Creative thinking: Creative working

I took some time to speak with Kate Forster, Head of Development at the Royal West of England Academy of Art (RWA) on a new discovery workshop for leaders seeking to reconnect with their creativity.

We often associate creativity with our early learning years when we are encouraged to understand and describe our world as it takes shape in our body and minds. Sir Ken Robinson, in his landmark TED talk, defined creativity as “the process of having original ideas that have value.” His challenge was directed at systems that marginalise creativity as a skill.
In the last 10 years this has changed. There has been much research and debate on the importance of creativity in a leader’s portfolio of skills. In 2010 IBM’s Global CEO Study, which surveyed more than 1,500 chief executive officers from 60 countries and 33 industries worldwide, concluded that creativity was the most important leadership quality for success in business, competing with competencies such as integrity and global thinking. In 2016 World Economic Forum research into the future of jobs included creativity in the top 3 skills for the 4th Industrial Revolution.
In 2017, Forbes published an interesting article highlighting that “Millennials prefer organizations with flexible, creative work environments where they can be productive, motivated and make a measurable impact”.
This leads us to the question: how do leaders reconnect with their instinctive creative talents and learn from the disciplines of an experienced artist? Kate has teamed up with Philippa Hale and Alison Moran from Open Limits to create a workshop that does exactly that. Called Creative thinking: Creative working, it has developed a cross-discipline exchange of creative working practices with RWA artist Academicians, world-class organisational development experts and groups of corporate leaders and managers. The intention is to provide a space for people to learn, to take an artist’s approach to visualising a problem, explore holistic thinking in finding a solution, take design risks and feel inspired to express their unique leadership approach.

Kate emphasised that part of leadership is bringing a group of individuals together to form a team that will dynamically work together. In 2012, a further study by IBM highlighted that executives expect their successful employees to be “collaborative, communicative, flexible and creative.”

A strong element of the Creative thinking: Creative working experiential workshop is finding the balance between self-expression and collaborating with other skilled individuals. Participants explore team-work, creative conflict management and take advantage of peer reviews to grow and become open to constructive failure. As with any artist’s journey to perfect their work, fear, doubt and uncertainty can be blocks to creativity. These are addressed in ways that participants find honest, thought provoking and helpful.

Here is a video clip introducing some rich moments and highlights illustrating the workshop content, thoughts from the Artist Academicians and comments from the participants.

Artist academicians and facilitator profiles

Stewart Geddes PRWA

Stewart Geddes is a long-standing Academician, and current President of the RWA.
He has recently exhibited at Metro Palenco, Mexico City, the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and the Atkinson Gallery, Millfield School. Stewart makes abstract paintings informed by the experience of the urban landscape. He is interested in the way abstraction focuses attention on the formal properties of surface, colour and shape, yet at the same time can set up a sensation that reminds the spectator of the character of landscapes.
In addition to his work as a practising artist, he is currently an Associate Lecturer at Gloucester University and Arts University Bournemouth. From 2007 – 2010 he was Head of Painting and Senior Lecturer at Cardiff School of Art and Design.

Lucy Austin RWA

Lucy is a new Academician elected in 2015. She has shown her work widely; such as SKETCH, a survey of artist sketchbooks (2017), The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition, Mall Galleries, London (2016), British Contemporary Watercolour (2015), The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London (2014) and The Jerwood Drawing Prize, London (2010).
After her MA in Printmaking, Lucy was Cheltenham Fine Art Fellow in Printmaking (1995/96) and was Visiting Lecturer at UWE on the Drawing & Applied Arts degree. Her practice was heavily influenced by her work as an Artist with Creative Partnerships, Bristol (2003/08) leading workshops with teachers, parents and young people in schools, youth clubs and hospital settings.
She is interested in exploring her imagination, making abstract images that often use structures in the landscape as a starting point. Her approach to making is always about the materials and having the confidence to be doubtful.

Philippa Hale

Philippa is the Director and Senior Consultant of Open limits.
She is a seasoned project and programme manager, and specialist in organisational learning, team and management development, particularly in the fields of Engineering and ICT. She works with project and programme leaders and their teams as coach, trainer, mentor and facilitator. Some of her projects include disruptive technology, process and structure change, for example after M&As.


The RWA is Bristol’s first art gallery. Its vision is to be the South West’s leading centre for the exhibition, exploration and practice of the visual arts, recognised as a place that enriches and nourishes the lives of people from all communities and backgrounds.
Located in Bristol, the RWA is the UK’s only regional Royal Academy of Art and one of only five in total, alongside those in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and London.

Next steps
For more information on the workshop content and dates, follow this link:

If you are interested in booking a place, please contact either:
Kate Foster, Head of Development, RWA on 0117 973 0938 or e-mail:
Marcus Harris, Chief Executive, Incite-Insight at email:



The science of presence in the coaching process

January 2018, that means the Annual Coaching and Mentoring Research conference at Oxford Brookes University. There was one particular presentation I was looking forward to seeing and that was Dr Roger Noon‘s exploration of presence in executive coaching.

Dr Noon is an experienced executive coach. For his professional doctorate he studied the nature of presence during a coaching session. Typically, the objective of a session is to support the client in having fresh insights and new thinking on an issue or idea. Dr Noon’s research revealed that a session is often perceived to be more successful when both participants are being in their place of “here and now” or “deep level of absorption”.

What does that mean, “deep level of absorption”? Dr Noon suggests that during the session the participants will move between being in “aware mode” and “absorbed mode”. This is in the context of internal, external and relational dimensions while appreciating a dynamic nature within and between individuals. Being “more absorbed” is arriving in that place of thinking timelessness and feeling a sense of heightened mental, emotional and somatic awareness, completely open.

Here is a video clip of Dr Noon explaining what he means.


What does this mean when coaching through creating a clay sculpture?

This is what I found rather interesting. Dr Noon’s research is focused on the interaction between coach and client. The foundations on which to build an successful coaching session.

Coaching Through Sculpting uses this process to create a dialogue on HOW someone portrays their sense of self, being present for another person, having an impact and how they tell their story through their natural facial expressions.

Here are some of the levels that can be explored in a Coaching Through Sculpting session:

  • We begin with giving time and creating a space that will allow both the client and the sculptor to travel from being “more aware” to being “more absorbed” in the act of producing a bust.
  • As the clay model takes shape we experience our levels of awareness of feeling, emotion with thoughts, thinking, interpretations and assumptions.
  • As the clay form starts to show expression and character this informs the sense of self and its relationship with the physical environment.
  • Finally, we can step into the place of an observer and look back into the sculpture and its impact.

It is almost as if we find our presence (impact on others) though a way of being (more absorbed) in the coaching session.

What do you think?



Family face

In my work as a trainer, facilitator and coach, I have delivered courses in presence, negotiation skills and communication skills to a wide range of organisations for many years.

In one exercise, I invite people to think about their impact on others in a first meeting. What impression do they imagine they are giving when they introduce themselves to somebody?

One of my questions in this process is to ask them if they have a “family face”. I explain that a family face is an expression a person will have when they are completely relaxed, thinking and sitting on their own. Much laughter often follows this question.

But what follows is fascinating. As people reflect on this, they start to talk about their “family face” and when it has had an impact on a conversation, a situation or a negotiation.

It is worth reflecting on what your “family face” looks like.


P.S. It does not work if you attempt to check for your “family face” in front of the mirror! It is better to ask someone else … you trust.