DISCOMFORT AND JOY
I spent the first few weeks of university well outside my comfort zone. Despite having been Head Boy and more confident than the average 17 year old school leaver, I was the least qualified of the 60 earnest architectural undergraduates. We all had good grades but they all had drawing experience: everyone seemed to have a relative who was an architect and I got an E for my crash O Level art. The first ten weeks were tough, as the assessments showed.
This week I spent two days on a Branding Masterclass as the least experienced creative person in the room, even though I was a generation older than most of my 15 new colleagues. It was quite a ride and there was an exam at the end and what I learned about myself in a group session was as rich as what I got from the content of the programme.
Edward De Bono’s six hats were employed briefly, taking me back to a keynote I saw him deliver in Barcelona 15 years ago. That my default is the contrarian “Black Hat” was no surprise, but it seemed that black hat was also in evidence when fresh and creative “Green Hat” was in play and can pop up at any point. This was something I worked on as group work progressed, because I could see it was becoming tedious for the others. It was salutary when the facilitator simply batted away an intervention with a dismissive shrug or humour, but you learn from such moments.
In the group work none of my initial ideas made the cut. Some were discussed briefly before being tossed aside but I simply had to give up on what was, from my perspective, terrific creative thinking. When we moved to the next stage I had to draw a line and get ready to enthusiastically contribute. As we moved through the case study I found I enjoyed contributing further down the track, but had to flex out of Black Hat, be less contrarian and accept the direction chosen with good grace.
Over the two days I consciously decided not to lead, always suggesting others: no presentations, no chairing the quick and dirty workshops, no moving centre stage. I was not entirely successful at this and took up a Big Pen now and again, but I noticed that taking a back seat allowed me to observe the strengths of my three colleagues and reflect more. We came up with ZipZoop, a business that will revolutionise the car repair industry by using drones to service your car as you sleep.
The direct business benefits were having two days to think about brand strategy. Key takeaways are that I need to work on the alignment of our name, tagline and vision: and I need to align better with my branding consultants. Work on that started the morning after the day before.
And I passed the exam, which was nice.