Category: Knowledge Bank

  • What is the Alexander Technique?

    The Alexander Technique is an education process where we learn how to think and move in cooperation with our design in order to perform at our best as often as possible.

    The basic principle of the Alexander Technique is that all movement (including sitting, walking, washing the dishes, thinking, speaking, singing, problem solving…) can be performed more easily if the head is balanced well with the rest of the body.

    During a lesson with me you will learn how to:

    • Observe yourself
    • Understand how the body moves
    • Explore how your thinking impacts on your movement
    • Make choices about how you think and move

    I work with students in a few ways to explore this balance, including:

    • Conversation and discussion to explore how our thinking impacts on our movement
    • Reviewing anatomical images to ensure the image we have of our moving body is accurate
    • Using touch to help encourage a balanced relationship between head and rest of the body

    In every situation we have habitual responses. These are sometimes very helpful (like being able to tie our shoe laces) and sometimes not (like tightening our shoulders when we start to think about what we want to do with our lives). The technique helps us to see our unhelpful habits and make different choices when they emerge. If we are tightening ourselves when we think about our purpose in life then it will be harder for us to find answers to these important questions that are meaningful and sustainable.

    Get in touch if you have any further questions.

    Thanks

    Luke

    Artist, advisor, coach.
    I find the real problem, make the difficult easy
    and tell a great story.

     

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  • Significance.

    Someone once told me that they had a history teacher who said that there are 3 things we can do when we write about history.

    The first is to recall the facts. The second is to outline what these facts mean. These two steps are where most people stop, The theory goes that it is the next step that really makes the difference. The third thing that a writer can do is to explain the significance of this event.

    I find that when I am planning just about any communication I get a better result if I ask myself “what is the significance of this thing for this group of people?”

    By answering this question I think of the exchange from their perspective. This makes what I say much sharper, more relevant and more likely to inspire action.

    Luke

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  • You are always in your body.

    Sometimes people tell me they want to get back into their body. And I get what they mean. They are feeling tight, their breathing is restricted or they are lacking an overall awareness of their movement…however the language we use to describe this experience is part of the problem.

    We are always in our body. There is nowhere else for us to be.

    What we are experiencing is our thinking is leading us to tighten our body. We are simply not cooperating with our design. When this happens we feel like we are somehow outside of ourselves.

    We are always in our body. Our mind, our thinking happens in our body. The gig is to recognise it, to bring our attention (our thinking) to the moment, to notice what we are doing right now, notice the chair underneath us or notice the light in the room. When we do this we use our thinking to help us cooperate with our design and suddenly we feel like we are back, here, in our body, where we were all along.

    Luke

    Artist, advisor, coach.
    I find the real problem, make the difficult easy
    and tell a great story.

    Check out more stories in the category: Knowledge Bank

  • Impulse, instinct, intuition…

    Image of coloured pins stuck into a white pin board.

    How do we make decisions?

    Impulse, instinct and intuition, I became curious about how these three words seemed to fundamentally describe important, but different, processes that were going on when we are making decisions. So I spent some time observing and defining what I saw as the difference between these three concepts.

    Here’s what I have come up with so far.

    As humans we have impulses; they are that fleeting suggestion, that idea, that possibility that comes into focus at any given moment. It could be at a critical moment of choice, but equally it could be when we are just sitting around staring out the window. Our system suggests an option to us and we can decide whether we want to take it or not. So…

    An impulse is a suggestion from our subconscious that we can choose to follow, or not.

    Where do these suggestions come from? Why do we get a particular impulse at a particular moment? I think there are two systems that these impulses draw from, our instinct and our intuition.

    Different fields of research have different ways of defining the word instinct. I have attempted to find a way to define it the word in a way that reflects the day-to-day experience and use of the word that I have observed.

    Our instinct is a behavioral urge that is hard wired into our system.

    The instinct to breathe, to feed ourselves, to find shelter, to respond to danger; all of these things we will do because we have built a knowledge over thousands of years about what we need to do to survive. Some instincts we have no choice about, in essence the choices around the impulse are bypassed because our systems take over and respond (these are generally referred to as reflexes and others exclude these from the category of instinct, for our purposes I include them). For example if something comes toward our face we will blink to protect our eyes (touch a babies nose and watch this happen), and this is a very good thing.

    Some other instincts we can have a little more control over. There is more time between the situation, our impulse to respond and the response happening. When I get hungry (my instinct for nourishment) I can get very grumpy and have a very strong impulse to eat (just about anything). However I don’t generally put something in my mouth just because it’s there, I can talk myself through what’s happening (right, I’m not really angry, I’m just hungry. I’m ten minutes from food and very unlikely to starve in that time frame…). So in this case I have an impulse to eat (based on my instinct for food) but I also have some choice about how I respond to that impulse.

    However there is another group of suggestions (or impulses) that we respond to every day. These impulses are based on our intuition.

    Our intuition is a behavioral urge that is informed by our life experiences.

    Intuition is the subconscious system of decision making that feeds the impulses we have that are not instinct based (eg: biologically hard wired for our survival). These are life skills we need day to day (like using public transport) or a specialist skill we have accumulated as a result of focused and deliberate effort (like playing the piano or facilitating a group).

    I believe impulses based on our intuition are an important part of our decision making process as a human. In this situation the impulse is a suggestion from our sub-conscious based on the situation we find ourselves in, the goal we have set for ourselves and our accumulated experience (knowledge) in similar situations.

    Intuition based impulses are the result of a complex relationship between the circumstances we are in and the history of experiences we have had. It is a process that allows an interaction between what is conscious to us and what is sub-conscious to us. I believe it is our sub-conscious sending us a suggestion based on the things we have learnt in the past about a given situation that we are in.

    So if…

    An impulse is a suggestion from our subconscious that we can choose to follow, or not.
    Our instinct is a behavioral urge that is hard wired into our system.
    Our intuition is a behavioral urge that is informed by our life experiences.

    …then how do we make decisions?

    My theory is that we have impulses that are stimulated from either our instinct or from our intuition. When it comes to impulses we either have no choice because our system just follows the impulse (like the instinct to blink when our nose is touched) or we have a choice (to wait till we find some food rather than eat whatever is around us or to respond to a particular impulse we have when facilitating a group or to ignore it and try something else). And that what is important is that we cultivate our ability to listen to the impulses we have and then practice following them or making a choice to over ride them based on a new piece of knowledge we have.

    All of this is a way of saying that as humans we have more choices than we often think we do and that we will benefit from cultivating the ability to observe the impulses we have and make choices about what we do in response to those impulses.

    Luke
    Artist, advisor, coach.
    I find the real problem, make the difficult easy
    and tell a great story.

    Check out more stories in the category: Knowledge Bank

  • The secret to strategic planning…

    Through my role at Midnightsky I have had the chance to see a lot of conversation about strategy. It happens formally; like when an organisation is creating their Vision, Mission, Values and (of course) their Strategic Plan. It also happens informally; like when people are deciding which direction to go in the face of a crisis or big opportunity that has emerged.

    In situations that are more informal there is often a lot of talking, and that talking can go around in circles. If you’re lucky someone starts asking the questions that are the catalyst for a strategic conversation:

    “Why would that help us achieve <insert bigger goal>?”

    “How could we turn this situation into an advantage for our <insert bigger goal>?”

    “Why are we doing all of this anyway? What are we in pursuit of?”

    These kinds of questions make sure that tactical decisions, quick wins that keep the ship afloat, are also strategic in nature. The ship is afloat and still heading in the agreed direction.

    In formal strategic planning situations (which we have been involved in quite a few!) there are three key things that lead to developing a successful strategic plan. That is a strategic plan that people understand and commit to achieve.

    Over the years that we have been delivering these kinds of plans, these three themes repeat again and again. Organisations that succeed engage the right people at the right time, understand that their strategy is their organisational story, and they create plans that are measureable.

    1. Engagement

    When the strategic planning process begins the team that has been put in charge are invariably overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task they face. At this moment it can be tempting to reduce the scale of the problem by reducing the number of people who have input to the project, particularly in the consultation. The two groups who often get shafted at this moment are frontline staff and the board.

    The conversation goes something like this;

    “Yes we are going to engage our <staff/board/stakeholder>. We will develop a draft and distribute it for comment 2 weeks before signoff…”

    And the fun begins. This looks like a solid plan, and the rationale is often something around ‘focusing’ the input we get from these groups.

    What goes wrong with this approach (almost always in my experience) is that someone, at the eleventh hour, starts asking ‘big questions’, you know, strategic questions.

    There isn’t enough time to think about and respond to these questions, because these questions belong at the start of the process, not the end. And if they emerge, for the first time, at the end, and they aren’t dealt with, then you lose people.

    Their thinking hasn’t had the chance to influence the outcome, and they disengage. Others see this happening and they disengage, and then you end up with one of those strategic plans, the ones that sit on a shelf gathering the proverbial dust…

    All of that is easily avoided. How? Invite everyone to have their say at the beginning of the strategic planning process.

    Engage everyone early.

    It is that easy.

    When I tell people this, they agree in principle, but are often concerned that there will be a chaos. People will say ideas that appear random, they will make unrealistic suggestions, they will be off track. And I say, yes they will. But others will say insightful things, they will observe trends you hadn’t realised existed and they will show you the true heart and soul of your organisation.

    Here’s the key, all of it is the raw material that the leadership team get to shape into a cohesive strategic plan. There is no requirement that everything that has been said is documented into the strategic plan.

    These conversations are the brainstorm, the first draft, the rough notes. Everyone knows that (if you tell them), and they will feel excited to see the strategic plan that emerges from this discursive foundation. Yes, even if their idea isn’t expressed verbatim in the final document.

    Because every conversation is there is some way, everyone had a chance to shape the direction of the organisation, and ultimately this creates a much smoother pathway to approval from all of those people.

    2. Story

    Your story is your organisation’s strategy.

    When the inextricable link between narrative and strategy is understood, then several things happen that amplify the potential of an organisation.

    The strategic direction is written in language that people can talk about in the elevator, or at a BBQ. When people are able to share the organisation’s strategic intent in this way they are promoting your story in a way that embeds it in every conversation and is a part of their daily decision making. Ultimately this is a successful strategy; one that people instinctively use to measure success.

    A story has a purpose, it has a reason, something that drives the audience along and keeps them listening till the end. This sense of purpose, a greater good, and a reason why, is also what makes a strategy compelling. It’s what turns a business goal to be the world’s biggest manufacturer of solar panels into a story/strategy that has a life of its own, and powers our lives with the sun.

    3. Measureable

    Ultimately the biggest challenge of a strategic planning process is to create a plan that is easy to measure.

    This is often the final hurdle for the leadership team. The vision is clear and our mission is rock solid. Now we have to name our strategic goals and how we are going to measure them.

    The enemy at this point becomes detail. How much can we reasonably include? At what point do we overwhelm ourselves with so many KPIs to track that we can no longer keep track? When do we risk missing something important because we have distilled everything to such a high level that it no longer means anything to us?

    There are some rules of thumb that we use to help organisations at this moment. It has to fit on one page (not in 5 point font!), you can have a maximum of 4 strategic goals, each of which can have a maximum of 3 objectives and the less outcomes (or KPIs) you can have, the better.

    Ultimately these parameters serve as a way to push an organisation to have the tricky conversations about what should stay and what should go. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter if one of these rules is broken. Pursuing them in principle provides a healthy framework for the discussion that will ultimately lead to a strategic plan that is easy for the leadership team to turn up each quarter and measure their success against.

    That is the truest indicator of a successful strategic plan; that it is the catalyst for continuous discussion and the cornerstone of decision-making, both formally and informally.

    So it’s that easy.

    Engage everyone early, understand that your story is your organisation’s strategy, and create a plan that is easy to measure.

    Luke
    Artist, advisor, coach.
    I find the real problem, make the difficult easy
    and tell a great story.

    Check out more stories in the category: Knowledge Bank