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Sign up for My FREE Course in How to Succeed as a Creative Professional

Detail of two ships and compass from antique map

If you’d like to inject some inspiration and momentum into your creative career, feel free to enrol on my new course: The Creative Pathfinder.

It’s a 25-week programme designed to equip you with the creative and professional skills you need to succeed in your chosen career path – whether you’re an employee, freelancer or creative entrepreneur.

Things you’ll learn include:

  • why following your heart makes sound business sense
  • the four most powerful types of creative thinking
  • how to handle a creative block – when you’re supposed to be the creative pro
  • why opportunities just land in some people’s lap (and how you can be one of them)
  • the most effective ways to make a living from your creativity
  • why having a resume could handicap your career
  • how to turn your website into a magnet for new business and career opportunities
  • the weird and profitable properties of intellectual property
  • how to sell without selling out
  • what to do with all the money you earn
  • why other people seem so weird – and what to do about it
  • how to succeed in the face of overwhelming odds

Every week, you’ll receive a new lesson via e-mail, containing:

  • An article explaining the what, why and how of the topic
  • A practical worksheet for you to download and complete
  • Links to additional resources (articles, books, e-books etc — most of which are free)

And it won’t cost you a penny. Sign-up on the enrolment page and you will receive the entire course of 25 lessons for free.

Since I launched The Creative Pathfinder on Lateral Action last week, over 1,200 students have signed up. It would be great if you could join us on the journey

Is Burnout Inevitable in the Creative Industries?

Candle that has just been snuffed out.

Photo by J R Guillaumin

How would you like to work 15-20 hours unpaid overtime a week?

What about doing it for weeks on end because of unrealistic schedules?

How about a 65% chance of damaging your health from the stress of overtime?

And what if someone told you these were just occupational hazards, to be expected if you choose a career in the creative industries? [Read more…]

25 Years of Creative Whacks – An Interview with Roger von Oech

Roger Von OechRegular readers of Wishful Thinking will know that I hold the work of Roger von Oech in high esteem. Roger was one of the original sparks behind the creative revolution in business; his books and card decks, and more recently his blog and Ball of Whacks, have brought inspiration to thousands of people worldwide.

Roger’s classic A Whack on the Side of the Head is always the first book on creative thinking I recommend to clients. So when he e-mailed me a few weeks ago to let me know he had prepared a revised 25th Anniversary Edition of A Whack on the Side of the Head, I couldn’t resist asking him for an interview. Roger kindly agreed – you can read his answers to my questions below.

Regarding the book itself – if you haven’t yet read Whack, this is definitely one you should have on your creative bookshelf. It’s a thoroughly good read – funny, challenging, useful, unsettling and inspiring. If you already own a copy, then you’ll be pleased to know the new edition is still recognisably the same book, with all the old favourites still in place – but with new ideas, techniques and ‘Whacks’ added for good measure. My experience of reading the new edition was an enjoyable combination of familiarity and surprise. I was also delighted to see that I make a cameo appearance in the book – in a footnote on p.115 (I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you what it’s about).

1. A Whack on the Side of the Head is a classic. Why is that?
A Whack on the Side of the Head
Roger von Oech: Whack is about the ten “Mental Locks” that prevent most people from being more creative. These locks include such beliefs as: “There’s one right answer,” “To err is wrong,” “Don’t be foolish,” Avoid Ambiguity,” and “That’s not my area.” These ideas make sense for a lot of what we do, but when we’re trying to be creative they can get in the way. Most people have an intuitive understanding of these ideas, and so it’s easy for them to think about them.

Whack has a lot of unusual and off-beat stories and anecdotes. It’s got weird drawings that capture our imagination. Also, Whack is an accessible and interactive book. People seem to like that. There are a number of exercises in it. I think that we improve our ability to be creative by using our creativity, not by being lectured at. Whack is also fun. I guess people respond to all of these things.

2. Why change a classic book?

I’ve always considered Whack to be a living book, that is, one I could update and revise over time. This 25th Anniversary Edition is actually the fourth edition I’ve done since it first came out in 1983. The last previous edition, however, was in 1998, and there were a number of insights, exercises, and stories I wanted to add and I’ve gone ahead and done so. I hope that it reaches a new generation of creative people! [Read more…]

Free E-book – Creative Management for Creative Teams

Creative Management for Creative Teams

If you are responsible for getting the best out of a team of creative professionals, my new e-book on Creative Management for Creative Teams is for you. Feel free to download and share it (here are the terms of the Creative Commons licence).

The e-book is a compilation and revision of my business coaching blog series.

Introduction to the E-book – Why Coaching?

As a creative director, business owner or manager of a creative team, the chances are you already coach your people to an extent – and you may be better at it than you realise. But there’s also a fair chance that you have received little support in developing your people management skills.

In the creative industries, so much attention is lavished on creative ‘talent’ and the products of creativity that vital aspects of the creative process are often overlooked. Such as the massive influence (positive and negative) managers and creative directors have on the creativity of their teams. While many individual managers are doing an excellent job of managing and developing their teams, there is little wider recognition of people management in the creative sector.

It’s hard to develop a skill that goes unrecognised. And you don’t need me to tell you that managing temperamental creatives can be one of the most challenging jobs going. [Read more…]

Is it Better to Be a Creative Generalist or a Specialist?

Specialist or generalist?

Image © Dave Gray, reproduced by kind permission

If creativity is your livelihood, is it a good idea to pursue multiple interests and develop a range of skills, or should you focus on one or two key talents and become the best around in your specialism?

I’m asking the question because two of my favourite blogs take completely opposite positions on this issue. In the red corner, Steve Hardy devotes his entire blog to the concept of the Creative Generalist, and recently wrote an excellent post about What Specifically Do Generalists Do?. In the blue corner, advertising copywriter Scamp has this to say about creative generalism:

the idea enrages me so much that every time it pops up I feel the need to reach for a hammer, like I’m playing a blogging version of whack-a-mole.

At the risk of getting whacked by Scamp’s hammer (and of mixing metaphors) I’m going to look at both sides of the question and see if I can referee the fight. [Read more…]

Why Coaching Matters to Creative Companies

Table, chairs, blue sky

The Business Coaching series is now available to download as a free ebook Creative Management for Creative Teams.

Having looked at The Business Impact of Coaching, I’m now going to focus specifically on companies in the creative industries – such as advertising agencies, design studios, TV broadcasters, computer games developers – and explain why I believe coaching is vitally important to their success.

In this context I should really refer to coaching as ‘coaching’ or even coaching – creative people are often suspicious of ‘management speak’ and my research showed me that many of them put the word ‘coaching’ in that category. No problem. I’m not a huge fan of the word myself. I’m more interested in what people do than in what label we use for it.

And what I’ve noticed are lots of managers, creative directors and other leaders of creative teams using skills that are very similar to classic coaching behaviours – i.e. lots of listening, asking questions, observational feedback, defining the goal/brief and then stepping back and allowing people to find their own way of achieving it. It’s as if these managers, many of whom have never read a book on coaching, using a coaching-style approach intuitively, because they find it the most effective way to get the best out of creative people.

So why are these coaching behaviours effective at facilitating high-level creative work?


We have already seen, in Key Coaching Skills, that questions are one of the hallmarks of the coaching style of management. They are also key drivers of creative endeavour. Many great discoveries and inventions have begun with questions – What if we did things differently? What if we could travel to the moon? What happens if we start connecting up all these computers?

Looking and listening

In his creativity classic A Whack on the Side of the Head, Roger von Oech quoted Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, who said: ‘Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different’. We all spend a lot of time looking at each other – yet it is surprising how little we often see. Much of the time we are too preoccupied with our own ideas and needs to really focus on the other person.

Coaches spend a lot of time looking at people and listening to them carefully – and noticing little clues in the way they speak or act. These clues can be the difference between success and failure in a working relationship – particularly when dealing with notoriously complex and sensitive artistic types.

[Read more…]

The Business Impact of Coaching

Table, chairs, blue sky

The Business Coaching series is now available to download as a free ebook Creative Management for Creative Teams.

Having spent most of this series outlining the What and How of business coaching, it’s time to consider the Why – the key benefits to a business where coaching is an integral part of managing performance and developing people’s talents.

I’ve left this till late in this guide because until we’re clear about what business coaching is and how it works, it’s hard to consider its impact on an organisation.

With all complex ‘people skills’, it is hard to draw a straight line between particular skills and practices and business results. This is particularly true of coaching, as it is essentially a facilitative approach. Whether managers or consultants, coaches act as catalysts for various processes within an organisation, so it’s often hard to separate the different elements that contribute to success.

However we can identify factors that business coaching seeks to influence, and consider how it does this. In each case, note how the personal benefits (to both coaches and coachees) are intimately linked to the business benefits. Ideally a company should be looking for a dynamic balance between the two, especially in the context of a creative business.


It’s impossible to create commitment – but you can encourage it by giving people an opportunity to (a) work towards goals they find personally meaningful as well as delivering business results, and (b) use their creativity and initiative to do the job in their own way.

Business coaching offers a wealth of options for doing both of these. In fact, the coaching approach is founded on the assumption that the business coach’s role is to act as a facilitator, while the coachee has the biggest emotional investment in the goal and the responsibility for committing to action.


Following on from Commitment, because the coach is a facilitator, asking questions, listening and giving feedback in order to stimulate the coachee’s thinking, it is a highly creative process. Not in an abstract, fuzzy way, but in challenging people to come up with ideas that are new, useful and practical – and then to put them into action and see them through.

For more on business coaching and creativity see How coaching creates creative flow and the next article in this series, on Why business coaching is vital to creative companies.

[Read more…]

Best of Wishful Thinking 2007

Old Royal Naval Colleage, Greenwich

Photo by judepics: Planet Greenwich (home of Wishful Thinking)

Thank you for reading Wishful Thinking in 2007. It’s been great fun writing it and connecting with so many interesting and creative people – online and in person.

Here’s my personal selection of the best of Wishful Thinking in 2007, based partly on my own judgment, partly on the amount of visitors, comments and links they attracted.

I hope you (re)discover something to inspire you. Have a great New Year, see you on the other side…


How to Maintain Your Enthusiasm When Things Get Tough

7 Ways to Stop Worrying When You’re Under Pressure


7 Ways to Tap into Enthusiasm

Interview with David Amor, Creative Director, Relentless Software


David Armano on Management

Business Coaching: an Introduction


Chris Ritke Interviews Me at 49Sparks.com

The Manager as Coach


A Blog Is for Life, Not Just for Christmas – British Library Talk

Getting in Touch with Creativity – Roger von Oech’s Ball of Whacks

Brian Eno – 77 Million Paintings [Read more…]

Making Workspace Work – Creative Business Club, 14 November

Creative Space

If you’re in London you may like to bookmark the latest Creative Business Club event from CIDA, on 14th November. I’ve blogged about the Creative Business Club before – I’ve always found it an inspiring evening and a good opportunity to meet interesting creative professionals.

This time the theme is Making Workspace Work, looking at the effect of your physical environment on your business and your creativity. This is a topic I’ve previously looked at on this blog, when I considered The Thinkubator and Other Creative Environments. I’ve also written about the Creative Space Agency who are among the speakers, and who are building their business on a brilliantly simple idea about creative use of space in London.

Making Workspace Work

The Creative Business Club offers knowledge through networking and the perfect opportunity to get together with other creative professionals. Each event features lively panel discussions with leading experts followed by networking and drinks.

When: Wednesday 14 Nov, 6 – 9pm

Where: Barbican Centre (Barbican)

Who: Freelancers, businesses and cultural organisations

Cost: FREE to all (supported by Creative London – London Development Agency and Arts Council England)

Facilitator: Lucy Kyle, CIDA’s Creative Industries Business Adviser

Has your business outgrown your home, or are you renting a space that just isn’t working for you? The next Creative Business Club – Making Workspace Work – explores how to find a space that will help your business grow. Having a professional address and a meeting room for clients are just some of the benefits, but the right space can also help you build a profitable referral network and inspire creativity.

The expert panel including Cani Ash – Founding Partner Ash Sakula Architects, John Burton – Director of the Creative Space Agency, Paul Allen, journalist and author of the Ethical Business Book and Helen Johannessen of Yoyo Ceramics will discuss what to consider when selecting a workspace, where to look and how your physical environment can affect your profile, productivity and creativity.

Join us afterwards for drinks and a chance to chat to exhibitors who will be on hand to provide expert advice on finding the right creative space for you.

Making Workspace Work is supported by the Creative Space Agency

WIPO International Conference on Intellectual Property and the Creative Industries – 29-30 October

The World Intellectual Property Organization got in touch to let me know about this conference:

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is organizing an International Conference on Intellectual Property and the Creative Industries, which will be held at WIPO headquarters in Geneva on October 29th and 30th, 2007.

The Conference is being organized to provide a forum for discussion on the concept and application of creativity in the creative industries with a clear focus on their intellectual property component. More information is available on the WIPO website.

It sounds like an interesting event, especially as it’s free. When I did the MA in Creative and Media Enterprises at Warwick University one of the key modules was on Managing Intellectual Property, which turned out to be surprisingly interesting. If you’re running any kind of creative business, then it’s essential to have some grasp of the key principles of intellectual property law, and particularly the issues raised by digital technology and the internet. (I mean the real issues, not the tub-thumping scare-mongering by certain Content Kings.)

For some useful IP resources you might like to have a look at my Books and links: Intellectual Property page.