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The Power of the Experience

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” ― Richard Branson.

Well I didn’t fall over, but I certainly opened myself up and pushed the boundaries with my creativity based personal development immersion in New York City. I enrolled in an acting course to hone my communication skills, a painting class to create with freedom and was inspired through engagement with local creatives and entrepreneurs. Actively participating and creating with my fellow students was confronting, but also the most fun and positively impactful learning experience of my 55-year-old life!

So why?

On reflection it was the power of the experience – experiential learning combined with experiential travel.

It is widely accepted that there are four learning styles:

  • Auditory, where people take in information through listening,
  • Reading/writing for those who enjoy interacting with text,
  • Visual, for those that best absorb and understand with images, and
  • Tactile, kinesthetic, or as the Virgin Chief says – learning by doing.

But there is a variation to the learning by doing style, called Experiential Learning. First proposed by David Kolb in 1984, it is defined as “learning through reflection on doing” and has the following benefits:

  • Keeps you focused and present through active participation.
  • Provides real time application of information, allowing experimentation.
  • Access to in the moment coaching, allowing more rapid skills progression.
  • Encourages teamwork and communication between the participants – another learning opportunity.
  • Development of reflective practice habits.
  • Heightened satisfaction and confidence, as progress and accomplishments are obvious.

This technique allows reflection and observation in the sessions, but some concepts would benefit from additional thinking and processing. But how do you get that space for reflection time in a connected and busy world?

Well I happened to be immersed in the sights, sounds and energy of in New York City, well clear from my usual routine and open to new adventures and opportunities. What I later realised is that one of the fastest growing trends is immersive, or experiential travel. *In 2017, 65% of travellers preferred ‘experiencing something new’ over ‘feeling rested and recharged’.

Here at Creative Cities 21, we have learned by doing and offer an impactful personal development program delivered through experiential learning and for those joining us from outside New York City, the added benefit of experiential travel, making it a unique holiday learning experience!

So would this learning style suit you? If you are not sure of your preferred method to optimise your personal and professional development, then one way to find out is to use an online assessment tool. Try it out and hopefully you agree with us and we will see you soon!

*In 2017, 65% of travellers preferred ‘experiencing something new’ over ‘feeling rested and recharged’.
^ “U.S. Experiential Traveler Trends 2018: Annual Survey on Traveler Behavior, Motivations & Preferences”. Skift Research.

Creative Cities 21 re-energises busy people through a unique personal development experience. With plenty of evidence highlighting that creativity makes you more productive, better leaders & workers and happier, our 5-day program combines a number of activity-based creative workshops whilst immersed in awesome New York City. You will leave inspired, reinvigorated and with a renewed sense of passion and possibility.

Find out more about our 2019 programs at www.creativecities21.com

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Education As The Next Big Trend In Travel

AS SEEN ON THE NEW DAILY

The Next Big Trend in Travel? It’s Education

80 per cent more Australians are booking classes and workshops when they travel.
And globally, education while travelling is up by more than 90 per cent!


READ THE ARTICLE HERE

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Great eating spots in NoLita, New York City

NoLita, or North of Little Italy has had some notable residents in its time – David Bowie, Martin Scorsese, John Mayer and us, Angie and Jeremy!

This very cool neighbourhood in Manhattan is bounded by SoHo, Little India, NoHo and Lower East Side and is the home to many restaurants and bars.

There are so many great places to eat in Manhattan, let alone NoLita, so we have decided to just focus on eating in the charming Elizabeth Street, with its collection of low-rise buildings, a welcoming little community garden, loads of great shops and plenty of restaurants.

TACOMBI AT FONDA NOLITA

267 Elizabeth Street

It was once a car repair shop, but since 2010, it has been home to this authentic Mexican diner. It has a casual, colourful setting with their original 1963 VW Kombi van from Mexico City parked in the centre, still slinging out their famous and delicious tacos. Over our several visits, we worked our way through the whole menu and enjoyed them all.

This is one of their six locations in Manhattan but is the original and still has the charm – and their old VW!

http://tacombi.com/

Café Habana

Corner Elizabeth and 17 Prince St

If you love Cuban and Mexican food, it will be difficult for you to go past this place. Established in 1998, it is a casual and inexpensive restaurant with good sized servings. We ticked off most items in the menu and all are great, but highly recommend any of their salads and sandwiches topped with corn on the cob!

They have another NYC location in Brooklyn and also in Malibu, New Orleans and Tokyo!

https://www.cafehabana.com/

Peasant

194 Elizabeth Street

Need something a little more up market? Peasant has an authentic rustic Italian cuisine with a charcoal and wood fired oven. It has a very welcoming and spacious bar at the front with plenty of “on the house” olives and bread sticks! Occasionally we popped in there for a drink and chat with the friendly staff as we were heading elsewhere. Meal quantities are good, and they have been very accommodating when arranging tables for our program participants. They also have a downstairs wine bar that opens at 7pm.

Note that the restaurant is closed on Mondays.

http://www.peasantnyc.com/

The Butcher’s Daughter

Corner Elizabeth and 19Kenmare Street

On the southern end of Elizabeth Street people gather to eat at this very trendy and popular restaurant. It is vegetarian and mostly vegan and gluten free.  They use fresh, locally sourced ingredients and regularly change their menus which kept us coming back. Even though we are not vegetarians, we found the food tasty, interesting and we felt super heathy as we were leaving!

It’s worth a visit.

They also have restaurants in the West Village, Brooklyn and also in LA.

https://www.thebutchersdaughter.com/

Creative Cities 21 re-energises busy people through a unique personal development experience. With plenty of evidence highlighting that creativity makes you more productive, better leaders & workers and happier, our 5-day program combines a number of activity-based creative workshops whilst immersed in awesome New York City. You will leave inspired, reinvigorated and with a renewed sense of passion and possibility.

Find out more about our 2019 programs at www.creativecities21.com

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The Keys to Open House Museums in NYC

There’s a proverb that says – home is where the heart is.

While the Oxford dictionary goes on to explain – that your home will always be the place for which you feel the deepest affection …

In New York City there are a few people that have gone a step further and opened up their homes for visitors to take a glimpse into their own abodes of affection ….and art collections.

Here are 3 stand out open houses and some tips based on our experiences.

The Frick Collection

Industrialist tycoon Henry Clay Frick always had the intention to leave his house, opposite Central Park, and his art collection to the public.

His well-placed confidence now enables the public to enjoy a unique way to appreciate masterpieces from the likes of Manet, Rembrandt, Degas and Turner, still arranged as Henry originally had.

Some tips and rules that will help you enjoy the ambience of Mr. Frick’s abode:

  • Be sure to visit the Garden Court, a gorgeous courtyard with a fountain and natural light where you can sit whilst contemplating the Frick family’s daily activities. It’s also the only spot in the house where one can take photographs.
  • no children under the age of 10
  • No sitting on Henry’s priceless antique furniture – except in the courtyard
  • $22 entry fee can be avoided if you go on the First Friday evening of the month (except September and January), from 6 -9 p.m. Also Wednesdays between 2-6pm is pay what you wish.
  • Closed Mondays.

Location

1 East 70th Street

New York, NY 10021

www.frick.org

 

The Morgan Library and Museum.

In 1924 J. P. Morgan Jr. gave his father’s extraordinary library to the public in accordance with his father’s last will & testament (John Pierpont Morgan was worth $46 billion from his days as a banker and financier!).

Today, we have full access to Morgan’s 1906 library, which has been breathtaking preserved in all its original splendour. Additions over the years now allows The Morgan complex to serve as a museum and scholarly research centre, as well as a music venue.

If all this culture makes you hungry during your visit, consider two dining options – The Morgan Café or the Dining Room. Finish your day at the Morgan Shop, located in J.P. Morgan Jr.’s former brownstone mansion.

Tips for an enjoyable visit to the Morgan Family residence include:

  • Museum admission is not required to visit the eating facilities.
  • Highly recommend the free hourlong “highlights” tour of the permanent collection are available Tuesday to Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
  • Fridays 7-9 pm is free and that’s plenty of time is see everything
  • Closed Mondays
  • No flash light photography

Location

225 Madison Avenue

New York, NY 10016

www.themorgan.org/visit/group-tours-and-visits

 

Neue Galerie

Time for a splash of yellow? Go to this “home” that was originally built for the industrialist William Starr Miller in the early 1900s and you can get a glimpse of Klimt’s portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (made more famous by the movie The Woman in Gold starring Helen Mirren).

If you’re devoted to early twentieth-century German and Austrian art and design, this gallery is perfect for you. It was conceived by two mates. An art dealer and museum exhibition organizer Serge Sabarsky and heir to Estée Lauder cosmetics, Ron Lauder.

A few tips to make this special:

  • Free, forty-five-minute tours that covers the highlights of the permanent collection and the special exhibition start at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
  • Closed Tuesday & Wednesday
  • To avoid $22 admission charge, go from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the first Friday of every month. 
  • Photography is permitted in limited areas including the ground floor and lower level
  • no children under the age of 12
  • Hungry? There are two excellent restaurants – Café Sabarsky or Café Fledermaus.

Location

1048 5th Avenue and 86th Street

https://www.neuegalerie.org/

 

 

There is plenty of evidence highlighting that creativity makes you more productive, better leaders & workers and happier. Creative Cities 21 re-energise people through creative escapes in great cities of the world. The program combines the best elements of immersive travel and workshops in painting, acting and innovation, providing a unique, fun and impactful creative learning experience.

Find out more about our 2019 programs at www.creativecities21.com

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Tips For a Creative Night in New York City

Wow, where do you start!?

Try it all we say.

There are restaurants, bars, clubs, both Broadway and off-Broadway shows and plenty more.

Something we also like to do when visiting New York City is to see live performances. What better than comedy clubs and improv theatres?

Here are 3 suggestions for you:

Comedy Cellar

Think Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, Robin Williams and more!!

It is an intimate venue located on MacDougal Street, in the Greenwich Village and SoHo neighbourhoods of Manhattan. As the name implies, it is in the basement with low ceilings, which adds to the ambience.

When we first went there, we didn’t know the routine and were saying how awesome this first guy was! Then he said, “ok, let’s start the show with the first act …..” As you can imagine, the 5 comedians were even better than the host!

Some tips…

  • It is busy, so suggest you make reservations online (you only pay on the night). If not, then arrive 45mins before the show and join the waitlist queue just around the corner. There are always no-shows.
  • No photos – they will make you delete the photo and if you do it again, will throw you out.
  • If this venue is full, try their sister venue, the Village Underground, just around the corner.
  • If you want a bite to eat before or after the show, try Saigon Shack Vietnamese Restaurant across the road. Quick, inexpensive and wonderful!

Comedy Cellar

117 MacDougal Street

Between W 3rd St. & Minetta Lane

https://www.comedycellar.com/

The Peoples Improv Theater (PIT)

A random word or phrase is called out by someone in the audience and then it starts……If you want to be amazed at the skill and quick wittedness of people doing improv in a relaxed and very pleasant theatre, then this is for you. Tickets were inexpensive and staff and surroundings very relaxed and professional.

Established on 2002, this is both a comedy training centre and improv theatre. As we were already enrolled in an acting course, we just went there to enjoy improv and the rawness and emotion of their craft.

There are two locations, 123 E 24th St (b/t Park & Lexington) where they have 2 theatres – Striker Main Stage (their largest) and the Underground and the Loft at 154 W 29th St (b/t 6th & 7th). We hung out at 123rd.

Some tips…

  • Check the website for show themes and times and get there a little early to enjoy the wonderful bar.
  • Perhaps you can sign up for a short course and let us know how it goes!!

People’s Improv Theater (The PIT)

123 E 24th St, New York

https://thepit-nyc.com/

New York Comedy Club

This is a smaller venue than the Comedy Cellar and is really conducive for in your face stand-up comedians working the crowd – particularly if you are in the front row. We struck it “lucky” a few times and were right up there and ended up being part of a few shows. One night we had a couple next to us on a first date and offered up that they just met on a Christian online dating site. That ended up being a 10min improv set just there!!

Some tips…

  • After the show on a Monday night a whole bunch of comedians come on and try out their new material. It is so new, many are reading the lines from their phones or note pad. As you can imagine, the quality varies, but you get to see them perfect their craft and all the hidden work they must do. This is a tough gig when no one laughs.
  • Get there a little early for a few drinks at their cosy bar and also you can be more selective with seats when they usher you in.

There are 2 locations, Midtown and East Village.

We hung out at the Midtown.

Midtown – 241 East 24th St.

East Village – 85 East 4th St

https://newyorkcomedyclub.com/

There is plenty of evidence highlighting that creativity makes you more productive, better leaders & workers and happier. Creative Cities 21 re-energise people through creative escapes in great cities of the world. The program combines the best elements of immersive travel and workshops in painting, acting and innovation, providing a unique, fun and impactful creative learning experience.

Find out more about our 2019 programs at www.creativecities21.com

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10 Reflections On 2018

Last week I had the opportunity to reflect on 2018 during the 11-hour flight back from Japan. (yes, we are also looking for at that city for another Creative Escape!).

In 2017, I had a 7-week sabbatical from work that provided me the chance to refresh, recharge and explore the power of creativity *

I had been fortunate to have worked in the innovation sector for over 10 years and seen first-hand how powerful innovation and creativity is in unlocking our personal potential and those of the organisations we work in. I wanted to take the time to explore this more and combined with my passion for travel, I set off with my wife Angie for New York City – one of the world’s most creative cities.

We put together a program that enabled both of us to both learn and explore, and at the same time enjoy all the city has to offer from health and wellness activities like yoga, to great restaurants, the coolest bars, famous street art and galleries, and talking to inspiring creatives, business and community leaders.

This experience was so impactful that on our return I left my 30+ year corporate career in a global professional service company. We saw an opportunity to assist others to benefit from the power of creativity and being inspired by the places, people and culture when time is taken to learn and immersive in a great city. So, we founded Creative cities 21!

We were overjoyed when in August of this year we hosted the first croup of participants in our Creative Escape in NYC.

Here are my 10 (+1) reflections on the year, focused on starting our business…..

  1. People are very kind with their time.
  2. Know your customer really well and put them at the centre of all your activities.
  3. Social media is very demanding and is not the magic sauce.
  4. Be open to pivoting and just accept you didn’t hit bullseye first go.
  5. Keep moving forward, even if slower than you want.
  6. Commit and truly believe to help soften the negative little voices that can get you down.
  7. Look for and really listen to honest and at times brutal feedback. Then thank them for it.
  8. Be prepared to learn new skills.
  9. Be comfortable with ambiguity.
  10. Be truly authentic.

(11. Have some fun!).

Thank you for your time in reading this – and feedback is most welcomed!

Angie and I wish you a safe, happy and successful 2019!

*

– Creativity is identified as the third most required skill by the World Economic Forum.

– IBM survey of 5,000 CEOs has creativity as the No. 1 required skill.

– Adobe’s Global State of Create survey of 5,000 people: 70% identified creativity as valuable to the economy & society and makes people better workers, leaders, parents and students. Only 31% deliver on it. They also responded saying it will make you happier and healthier.

Creative Cities 21 re-energises people through 5-day creative escapes in great cities of the world. By combining the benefits of painting, acting, innovation & travel, we ignite your creativity, helping you realise your personal and professional potential. Find out more about our 2019 programs at www.creativecities21.com

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Why Taking Your Eye Off The Ball Is Actually A Good Idea

I bet you are walking around with one right now.

An idea not yet fully formed, a little gem of insight or creative thought that is bubbling away under the to do list and the demands of daily life.

What about your great ideas or even half formed business plans of a new business, product or service you have discussed at work or with your friends? If implemented, they could be wonderful innovations making you the next Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg or Richard Branson.

 

So what stops us from realising our personal creativity and innovation. Dreaming up, shaping and delivering new ideas that can bring value and joy to our lives?

 

It’s often about making time and space to learn the tools and build the confidence to formulate, express and implement new ideas. About letting go of fear, embracing risk and in the words of a famous sports brand “just doing it”.

 

It starts with creativity and there is a wealth of data* that shows that people who are more creative are also happier. That letting our creativity develop and flourish builds our ability to manage change, adapt and grow, releasing limiting thinking that stops us from seeing new opportunities and ultimately reaching our full potential.

 

In the words of New York Times bestselling author CJ Lyons, realising our creativity is about, “Living in possibility and abundance rather than limitation and scarcity.”

 

So what are some of the ways you can start to build your creativity and benefit from a more innovative approach to your work and life:

 

  • Jot down your ideas when you think of them, regardless of how formed they might be. Take 5 minutes each week to priorities the best 3 based on your own criteria of success whether that be financial metrics, sustainability, problem criticality, family or community value.
  • Set up Google alerts, or subscribe to newsletters that showcase entrepreneurs and creative thought leaders. Take the time to appreciate different approaches that challenge our own personal views.
  • Be an avid traveller. Travelling is one of the best ways to open our mind to new perspectives, new experiences, new people and places. Making the time and space to re-energise, reflect and to dream. The ability to connect what might be disparate ideas and being present in the moment in order to see something we may not otherwise have been able to see.
  • Take a different approach to something you regularly do – maybe a walking meeting with a team member to change your environment and benefit from the fresh air and new surroundings, or using more visual storytelling to communicate your ideas at your next meeting.
  • Learn a new skill that is very different from your core skills and takes you out of your comfort zone. While sometimes a little scary, it can be incredibly liberating and opens you to growing and developing.

By simply taking the time to regularly open ourselves to different thinking, new approaches and exploring and forming our ideas, we can build our creative confidence and ultimately have a much happier and more fulfilled life.

 

*World Economic Forum, IBM CEO Survey, Adobe State of Create 2016

 

Creative Cities 21 re-energises people through 5-day creative escapes in great cities of the world. By combining the benefits of painting, acting, innovation & travel, we ignite your creativity, helping you realise your personal and professional potential. Find out more about our 2019 programs at www.creativecities21.com


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Want To Be A Better Communicator? There’s a New Stage-d Approach

It’s no secret that one of the most in-demand life skills is the ability to be an effective and compelling communicator. Someone who can get across their ideas, speak authentically, and master the 90% of communication that is non-verbal.

Conversely, it is frustrating when we feel we aren’t being heard, or can’t present our ideas in a clear and engaging way.

A simple google search will show a myriad of courses and training programs which focus on presentation skills. On how to make better powerpoint slides, or how to plan and prepare for our next work meeting, event, or conference.

But people and businesses are increasingly turning to a more immersive and impactful way to improve communication skills and build presence and confidence – Acting classes.

Where once people saw acting classes as the domain of….well actors, there is growing evidence and appreciation that the techniques taught to actors can be an incredibly powerful way for anyone to build the skills they need to be a confident and compelling communicator.

Improvisation is a key component of any acting course. Improv helps us to build our active listening skills as we focus on the cues, lines and dialogue in order to fully understand the scenario and communicate in sync with others. We can experiment with pitch, projection, cadence, volume and energy to see what combination makes our communication most effective. It is also creative and fun, enabling people to relax and enjoy the active learning approach.

Flexibility and problem solving is enhanced as we build skills to listen, process, think on our feet and respond. To experiment and adapt to circumstances. Acting helps us to both focus and memorise but also to interpret and adapt to uncertainty in our surroundings and the actions of others.

Acting builds confidence. As we venture outside our natural comfort zones we are able to challenge our existing thought patterns and behaviours. People often rate public speaking as one of their greatest fears. Through voice, movement and greater emotional connection we can build the tools necessary to be more confidence in our own unique and authentic style of storytelling.

Acting by its nature is a team sport – even a solo show will require a production crew. Acting classes enable us to hone our skills in a supportive, non-judgemental environment where collaboration and shared vulnerabilities brings people together. It builds empathy and understanding for different perspectives and interpretations.

Acting classes help us realise that the most engaging communicators are not necessarily the ones with the loudest voice, but those who actively listen and combine words, actions, voice variation and emotion to connect with their audience.

So how can people move forward when many would shudder at the thought of enrolling in an acting course? Here are some ideas to help you get on the “stage”:

  • Shortlist afew well regarded acting studios that offer short courses.
  • Meet the acting teachers and gain confidence in their interest and ability to work with non-actors.
  • Clarify class composition and size to ensure you will be in a comfortable, fun and supportive environment.
  • Make your next trip a learning holiday and find an acting school away from your family and friends! Come back as an academy award winner, or at least a more authentic communicator.

In the words of American poet Maya Angalou “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.

Creative Cities 21 re-energises people through 5-day creative escapes in great cities of the world. By combining the benefits of painting, acting, innovation & travel, we ignite your creativity, helping you realise your personal and professional potential. Find out more about our 2019 programs at www.creativecities21.com


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5 Reasons How Finding Your Visual Voice Will Make You Happier

There’s a wealth of evidence that creativity is a key capability for happiness and growth in our professional and personal lives. From extensive global studies like “State of Create”* to insights from academics, thought leaders and business icons, creativity is increasingly being seen as one of the most important elements to building a growth mindset.

Painting is one of the cornerstones of creativity, and while many of us believe that artists are born, there is a wealth of data that supports the view that painting is a skill which can be both enjoyed and learned at any age.

Verbal communication is often seen as our primary form of communicating. Visual communication however, is often a much more powerful way to express ourselves and to appreciate the expression of others.

In the often-quoted words of Fred R. Barnard “A picture is worth 10,000 words”. For the creator it is not just the end result or piece of art that tells a story, but the journey of discovery that happens along the way.

So while there are many benefits to painting, here are the top 5 most often quoted ways that painting is a powerful tool to boost your creativity, and ultimately your happiness.

Stress relief and relaxation – new ways to release and express our emotions, to tap into non-verbal feelings and thoughts. To move from our normal lives which have high levels of stress and worry, to let go of the fear that often limits our choices and experiences and move into a world of exploration and fun.

Opening our thinking – Removes our natural tendency to think in terms of right or wrong, by adapting and interpreting as we paint. Throwing away habitual frameworks and ingrained thinking.

Concentration and problem-solving skills – Making choices, deciding on particular paths when it comes to materials, brushes, colours, movements. Painting is a form of meditation that builds mindfulness, concentration and focus.

Building different perspectives – Enables us to see things differently in our daily life. A new appreciation for colours, shapes, textures and interpretations, helping us better embrace and enjoy the aesthetic around us.

Engaging our full range of senses – Painting is a form of kinestheic and active learning which engages all our senses. We can experience how “learning by doing” can drive behavioural change through new approaches and habits.

We can research all we like, but as they say, there is nothing like feedback.

As painting is one of the elements of our creative escapes in New York City, it provides an opportunity to get immediate feedback from our new Picasso’s. Here are some comments from participants at our recent program, “we loved it and didn’t want it to stop” to how “relaxing and calming it was to communicate visually rather than through words”.

Many commented that they would not have thought to take time out in an international city to reconnect with their inner creative spirit and just how much fun they had along the way. They were also pretty happy to take a masterpiece home to hang on the wall!

So, what are some tips to help you start painting to find your visual voice?

  • Use acrylic paint (it dries quickly).
  • Paint something simple – like fruit, vegetable or a favourite image from a photo.
  • Paint the canvas with a background colour first. It gets you going with an immediate sense of achievement.
  • Use a smock – as acrylic paint does not wash out of clothes!

Enjoy!

 

*In a 2016 Adobe study titled “State of Create“, 70%, of the 5000 study participants acknowledged that being more creative is valuable to society and economies and that it makes people better workers, leaders and parents. The study highlighted that people who are more creative are happier, feel more fulfilled, energized and successful.

 

Creative Cities 21 re-energises people through 5-day creative escapes in great cities of the world. By combining the benefits of painting, acting, innovation & travel, we ignite your creativity, helping you realise your personal and professional potential. Find out more about our 2019 programs at www.creativecities21.com


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Creatively Igniting The Power of Your Creativity

Creativity by its nature is a divergent process. The Oxford dictionary talks about divergent thinking as “the avoidance of common limiting assumptions”. In layman’s terms it’s about moving away from our ingrained “mental model”. Opening ourselves to a range of experiences, thoughts, people, ideas, and places. Questioning our assumptions and taking a different approach to see new connections.

And yet, in the always on world we live in, we are typically trained to be “convergent” in our thinking – finding the fastest route, based on existing experience and frameworks to arrive at a solution.

In a 2016 Adobe study titled “State of Create“, 70%, of the 5000 study participants acknowledged that being more creative is valuable to society and economies and that it makes people better workers, leaders and parents. The study highlighted that people who are more creative are happier, feel more fulfilled, energized and successful.

It is interesting then that while creativity is a key capability for happiness and growth in our professional and personal lives, we continue to find comfort in methodologies, frameworks and processes which are convergent, perhaps standard.

Divergence and true creativity come when we immerse ourselves in new and different experiences, throwing away rule books and accepted norms and seeing where the path leads us. In the words of Edward de Bono, we should “break out of our established patterns to bring together unrelated ideas, disparate thoughts and seemingly unrelated concepts and activities”.

The great innovators such as Marconi, Edison and Jobs understood this and their breakthrough ideas come from combining existing elements in a unique way.

So, in developing our creative learning experience, we looked at the most powerful combination of activities to help people break out of these established patterns, explore new ways of thinking and learn skills that could help them lead happier and healthier lives.

Our own personal experiences and academic research led us to weave together four core components, with a common denominator – fun. Each element combines to ease people out of their comfort zone and to build their own creativity. It enables them to connect often disparate ideas and concepts, be inspired by new people and places and learn new skills through immersive, active learning.

Acting – So much of our personal growth and expansion comes from the art of listening and being a more authentic, compelling communicator. Yet many of us are not necessarily active listeners, which can limit our ability to grow through absorbing new ideas and different perspectives. And by growing our ability to be more creative storytellers through the power of words, expressions, movements and sometimes stillness, we learn a better way to share our own stories.

Painting – Understanding how we can create with freedom, without fear of right or wrong, good or bad. Unearthing personal interpretation and perspective and throwing away habitual frameworks. Allowing ourselves to move from communicating with written language to spend time exploring and communicating visually. The journey is one of discovery and the end result is a piece of art that will be a lasting memento of their Creative Cities 21 experience – and often a reminder to continue to embrace what they have learned during their time with us.

Innovation, Ideas & Inspiration – The chance to learn, be inspired and share ideas, whether for new adventures back home, business ideas, or simply ways to live a more creatively fulfilled life. New connections through meeting people with a very different approach or journey, or perhaps kindred spirits that may have taken a different path or are on the same journey of discovery.

Travel – Providing the time to explore the creative heart of an amazing city. Getting to know its people and the opportunity to combine creative learning experiences with activities like yoga, pilates or perhaps enjoying a range of culinary, sporting or cultural highlights.

By escaping everyday routines and surroundings and operating in a relaxed, expansive and inspiring environment, people are able to breakthrough existing thought patterns, to explore and play – learning, connecting and having great fun along the way.

We’d love you to join us and feel the benefits of how our 5-day creative learning experience could help you feel happier, healthier and more connected.

 

Creative Cities 21 re-energises people through 5-day creative learning experiences in great cities of the world. By combining the benefits of acting, painting, innovation & travel, we ignite your creativity, helping you realise your personal and professional potential. Find out more about our 2019 programs at www.creativecities21.com


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Bringing Customer Experience to Life

With greater transparency, immediacy of information and a growing array of channels to review and to promote products and services, customers are empowered like never before, and businesses are increasingly acknowledging that great customer experience or CX, is a critical deliverable.

Over the last 10 years of my corporate career, I was focused on working with a range of clients on innovation and creativity, helping them harness new ways of thinking and problem solving to unlock value and build competitive advantage.

One of the key methodologies which has been broadly adopted to drive innovation is Design Thinking. In the words of Tim Brown CEO of IDEO, recognised as one of the leading innovation and design firms, Design Thinking is a “human-approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success”. A critical component is building empathy for a customer’s problems and pain points.

Many of those reading this article will be familiar with the methodology and have no doubt adopted it within your organisation.

Since moving from a global corporate role to establishing with my wife a vacational learning business Creative Cities 21, I’ve developed an even greater respect for the criticality of focusing on Customer Experience. In fact, I am living it each and every day.

I’ve had conversations with literally hundreds of people about our business and our vision. I’ve shared why we think providing people the opportunity to refresh and recharge through creative learning experiences is such a powerful tool to build creative muscle and resiliency.

We’ve spoken with worn out executives looking for a more holistic approach to wellness, parents looking for a chance to take some time out for their own personal growth or fulfillment, to people who just want the chance to have a fun, impactful holiday experience. We’ve spoken to a range of journalists, travel agents, academics and service providers. We’ve had lots of input from family, friends, work colleagues and connections from across the different areas of our lives. The questions, ideas – and sometimes challenges, have been incredibly valuable.

We recently ran our first program in New York City and encouraged open feedback, whether positive, or with an emphasis on areas of improvement. We view feedback as a gift and we have been blessed with many gifts! So now as the last person leaves us, it is an ideal time to reflect on what we have learnt about customer experience:

1. There is no substitute for hearing the voice of the customer, directly from the customer – you need to get out and speak with and listen to people. To hear how they talk about the program they just experienced, or how prospective participants speak about the category or services you offer. To understand what they think, but more importantly how they feel. To be an active listener and observer. To hear the language they use, to watch the non-verbal body language and to really get a sense of where there are opportunities to better help them live the life they want to live. And most of all, respect and thank them for their time and honesty.

2. Customer experience begins from the first touch and ideally becomes a relationship not a transaction – While individual interactions with a company have varying degrees of impact, it is the combination of those experiences that will dictate how we feel about a brand or business. From day one we have focused on being true to our brand values whether it is dealing with customers, potential customers, suppliers or influencers. We have focused on building relationships which matter to all the people we come into contact with, not just us. We have acknowledged that as we are building a new category we need to be open to lots of questions, be responsive and deliver on our longer term, while we deliver on a day to day basis.

3. People are empowered and expectations are high – People understand that businesses have a range of tools to gather insight and tailor their offering in order to deliver a better experience. Digital channels that clearly communicate the value you offer to the user and provide information in a way which is easy to understand and digest. A range of contact channels including online help so that people are acknowledged when they take the time to visit your site or contact you. Customers are looking for speed, ease and information that matters to them in a way which is engaging and suits their needs.

Ultimately, our journey to date has reinforced that empathy, openness and inclusiveness are fundamental to bringing human centred design to life. Ultimately, it is about building relationships with people who want to do business with you because of how you make them feel and the value it adds to their life.

If you work in a corporate environment, or are running your own business, I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you are embracing CX in your business.

 

Creative Cities 21 re-energises people through a 5-day creative learning experience in great cities of the world. By combining the benefits of acting, painting, innovation & travel, we ignite your creativity, helping you realise your personal and professional potential. Find out more about our 2019 programs at www.creativecities21.com


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Creating a new creative business

Recently arriving in New York City to lead the first Creative Cities 21 experience, it’s hard to believe that it’s 12 months since our last visit, one that would result in us developing and launching a new business.

Back then I decided to take a sabbatical from work. A chance to refresh, recharge and explore my own creativity. I have been fortunate to work in the innovation sector over the last 10 years and have seen first-hand how powerful innovation and creativity is in unlocking our personal potential and those of the organisations we work in. I wanted to take the time to explore this more and combined with my passion for travel, I set off with my wife Angie for New York City – one of the world’s most creative cities.

I put together a program that enabled me to both learn and explore, and at the same time enjoy all the city has to offer from health and wellness activities like yoga, to great restaurants, the coolest bars, famous street art and galleries, and talking to inspiring creatives, business and community leaders.

The key learning elements combined painting and acting courses and ideation sessions with local creatives and business leaders. I connected with so many new and different people with interesting and stimulating perspectives which helped me learn and grow.

The courses, the people, the tapestry of new thinking and new ideas, and exploring all the city has to offer provided an immersive and amazing experience where I not only recharged and refreshed but was able to build my creative confidence.

Angie and I left New York energised and inspired.

By giving ourselves the time and space to be active learners and immerse ourselves in the experience we returned home with not just new skills but new habits – many of which continue to benefit us in our day to day lives.

And the more we shared our experience with others and researched creativity and its powerful impact, the more we could see an opportunity to build a business that would benefit anyone needing a creative escape to refresh and recharge.

In my business life we often spoke of the need to ensure we always put the customer experience at the centre of everything we do. There is nothing like starting your own business to understand how truly important this is. We talked to so many people from so many walks of life to ensure we were building a business that was focused on what people need. From family to friends, work colleagues, contacts in the tourism industry, acting and painting teachers, business leaders and innovators, and all the new connections we continue to make along the way, we could see a fantastic opportunity.

We also read about the rapid increase in the number of people looking for vacations which were more enriching. From wellness tourism which is growing at twice the rate of other tourism to learning holidays, there is a desire for vacations which deliver more impactful experiences with longer lasting benefits. And when it comes to the benefits of creativity, there is growing evidence that people who focus on building their creativity report significantly higher levels of happiness, energy and fulfillment.*

Out of our time here last year, the insights we gathered and our passion to make a difference Creative Cities 21 was born. As we embark on delivering our first program and getting to know the people who have travelled from different corners of the globe to join us, it’s a great chance to look at what we have learned as our idea has come to life.

It’s been a combination of tenacity, focus, dealing with ambiguity, being open to new ideas, building connections, learning new skills – and more than a few 12-hour days. We’ve put into practice the active learning skills we developed on our last trip here to ensure we put the customer at the heart of everything we do. And we have felt the love of our children, our family and friends who have embraced our vision and given us their input and support.

As we embark on our 2018 New York City experience we are so excited to see the dream become a reality and most importantly to watch how the Creative Cities 21 program is going to enrich the lives of those who are joining us. We are looking forward to continuing to share the journey with you.

 

*Adobe State of Create 2016

Creative Cities 21 re-energises people through 1, 2 and 3-week creative learning experiences in great cities of the world. By combining the benefits of acting, painting, innovation & travel, we ignite your creativity, helping you realise your personal and professional potential.

Read about our 2019 NYC Program here. 


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