Story: Harnessing Literary and Dramatic Techniques for Effective Implementation,” and it’s given me some insights about resistance, narrative structure, and the Hero’s Journey.

Evidently, as soon as the hero begins her journey, she is met at the threshold by beings whose purpose it is to provide initial resistance in the form of a test: is the hero up for the challenge? They’re called “threshold guardians,” and they can show up as friends, family, foes…or even part of our own psyche, our shadow.

The concept of the threshold guardian gives us a new way of looking at internal resistance to the early phases of a project. Now, instead of either giving in to the temptation to pull away, or feeling like we have to muscle through and pretend the resistance isn’t there, we can remind ourselves that we might be on the threshold, and this might be only a test. Of the emergency threshold guardian system. And it’s ok.

The next time you find yourself hitting that resistance wall, ask yourself: is this a wall? or might it actually be an opening. Might you actually be on the threshold of something entirely new?

European Conference on Creativity and Innovation

I will be traveling to Brussels at the end of October to present a workshop at the 11th European Conference on Creativity and Innovation.

It’s a great opportunity to get to know some people in the creativity field in Europe, and also to connect with some friends and colleagues.

The conference theme is “Make it Happen.” Very often the attention in creativity goes to how we generate new ideas (“ideation”). At this conference, they are making a real effort to focus on the next step: implementation.

I will be delivering a workshop called “Riding the Arc of the Story: Harnessing Literary and Dramatic Techniques for Effective Implementation.” The idea is this: when we start to implement an idea, put it into action, very often we will hit a roadblock. So, what does it mean to us when that happens? How do we interpret it?

I propose that by looking at roadblocks and obstacles through a different set of glasses, we might learn to interpret them in a new way. That new set of glasses is the structure of narrative arts. So we’ll be looking at things that storytellers (actors and writers) do, on a structural level, that can shine some light on the perils and promises of implementation.

A few days later, I will be teaming up with Marcel van der Pol, who does wonderful work with storytelling (he’s also a presenter at the conference). In the morning, he will offer a workshop on The Story of the Hero. I follow up in the afternoon with Powerful Personal Presence, a workshop on how to deliver material (or tell stories…) with confidence and authenticity. Information on that day of programs is here.

And, over the weekend, I hope to reprise the workshop on Embodying Sustainability, which I first developed for the International Organization Development Association conference a few years ago.

My good friend Cyriel Kortleven at New Shoes Today in Belgium is the connector behind these additional events… His work is exciting, and worth knowing about. Find him here. (He will also be one of the MC’s for the ECCI conference.)

All in all, I’m sure there will be much fun and interesting connections. Look to further blogs for news on how it’s all unfolding.

Riding the Arc of the Story: Inciting Obstacles

All of a sudden, you have it: a beautiful idea! It comes to you full blown and shimmery. Perhaps something brand new you’ve never before conceived, or perhaps the result of pondering long and hard. Regardless, there it is: exciting, and full of energy. Your idea can do no wrong. The world is its oyster. It is your helium balloon.

Ideation. What a great place to be.

You, and perhaps a happy gang of fellow-ideators, begin to bring this effervescent, brilliant idea into being. Plans are drawn, schemes concocted, url’s purchased and celebrations forseen. It’s all a giddy whirl.

Until the obstacles start to arrive. Perhaps not with the first obstacle, or the second, or the third. But eventually it happens: something comes up and you don’t know if you can get around it. As sure as ideas are born, obstacles come in their wake. It is like a natural law.

In the move from ideation to implementation or execution, the emergence of obstacles can tell us many things. It can be a reality check, or a good moment for redirection. A serious obstacle has the power to derail the entire scheme. Most people, I think, realize that when ideas hit the real world, they are reshaped, and sometimes with difficulty.

But how do we respond when it happens? Think especially of group endeavors. How do different personalities react to the emergence of a serious obstacle to implementation? Can you think of a time when someone has thrown up their hands and said: “At last! Now the real story has begun!”

That’s what the narrative arts have to show us. If we look at the implementation phase through the lens of narrative structure, we can see how stories don’t really get started until the first big whammy. There’s even a term for it: the inciting event. Anything before the inciting event (also sometimes known as the first plot point), is merely background, setting the stage. The action does not really begin to elucidate meaning within the framework of the story, until something unexpected shows up.

The arrival of obstacles which appear to thwart our plans does not necessarily mean that the idea wasn’t solid or real enough for the real world. In fact, it might be just the opposite. The natural pairing of idea and obstacle, story and inciting event, can give us energy for the next phase: the rising action.

I’ll be exploring other narrative structural elements in later posts. I’ll also be giving a workshop on the use of the narrative arts in effective implementation for the European Conference on Creativity and Innovation, in Brussels in late October. And, as befits the theme, I’ve been noticing that since I had the idea for the workshop…well, let’s just say that I’ve been keeping good company with some of my favorite obstacles. But more on that to come…