For the past couple of months, I’ve experimented with writing some notes reflecting on the month just gone. I’ve quite enjoyed writing them, and they didn’t take too long to write.

I’ve also found the process helpful in getting me to think about and to articulate and record things that otherwise I wouldn’t have. So I’m keeping going with it.

1. What went well?

I wasn’t at all sure how the workshop would go, but it reinforced for me the value of holding space, trusting people, trusting the process you’ve planned (whilst remaining flexible), the importance of creating the space to have open reflective conversations, and the power of vulnerability and sharing.

It was good to speak to someone who sees lots of people who have had a stroke and to hear her say how normal my anxieties and feelings are. Just as it was for me in September/October, it remains the case that “that’s quite normal” are some seriously reassuring words. It was also nice to be reminded of the progress that most people continue to make between 6 months and 12 months after their stroke — and beyond that too. Although I no longer measure or notice my progress in weeks or even days, as I did at the start of my recovery, I still recognise how I continue to improve. For example, I organise a large quarterly management meeting (which usually runs over a couple of days and always used to be offsite). And I felt so much better, so much more alert for the meeting this month than I did during the previous one, at beginning of December (which someone else had organised, as I was only just beginning my phased return to work). I look back to that meeting, and — although I thought I was doing ok at the time — in contrast to how I am now and how I am now able to take things in, process information and organise things, I feel that that past me was sitting in the meeting like a rabbit in headlights, watching a stream of information go past me.

2. Who did you work with in a different profession/team within your organisation?

I’ve been working with people from our marketing, sales and strategy teams to review how we do the early stages of the product development lifecycle, with a view to making it clearer for people, in order to save people re-inventing the wheel and enable faster product innovation.

As always, I’m finding working in a cross-functional/multi-disciplinary team enlightening and rewarding.

3. Who or what inspired you?

I’ve been repeatedly inspired over the past month by the work of Cambridge Curiosity & Imagination (CCI), the arts and well-being charity whose board of trustees I chair.

A picture of interwoven threads of words — each thread is a principle that describes how the charity CCI works
A picture of interwoven threads of words — each thread is a principle that describes how the charity CCI works
CCI’s principles that describe how the charity works

The charity, whose work brings together those with a shared passion for how the arts and nature can transform lives, and a belief in the power of community activism, won an award for social entrepreneurship and shaped two events I attended in the Cambridge festival.

The first event, which explored the principles and practice of improving wellbeing in schools through creative practice in nature, was an introduction to the charity’s ArtScapers programme and their collaborative approach to working with children, through deep listening, creative adventuring, and artistic co-creation. Writer Rob Macfarlane described the programme as:

an inspiring story of how children are wondernauts; of how art and making can change minds and lift hearts; of how using the outdoors as a classroom can transform learning, and bring joy and hope. It’s a chronicle of the ongoing, unfurling adventures of the imagination in one place, with one group, which ripples outwards in powerful ways.

In the second event, Children are place-makers, one of the panellists shared a manifesto that some of the children in the Artscapers programme had written:

A manifesto that children wrote about how they want to be
A manifesto that children wrote about how they want to be
A gif of people standing up to applaud
A gif of people standing up to applaud

4. Who did you work with/talk to/visit outside your organisation/sector?

  • I enjoyed a couple more ‘random coffees’ with people in the ‘agile in the ether’ community.
  • I didn’t do much more for my #100people challenge, although reflecting on that in writing this post has helped me to decide who the next five people I’m going to get in touch with are.

5. What made you stop and think?

Before the course, I was already sold on the importance of a business focusing on the experience of its customers, which is completely fundamental if you design and deliver digital products.

One thing that struck me about the course that I wasn’t expecting was how it was set up online. The training was delivered through Forrester’s own online learning application. Leaving aside my own customer experience of the first hour of the course being taken up by a training module on how to use their system… what really struck me was the way the learning was set up and structured. It was in weekly modules, each one broken down into bite-size chunks of video tutorials, video case studies and exercises — and you got points for completing each ‘chunk’. There was also a leader board, where you could see how many points everyone on the course had. At first, I was intrigued at the positive effect this ‘gamification’ had on me. I got sucked in, and I’d sometimes think “I’ll just squeeze in one more 4-minute video before I stop, and get myself another 10 points”. More points = a little dopamine hit = gratification. However, by the end of the 8-week course, when I’d got a bit behind, I was just chasing points. The extrinsic motivation of gaining points had sucked out and replaced my intrinsic motivation in learning.

6. What was hard?

  • We sold Maisie, our camper van, which we’d had for 6 years
A photo of our old camper van, that we sold, Maisie
A photo of our old camper van, that we sold, Maisie
A tweet from Cookie Monster saying he’s not sad because his cookie is finished, he’s smiling because it happened.
A tweet from Cookie Monster saying he’s not sad because his cookie is finished, he’s smiling because it happened.
Cookie Monster wisdom

7. What did you learn?

  • Shoshin — a team mate introduced me to this concept, which is close to the idea of beginner’s mind
  • “Crossing the river by feeling the stones”— I love this phrase and sentiment from Deng Xiaoping, who was a Chinese economist, and leader. It’s all about having purpose and direction, taking small steps and understanding your landscape as you go along

8. What was fun?

  • Getting guinea pigs

9. What did you enjoy?

  • Dancing — 9am Monday morning, it’s the perfect start to the week
  • Carving a spoon for the first time in many months — I didn’t finish it, but it was good to begin to get back into it — thank you Dan Barrett
  • To Kill a Mockingbird — I’d not read it before, and I thought it was really good
  • Reading Gide for the first time since my PhD thesis 20 years ago, which I wrote on one of his novels. Continuing a theme of the past couple of months, it was almost poetry.
  • The changing of the seasons — one small benefit I’ve found of lockdown and of not being allowed to leave your local area is that — through going for regular walks within a limited area — I’ve seen more closely than I remember seeing before the gradual changing of the seasons, day to day
  • Seeing a woodpecker and a siskin in our garden

10. What are you looking forward to in April?

  • Seeing friends IRL
  • Seeing my parents for the first time in over 15 months
  • Getting up for the dawn chorus
  • Kayaking

Senior Director @ElsevierConnect doing product strategy implementation & performance. Mainly writing about getting from A to B, & digital stuff. Personal acc’t.