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Is your imagination out of focus?

Things are settling a bit at Lucidity HQ, so it's time to for me to get back on the blog writing horse. And what better place to start than what makes my work tick? Lucidity is founded on three core values - being creative, challenging, and clear - so I thought I'd spend a bit of time reflecting on what each one means to me today, nearly 8 years since I set out on this journey. In the first of this series of three posts, I explore creativity and what it looks like in the work I do. As Mark Twain (apparently) said, 'You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.' So let's put on our imagination glasses and get the creative juices flowing.

I'm not what you'd call a naturally creative person. I've never been able to draw, any musical dreams ended with grade 1 piano and, while I love to write, fiction is definitely not my thing. But, even against those odds, I pride myself in the creativity I bring to my work and I think this manifests itself in a few different ways. Let's explore what this looks like.

Making connections

One of the most important things about the way I work is my focus on gathering a really broad range of information and then making different kinds of connections so that I can suggest relevant and useful recommendations. In the 'gathering' phase, this might mean talking to people who haven't been consulted before, it might mean welcoming information that has previously been ignored or downplayed, or it might mean thinking differently about the desk research to highlight new perspectives on a particular topic. The 'connecting' phase usually involves big bits of paper, lots of coloured pens and a set of crazy mind maps, to help me shine new light on the issues. Then I'll have a process of translating these scribbles to make suggestions that I think are practical, achievable and will really make a difference. I often think of this process as one of untangling a big ball of wool and then knitting it together again. I'm never really sure where to start, or what it will look like at the end, but I know that something interesting will emerge! And while this is not a traditional view of creativity, looking at things from different angles and seeing how they connect is core to what I do.

Getting visual

My use of visuals in consultations and reports is on a more solid footing when it comes to getting creative. If you follow my posts or the work I do, you'll be familiar with my love of Bikablo and the lightbulb moment I had when I did the fantastic course back in 2019. I'd dipped my toe into doing things differently before the workshop, but it wasn't until I'd completed my training that I really appreciated the power that presenting information in different visual ways could have. Since then, I've been determined to make visuals a central part of my work, whether that's a discussion with a board, a consultation event, a presentation, or a project report. I use colour, icons and other images as much as possible, and even draw my own every now and again. And what I've learned is that it doesn't matter that I can't really draw, what matters is that people respond positively to seeing something that's not a corporate presentation flooded with bullet points, a plain whiteboard or flipchart paper, or pages and pages of relentless text.

Trying new things

And that brings me to final point - being creative by embracing the opportunity to try new things. It's really easy to get stuck in set ways, especially when you work for yourself - there's no one other than you to question how effective the methods are, or suggest it's time to refresh the standard MO. So, I try not to follow standard methodologies and instead adapt my approach for each project. Sometimes, this means using an entirely new technique, like recently for the whole systems mapping work I did for Durham County Council. It might mean testing out new tools to help with different parts of the work, from online collaborative platforms to new pieces of kit. Or, it might mean different ways to present information, like doing a PechaKucha instead of a standard presentation. Whatever it is, I hope I'm able to offer clients some insights into new or different approaches that they might find useful.

A systems map

I know I'll never be an artist or designer, but I hope that this post has demonstrated how important it is to be creative in different ways. It keeps me motivated, interested and learning. So focus your imagination on getting creative in ways that work for you. You never know, it might lead to great things.


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