I Want to Cook With Confidence

Recently I was asked to teach a 6 week cookery class at night. I run Creativity workshops for professionals where there is particular emphasis on developing Creative Confidence. Embracing new challenges and developing new perspectives are principles that I encourage people to adopt in order that they develop their own creativity so, even though I was a bit daunted, I accepted. Some years ago I gave up my IT career and trained as a chef and since then have become a qualified trainer, but until now these two aspects on my career have never met. To be honest, in the days leading up to the first class I was quite terrified. Even though I made my living getting entrepreneurs to play with markers and playdough, getting people to cook seemed impossible. I spent a lot of time poring over recipes and planning time down to the last minute.

When finally the first night arrived and it turned out nobody did have a hammer, I realised that this class was very similar to my other classes. People don’t go to cookery classes for recipes or technique, unless they are particularly advanced classes. Most people arrive because they have a belief about themselves –‘I can’t cook, in the same way that I hear ‘I’m not creative’ in my Creativity Workshops. Immediately we are hamstrung because we develop these beliefs over time and they become fact. Our lazy brains can hang on to these statements because it’s easier than coping with ambiguity.

I believe that everyone can cook and everyone is creative. We’ll deal with creativity later – today we’ll talk about cooking. Here are a few lessons that I shared with the class:


1. Cooking is an art, Baking is a science – this means that in baking you must’ve measure everything exactly and follow all the rules because there is an alchemy that occurs to ensure dough rises. Cooking on the other hand can be more about free expression…recipes are guidelines. If you don’t like garlic and it’s in the recipe, don’t put it in. It’s your food. (But seriously, who doesn’t like garlic…….)

2. When you are cooking at home it’s usually for you, your family or friends. These people will not be scoring your food on the way home in a taxi…people come to your house to see you, if they get a free meal that’s a bonus. Television judges get paid a lot of money to be pantomime villains for ratings. (I own a Gordon Ramsay book that I rarely cook from because I imagine him shouting every instruction at me!)

3. It is very difficult to burn things….smoke pouring out of ovens is a tv comedy vehicle. Yes, kitchen fires can cause serious damage but things burn in the kitchen usually due to inattention…so if you are new to cooking, just do that. After a while you’ll notice that devoting your time solely to cooking a meal can be quite relaxing if you let it. There is mindfulness to be had in slowly stiring a risotto.

4. Try doing your food shop without a list. Wander around the aisles and look. Concentrate on the fresh fruit, veg, meat and dairy products. Find something and stop and imagine how you would cook it. Many of the worlds top chefs base their daily menu on the best available ingredients they can find in the food markets each morning. Pick out something because it looks good. The internet is awash with recipes so you won’t be stuck.

5. There are always foods that we don’t like but if you’re not allergic, don’t refuse to try like a 4 year old. The pretend airplane is not a good luck for a grown up. If you dislike something try being specific about why. Is it too salty, sweet, too much vinegar, the right balance of hot and sour? This challenges your creative brain to come up with solutions!

6. Many people fear cooking meals because getting everything on the table at the same time is stressful. If this is a problem, start with a one-pot dish.


Today’s earworm brought to you by Will Powers..

Where Ideas Come From: Be a visitor!….

island_cruise5_smallWhen you travelled to work this morning, assuming it’s a route you’ve taken regularly, what did you notice? Did you see the people? Did you notice the beautiful Georgian architecture or wonder about the inhabitants of the 1970s concrete office tower? Chances are your route is so familiar that you really don’t notice anymore. Our brains are so overloaded with information that, for efficiency, we automatically ignore what is routine.
Our everyday environment can be a bountiful source of ideas but to see them we need to change our perspective and start acting like a visitor. A study in 2009 showed that students who lived abroad were significantly more likely to to solve a difficult creativity problem than those who had never left their birth country. Those who travel widely develop their observation skills.
Imagine you are taking your route for the first time… what would change? Is there an alternative route that would be more interesting? Observe others…what causes them frustration? Often we become used to things that initially caused us irritation. A fund of ideas can arise when we come across something that doesn’t quite work but instead of saying ‘it should be fixed’ say ‘how would I fix this?’. Take it further and figure out what resources you need or who you could get involved to improve things…..is the ticket machine in the wrong place at the station ? It’s possible that a 5 minute email to the right person could fix the problem eliminating years of stress. Or you might end up working with a local university to develop a brand new turnstile system. Or it may come to nothing….but with all these options you are now an active participant in your environment! So how about setting yourself an ideas quota? Your goal is ten in one day. To quote Tom and David Kelley of Ideo in the book ‘Creative Confidence’ …”part of what makes venture so business savvy -and ultimately so successful- is that they see a lot more ideas than ordinary people”
After all the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas!

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Have you seen your creativity?

You put it down somewhere, maybe when you were I 7 or maybe after that creative teenage burst but you haven’t seen it about for sometime. Is it gone forever? Has it just faded due to neglect? Chances are it has been kept like a guilty secret in the back of the mind. Most of us, grown ups, have either been told or come to our own realisation that creativity is for kids and not for the serious professional, unless you the arty type, the hippy types who were born with oodles of talent. But what if we challenge that belief?

When you were 5 and someone put a bunch of simple art supplies, markers, coloured paper, felt etc, On a table in front of you, what would you do? Dive in? Of course you would. You wouldn’t stop and consider thst it was a waste of time, or worry about other peoples assesment of your output.

But step forward to the present – what would your reaction be now? Chances are you’ll suddenly have an important call to make. Why? Generally playing makes us uncomfortable because we have lost the habit. In a work situation this discomfort can be excrutiating at first. I think that at some point a lot of us have become convinced that if we cannot play music or paint to a professional standard then it is not worth pursuing. But what if we enjoy it? Even if you can draw stick men you can convey a story. Had an unusual encounter this week? Or even a boring one? Take 2 minutes to draw it with a stick man and bubbles?

So many people find the idea of creativity uncomfortable and find it hard to see how it is relevant in their daily lives but did you know that in a recent IBM worldwidse survey, creativity was considered to be the top management competency, yet only 25% of us will admit to being creative. Becoming connected with our creativity is the prime way that we can differenciate ourselves and our businesses. Got Tqm, so can everyone else, Lean Six Sigma blackbelt, they can get it too, MBA, same. Ideas – there isn’t a course to get them, but you can learn to develop your creative confidence and the confidence of those around you so that you can become a creative powerhouse!

More soon..Grainne

Dress / Think for the occasion

We attended an dual event for a programme on helping regional SME’s in Ireland to innovate, develop and grow their business


The initial meeting was with the other tutors / consultants of the course and the organisers. As such, with a initial business meeting we dressed for the occasion, formal business – Suit & Tie.

The second meeting was with the participants on course. Most of us sat at the front of the the lecture hall, looking up at our prospective clients.This was the first information evening for the programme, most were here to gain a better understanding of the programme, work involved, outcomes and supports given by all involved. The presentations, happily I did not have to present, were all about the consultants own histories, past experiences, clients assisted, money (grants/ finance) raised by clients.

Most of the audience were dressed casual, jeans, jumpers, either straight from work, from home and perhaps unemployed. Looking at their appearance, it dawned on me, that we should dress for our audience, not a suit or tie in sight was looking down at me. My thoughts began to think, what if I was in their shoes, as I have been in the past. Looking down at a bunch of suits, what inspiration does that give to me. Yes I listened to their presentation, their clients, but would that inspire me ?

When we meet our clients we need to do some research into them.

  • Dress appropriately from the perspective of the person you are trying to impress
  • Know a lot, but don’t flaunt it.
  • Find a common business link or friend to warm up the connection.

We did not dress to match our client expectations, we bamboozled them with our stories, our language was that of consulting, not in the terms that they may be accustomed or  communicate in. Those moments of first impressions has more impact that any document you can prepare. We all know about that initial 7 second rule, by which new clients judge you, but when is professionalism or formal dress sense not appropriate to your clients.


Time to Create

“All Work and no play makes jack a dull boy”

People frequently comment that if you enjoy your work, then it feels no longer like work. Working as a consultant with startups, micro and sme(b) business in Ireland,  I often see the translation of enjoyment of a hobby into potential self employment and to the creation of a micro business. Speaking personally, I would favour this transition, of making a business from a hobby, so then it never feels like work.

Whilst this blog post is not on that endeavour, I enjoy the freedom from an office. Ask family, friends, past co-workers, I am not an office person. I suffer from stagnation being in an office on a daily basis and require being released into the real world, meeting people, doing ‘stuff’

One of my hobbies from when I was still in shorts was fishing. I have been brought fishing in the lakes in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath from when I was 5. I have enjoyed being in 19ft fishing boats out in the downpours, wind and waves along with the fair days when fishing was more productive. My fishing mentor was my aunt’s partner of many decades, Mick Ward from Moyvore. He has forgotten more that I probably will ever remember on fishing in the lakes of the Irish midlands.mullingar_map_lakeswww.mullingarbusiness.com

Mick is unable to fish now and over several months, Saturdays and the odd Monday I have spent on restoring his fishing boat. The boat was left out in the weather for many years and was in need of major TLC. My first concern was to get the boat into a shed and preserve whatever was salvageable. This has been my endeavour and this is the initial post in my project to restore the boat which I have many fond memories of to a working condition. This the my story…..

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I first observed the condition of the boat in Sept 2012, and got Mick’s permission to take ownership of the boat during the Spring of 2013 and my thoughts then turned to restoration.

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Project:  Restoration of a 19ft Lake Fishing boat. Gunnels (top part) were of teak and the body of fibreglass.

Scope: Restoration of this boat

Cost: Budget approx € 500 for materials and parts. Minimise expenditure, factoring in a good condition 2nd hand boat is in the region of €3-4k. .

Duration: Open ended, this is a hobby and a challenge, no monetary gain involved, only enjoyment of task at hand.

When a project is initiated from a passion, many of the formal aspects of management are discounted and it becomes a labour of love, very true in this case for me.

My professional background: Fisherman, and school level ability of carpentry

Condition: Most of the timber that was exposed to the elements and appeared to be rotten or in a state that the safety of a user, Me, would be put at risk if these were not addressed.

  1. Perform an analysis of the timber condition; undertake if professional repair would be necessary or if I could undertake this as a hobby.
  2. Sourcing the necessary timber to allow restoration
  3. Removal of damaged timber
  4. Using appropriate tools preparation and construction of new timber sections
  5. Sand down timber & varnish
  6. Tidy up

My first step was to move the boat indoors into disused hay shed to save any further damage to the timber and protect the fibreglass from any frost damage. This was the quickest win for me of this whole project. Always nice to get a quick win under the belt. So in Sept 2012, I was able to inspect the timbers of the boat once they had dried out, which were rotten and unsafe to keep. The fibreglass appeared to be clean, no bubbles in the fibre and looked structural good.

Over the winter, I did research into the costs involved, sourcing of parts and materials and cost benefits of getting professional craftsman to restore the boat. I subsequently discarded this, as it was my project, I wanted and needed the satisfaction of saving a treasured memory.

In the Spring of 2013, with the permission of Mick, I started my hunt for materials. The primary issue was timber. The boat is 19ft long, but this is not like a car, which can be of similar length, a boat has a beam. This is the belly in the middle where the boat starts from a point at the front end (bow) and finishes at the stern (back) where the engine is attached. A typical fishing boat ranges from 17ft to 19ft long, but in terms of total length the beam is factored in, this amounts to approx. 22ft long for a 19ft boat.

In prior positions, I have been a project manager for a construction company and have project managed my own self build. So I knew that going into the local builders providers, that these lengths are ordered specially. Taking into the consideration, that most timber will rot when exposed to the elements specifically water in a short period of time, that Larch is the favoured timber of choice for boat builders. The character of larch is that it is not affected by water, you can leave it indefinitely immersed and it won’t be damaged, at least not compared to other timbers, beech, ash or oak.

Dilemma: Builder suppliers/merchants don’t stock 22ft length of timber and larch is not common and is a special order in this case. So off to my local timber yard and placed an order for 22ft lengths of larch, 2″ (inch) x 1.5″ planed by 22ft long.

I waited . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and waited . . . . . . . .   you see they have to get a tree to cut of sufficient length to supply my needs, so mother nature has answered their call.

Roll on to late Summer 2013 when my order was finally ready. In the mean time I was able to measure out all the various parts of the boat that the timber needed replacing. These sizes were also requested from the timber yard, my order numbered over fifty pieces of timber of various dimensions.

On a cold Sunday morning in November, I loaded up the jeep with my timber, the 22ft lengths draped over the front & back, securely tied and I hit the road with my delivery.

Now the fun begins. A boat not only has a beam (belly), but the bow is several inches higher than the stern. So a single piece of time not only has to bend outwards but upwards closer to the bow. This creates the problem, have to form the timber into the shape of the gunnels.

The first challenge is to form the gunnels, 22ft lengths according to the existing timber. Out with the G-clamps secure the two lengths each side to mould the timber. This I intended to leave over the winter months and jokingly delegate the work to the clamps. This is the most critical part of the project, getting the shape formed correctly will ease my work later.

While the timber is clamped, I start the process of measuring out the other pieces of timber to allocate pieces, all have been pre-numbered as per the various locations in the boat.

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All sizes are correct, but cannot cut them until the gunnels are in situ.

Now for patience and let the timber mould into shape, its too cold to be in an exposed hayshed working over the Winter.

Part 2 of this story  http://id8.ie/time-to-create-part-2/

World Design Capital 2014

The City of Cape Town intends to use the World Design Capital (WDC) for 2014, WDC opportunity to take a critical look at how well we employ design and design thinking in their city operations.

“What has emerged is that design thinking has been and is used very effectively in many projects and processes. During 2014, the administration will be showcasing about 70 projects that will demonstrate effective design thinking. But what we have discovered is that there are many more ways in which design thinking can be used to improve service delivery.”    Grant Pascoe, Mayoral committee member for tourism, events and marketing.

It puts the end user right at the centre of all thinking. It is highly collaborative, which means that they consult broadly – users, experts, other interested parties – to inform their thinking. It follows a specific creative process that reflects the first two points and a process of developing and testing prototypes and improving them.


Innovation, keep your mind open to opportunities

There are many different places to go and ‘look’ for innovation but often we need to think through a little more of what is driving the changes before we ‘run off’ into finding solutions that are simply immediate to grow our organisations. Sometimes they are, of course in ‘plain sight’, but when you alter your thinking lens you might see innovation opportunities in different ways.

We might miss sizable opportunities in not exploring all the different drivers that are around to drive innovation and provide us opportunities. So why not take the time to ‘reflect’ a little bit more on all the different potential drivers of innovation available to you?

[ Take Time to Reflect ]



Understanding what can drive innovation opens up significant possibilities.

The central meaning of innovation relates to a quest for renewal. For this renewal to take place it is necessary for people to change the way they make decisions, to see things, they must choose to do things differently, make choices outside of their norm. Schumpeter stated that innovation changes the values onto which the system is based. So when people change their value (system) they ‘drive’ the old (economic) system to make room for the new one. When that happens innovation has occurred.

Understanding the options within the drivers of innovation is important. Knowing the options of what can drive innovation can help you choose multiple paths to explore and then grow from.