Jubilant Musings: The Great British (Brain)storm
Ah, the weather. It’s going to change again, isn’t it? Things are just about holding over Soho Square, but I hear tell of electrical storms overnight and a temperature plunge in the offing. It’ll be chilly again just in time for the Jubilee weekend. What a shame. Just as we were really starting to warm to the idea of socks with sandals, Pimm’s in the sunshine and a jubilant weekend of slightly overheated tuna sarnies curling at the corners.
Let’s face it though, we British will carry on as if it’s a blazing hot day despite the mercury struggling to make double figures. It’s just that sort of spirit that saw us through the war.
Please don’t take me for a cynic. Any excuse for a party. I’m going to try and dig out some seventies recipes – no national celebration is complete without a cheese and pineapple hedgehog as far as I’m concerned. I’m certain Her Maj feels exactly the same.
Have you got any idea where this is going yet? No, neither have I… But I am feeling a whole lot more comfortable now we’ve discussed the weather and covered off a few cultural stereotypes.
Which brings me neatly to another – The British Stiff Upper Lip. Synecdoche, if you will – symbolising those very British traits of emotional fortitude, self-restraint and generally not letting our emotions show through (thank you, Wikipedia). Basically, all these flapping flags have got me thinking – does the stiff upper lip get in the way of creative thinking? When it comes to say, brainstorming, do we need to be a bit more, well, how can I put this delicately… American about it?
It’s something I’ve noticed in the past few weeks in attempting to flex my own (admittedly weedy) creative facilitation muscles. One of the most critical and tricky things for any facilitator to master is making a group completely at ease with one another, trust the process and willing to suspend their disbelief sufficiently to just go with the flow for a bit.
Moreover, as a facilitator, learning to let yourself do this – let go of the fear that nobody is going to ‘get it’, go with you, share, start making animal noises or stand to tell all their most embarrassing moment as a teenager – is a big old challenge. It’s vital. If you’re embarrassed, nervous and not entirely convinced it’s going to work, your ‘stormers certainly will be too.
Creativity demands that we take what we know and be willing to turn it inside out, back to front and stand it on its head – while also embracing what we don’t know and being willing to poke around there for a while too. It takes a strong guide to get to get any group to this point, which is when the creative magic starts to happen.
As a facilitator (and a very British one, at that) I’m learning that what you can’t do is hurry this journey. Strangers exchanging platitudes don’t become creative moguls dancing a brainstorm jig whilst simultaneously making Play-Do figures in a jiffy. Easing people in gently, the power of the icebreaker and giving time for ideas and thoughts to incubate even before you convene is undoubtedly the secret to unravelling that stiff upper lip. The challenge is having all the right tools prepared in a brainstorm to help get to that magical point where the ideas are flowing and social mores of sensible thoughts and behaviour are long forgotten.
Or failing that, a few glasses of Pimm’s and a couple of those cheese and pineapple sticks should do the trick.