Happiness At Work #121 ~ Freeing Your Voice

This week’s theme gathers recent stories and videos that all speak to the importance of freeing our voices and finding effective ways to be heard, seen and understood, along with some helpful techniques for going about this with courage, credibility and charisma.

Some of the stories and commentary that caught my attention from this year’s World Economic Forum at Davos make our headline stories in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection.  I have highlighted those that carry the new voices that can be heard with increasing resonance and authority amidst the more familiar agendas and rhetoric we might expect to come from a gathering of the great and good from the global business world, still predominantly older men in in suits.

These voices include a call to action to release and harness the still much much greater power and presence that women have to play in our work and leadership, the need to mix things up with a richer diversity of voices from the outside, from the fringes, from the edges, and the need to make conversations that join voices and unify thinking into the complex new solutions for the world we are continually having to reach for.

From outside the happenings of Davos 2015, I have also included some remarkable people who have found their voices – Morgana Bailey’s courageous stepping out of hiding, and Martin Bustamante, one of the prison inmates from Cristina Domenech’s poetry classes performing his own poem for a TED audience – as well as Julian Treasure’s practical masterclass in how to free and fire up your voice so that people will listen.

What it Feels Like to be a Woman at Davos in 2015

As Poppy Harlow reports from the event for The Guardian…

Davos is a gathering of great minds and change-makers from across the globe, and its theme this year was “the new global context”. The focus takes in everything from fighting terror to addressing the growing income divide. But this year just 17% of participants at this invitation-only summit are female; an increase on 15% in 2014, but still far too small a number. Meanwhile, on the Fortune 500 list, just 3.4% of corporations have female CEOs. Clearly, there is work to do.

In 2010 WEF introduced a new policy allowing corporations to bring a fifth senior leader to the summit (as opposed to the general limit of four), as long as both men and women were in the delegation. Progress has been made with initiatives like this, but the event remains dominantly male.

Facebook’s VP of global marketing Carolyn Everson thinks change will come. She told Fortune, “In the coming years, the number of attendees who are women will rise, as the conversations that are taking place all around us today are going to fundamentally impact the path for women in the future.” …

There’s a lot of work – game-changing work – being done by the women here at WEF. This is a place that humbles just about everyone because it’s hard to digest the calibre of many of the attendees and the magnitude of change for the better they are striving for.

WEF’s mission statement says it is “committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation.” And as Ann Cairns tweeted: “men and women make truly productive teams.” Let’s hope in the coming years they will also be equal in number.

Link to read the full article

Why We Need New Allies For Gender Equality

In her address to the conference, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said…

Given the paucity of women currently in positions of political leadership (just 22% of the world’s parliamentarians are women), it is hardly surprising that obstacles – practical and psychological – remain to more women joining them. We know that in too many cases still, girls are leaving school without competitive qualifications, and that even when girls do make it to tertiary education, gender-based violence and intimidation on campus is a daunting prospect.

Yet these young people are the change agents of our future, and this recognition is reflected in initiatives springing up globally, large and small.

Read the full article

Derek Handley: Davos Has A Diversity Problem

In this video clip you can hear maverick world changer and frustrated partygoer, Derek Handley, Adjunct Executive Professor for AUT University, talking about his work, his dreams for a more socially and environmentally proactive business model, and his view disappointment in the lack of diversity at Davos….

“I spent most of the time outside the main event meeting people in all the different environments,” he said. “My main takeaway is it’s a really interesting place and there are amazing people here, but there is a diversity problem, and I think it’s a significant issue.”

He took issue with the fact that most attendees of Davos are men, and also said the annual meeting lacks artists – people who are in the problems themselves.  Because those people can’t afford to be here.

The best ideas always come from the fringe…  Let’s mix up the really interesting and powerful people who are here with some very diverse perspectives and focus hard on that if we really want to create a very productive and flourishing century.

Link to watch this video

3 Forces Shaping the University of the Future

In her address, Drew Gilpin Faust said “Higher education is the strongest, sturdiest ladder to increased socio-ecomonic mobility…

Higher education is essential for a thriving society: it is the strongest, sturdiest ladder to increased socio-economic mobility and the locus, through research universities, of most of the major discoveries of the last two centuries.

At a time when access and affordability are more consequential than ever before, the world’s colleges and universities are facing a changed landscape. Three forces are creating possibilities and challenges that will define the future of one of humanity’s most enduring and most trusted institutions:

The influence of technology…

Residential education—working and living alongside one’s peers and mentors—cannot be replicated online. When I speak with alumni, they often reflect on serendipitous moments that changed the way they thought about themselves and their place in the world. More often than not, those moments happened in a common space or a classroom, a dining hall or a dorm, laboratory or lecture hall. Being together and sharing experiences no matter one’s surroundings.

The changing shape of knowledge…

What matter most in these moments, and in so many others, is recognising the extraordinary scope of expertise that humanity has at its disposal—and bringing the best minds together to work through problems and develop solutions, amplifying the possibilities for discovery inherent in all of their dimensions.

The attempt to define the value of education…

Higher education lifts people up. It gives them a perspective on the meaning and purpose of their lives that they may not have developed otherwise. Is it possible to quantify this experience, to communicate its value through a set of data? No. But it is among the highest and best outcomes of higher education. We must continue to prepare the next generation of thinkers and doers to navigate the world using evidence and reason as their guide, understanding their work in the broadest context possible as they imagine and define their purposes. We must continue to help humanity transcend the immediate and the instrumental to explore where human civilisation has been and where it hopes to go.

So much of what humanity has achieved has been sparked and sustained by the research and teaching that take place every day at colleges and universities, sites of curiosity and creativity that nurture some of the finest aspirations of individuals and, in turn, improve their lives—and their livelihoods.

As the landscape continues to change, we must be careful to protect the ideals at the heart of higher education, ideals that serve us all well as we work together to improve the world.

Link to read this article

And in 3 Ways To Fix Our Broken Training System Alexis Ringwald, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of LearnUp, signals the changing times in her call for training that is more employer-driven, responsive an on demand.  She writes…

In the future, we will move closer to an education model that is truly responsive to the needs of employers, jobseekers and the international labour market. Only then will we solve the skills gap and the information gap and reduce the burden of unemployment.

Let the change begin.

Link to read the full article

From Spreading Happiness to Saving the Planet, the Rise and Rise of Pharrell

Some uncharitably wondered whether Pharrell Williams had entered into a new, messianic phase of his career – one typically signalled by joining a society of billionaires and retired political figures in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. Others said the global hitmaker was too cute to go along with anything that smacked only of an ego trip.

“I think you guys know how serious the global warming thing is, and so for us we’re taking it very seriously, and we wanted to do something very different this time,” Pharrell said in Davos. What he means by having “humanity harmonise all at once” might remain slightly mysterious, but organisers say they expect 100 acts performing before a broadcast audience of two billion people across seven continents, including Antarctica.

Pharrell, whose song Happy was the bestselling single of 2014 and who was recently described by US GQ as “a quiet little Egyptian space cat of a dude”, is known for getting things done – at least in music.

As the magazine recently described, besides being a pop star in his own right he has become a kind of a musical consultant for other artists who guides you toward your “twinkling star”…

Pharrell says the trick in producing other people is to drop his ego. “I say to the artist, whether it be Beyoncé or Usher, what do you want to do? And when they tell me, I say, OK, let’s do it like this. It’s real simple.”

Like Prince, Pharrell surrounds himself with women – his assistant, Cynthia Lu; art director Phi Hollinger; and Fatima Robinson, his choreographer.

“Women have a way of expressing themselves that I can relate to more honestly,” he told GQ. “I am a sensitive person, so I want to be with sensitive people.”

Pharrell appears to be settling into his role as a multimedia prophet. He has given himself over to invocations of pseudo-mysticism, recently explaining: “It’s all math. You have a certain number of bones in your body. You have seven holes in your face. There are nine planets, a sun, trillions and trillions of galaxies. Everything quantifies to numbers.” He’s been described as pop’s Bill Clinton – “a masterclass in charm and empathy”.

Link to read the full article

Morgana Bailey: The Danger of Hiding Who You Are

Inspiring and deeply moving, Morgana Bailey’s presentation shows the vital importance of openness, embracing difference and daring to be heard for our happiness at work – and much much more…

Morgana Bailey has been hiding her true self for 16 years. In a brave talk, she utters four words that might not seem like a big deal to some, but to her have been paralyzing. Why speak up? Because she’s realized that her silence has personal, professional and societal consequences. In front of an audience of her co-workers, she reflects on what it means to fear the judgement of others, and how it makes us judge ourselves.

Cristina Domenech: Poetry that frees the soul

We all have a voice and we all have things of power and beauty to say with it.  But some of us will find it harder than others to find, free and trust our own voices.  Here is a success story of great empowerment where this has been achieved.

“It’s said that to be a poet, you have to go to hell and back.” Cristina Domenech teaches writing at an Argentinian prison, and she tells the moving story of helping incarcerated people express themselves, understand themselves — and glory in the freedom of language. Watch for a powerful reading from one of her students, an inmate, in front of an audience of 10,000. In Spanish with subtitles.

Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen

In this presentation sound and listening expert Julian Treasure provides his guide for releasing your full voice at its best sets, and his vocal warmup for tuning up before an important speaking engagement – see from 4’16”

Before this he sets out his top tips for increasing your impact and influence as a speaker.

Have you ever felt like you’re talking, but nobody is listening?

Here’s Julian Treasure to help you fix that. As the sound expert demonstrates some useful vocal exercises and shares tips on how to speak with empathy, he offers his vision for a sonorous world of listening and understanding.

To Change the World: Steve McCurry’s Photos

Steve McCurry’s collection of photos showing moments of study and learning across the globe…

“Only the educated are free.”  Epictetus

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”  William Wordsworth

Link to see Steve McCurry’s photos

Happiness At Work #121

All of these articles, and many more, are collected together in this week’s new Happiness At Work edition #121 which you can see here

Happiness At Work #95 ~ curiosity, innovation and performance mastery

Little question

Happiness At Work – edition #95

Here are some of the highlights you can find in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection.

Curious by Ian Leslie book review

The headline story reviews a new book I heard about this week: Curious: the desire to know and why your future depends on it by Ian Leslie

Drawing on fascinating research from psychology, sociology and business, CURIOUS looks at what feeds curiosity and what starves it, and uncovers surprising answers. Curiosity isn’t a quality you can rely on to last a lifetime, but a mental muscle that atrophies without regular exercise. It’s not a gift, but a habit that parents, schools, workplaces and individuals need to consciously nurture if it is to thrive.

Curiosity has been identified as one of the seven essential character strengths that are fundamentally essential to our success academically, professionally, in life and in our relationships.

Leslie suggests that there are two kinds of curiosity:

~ diversive curiosity, which is about seeking the new and novel;

~ epistemic curiosity, which is about acquiring, building and deepening knowledge.

Curiosity, Leslie reminds us, starts with questions, and these days, thanks to the wonderful worldwide web, we can instantly get answers to any question we think of. This means that our diversive curiosity can be easily and constantly satisfied, but at the expensive of our epistemic curiosity for deeper more substantial knowledge – because when our questions are answered too quickly, this muscle doesn’t get worked and strengthened.


Here are 5 more of the headlines from this collection:

Women in European Business London Conference – 2013 (video)

The ideas you can hear in this short 8minutes are rich and diverse, and you might like to see what stands out for you…?

This compilation of highlights and responses to last year’s event at the Barbican by some of its speakers and participants is especially notable for its emphasis, not on money making, but on themes that we have been continually exploring and turning over in these Happiness At Work collections: the vital necessity for passion, creativity, playing to your strengths, self mastery and a style of leadership that biases inclusion, involvement, interest and recognition for people and the ideas and work they bring.

For example, this from Wendy Tan White, Co-founder and CEO, Moonfruit

“I’m an entrepreneur but I’ve also worked in corporates and I’ve recently been acquired myself, and what I can see is that if we don’t create the opportunities for people and staff within organisations, we’re going to lose them. There’s going to be a brain-drain. It’s too easy now to get funding, to be inspired and to set up your own company. And people are looking for a different work-life balance in their lives.”


The Science of Improving Your Performance at Almost Anything


Amateur musicians … tend to spend their practice time playing music, whereas pros tend to work through tedious exercises or focus on difficult parts of pieces…

Practice might make perfect, but much depends upon how we practice. This article offers insights from great artists about how we can all achieve higher levels of mastery.

The need to use feedback loops, to work in chunks, the need to adopt the right mindset, and the importance of sleep are essential formastering technical skills.

For softer skills the recipe for excellence includes speeding things up so that we are required to improvise, following routines and rituals, fine-tuning our focus, exercising as well as time just being idle, making the most of the start of our day, and the delicate and difficult challenge of finding a balance.

Peter Drucker’s 9 Functions of a Mentor

I don’t care who you are or what you do. Be a mentor. Have a mentor.

Don’t worry if you don’t understand mentoring. Just go engage in one of the nine behaviours that follow…

These nine tenets for making great mentoring conversations have been distilled from “Drucker & Me,” by Bob Buford, the story of their 23 year relationship. And, just as Peter Drucker says, the ideas here are not just for formal mentoring. They have great application to strategic thinking and team working and career planning and many other situations too.

Interview with Shawn Achor

You probably already know that we are fans of Shawn Achor because this is not the first time I have featured him, and we use many of his ideas in our resilience and happiness at work workshops. The groundbreaking, practically helpful and erudite wisdom he brings from his long studies into what helps or hinders our happiness and success at work have enormous value to making our 21st century working lives work better..

In this email interview, Achor explains how presenters can utilise the wisdom in his most recent book, Before Happiness, to overcome the fear, stress and self-doubt that often accompany public speaking

As speakers you especially have the chance to work on what researcher Michelle Gielan calls the Power Lead, starting every conversation with a positive like “I’m having a great day how about you” instead of telling people how unprepared or nervous you are.  This changes your interactions and your brain follows your words.  The more you say you’re stressed or tired, the more stressed and tired you feel, right?  Same is true for happiness.

Positive Communication Leads to a Culture of Innovation

Innovation is not about doing an old thing in a new way. It’s about creating a new way to do something new, or a new way to do something better. Inherently, innovation must be disruptive – unaccepting of the status quo and committed to transforming a new approach into reality. Innovation isn’t just a new way of doing. It’s a new way of thinking…

This article asks us how comfortable we are with the new, and reminds us that communication and culture are inextricably linked, and transforming a culture takes time, bravery, risk taking and a willingness to feel uncomfortable for a while.

Question - holding it together

And as well as these articles, you will find the usual mix of stories, new research, practical techniques and insights from people’s own work and lives, including…

11 Simple Tips to Effective Email Management

10 Ways to be Happier with Your Work Life

10 Questions You Should Ask When Facing A Tough Career Decision

The Link Between Creativity and Happiness

20 Facts About Happiness That Will Surely Impress You


Forbes: Can Happiness Become the World’s Most Popular Course?

question - sitting on it (blue)

Happiness At Work – edition #95

All of these stories and more are collected in our Happiness At Work collection #95.  

We hope you find much here to enjoy and profit from…

The London Picture ~ A New Direction Conference

My highlights and reflections…

Scott Noppe-Brandon.jpg-large

Scott Noppe-Brandon at ‘The London Picture’ (photo by A New Direction)

Films from The London Picture event (Thurs 28 March 2013)

Education, young people and the changing landscape for culture in the city.

about The London Picture

On 28 March 2013, A New Direction brought together senior leaders from across London’s arts and cultural sector to discuss innovative models for working within a changing education landscape. The event was streamed live via our website, enabling those who were not at the event to view and interact online.

A New Direction brought together senior leaders from across London’s arts and cultural sector to discuss innovative models for working within a changing education landscape around the the themes of:

  • Community

  • Family

  • School

  • Work

Venue: Central Saint Martins, King’s Cross

Gallery of pictures from the day

See also:  What if?

Conference organiser Holly Donagh shares her reflections after the event


Home Is Where the Heart Is 

@michaelejudge ponders before the event how cultural organisations can make a difference on young people.

Introduction – Steve Moffit

CEO of A New Direction

How can we help you to be part of the conversations?

It is really important to know our stakeholders.

Our emphasis is about collaboration.  The future is going to be about partnerships.

Munira Mirza (A New Direction)

Munira Mirza: “The arts should not be seen as oppositional to other subjects’ (photo: A New Direction)

Munira Mirza

Deputy Mayor, Education & Culture

The arts, like every other subject, need to raise their game.

Three issues:

  1. expertise – not enough use of subject skills and expertise.  “I don’t want to guide the students too much as it will restrict their creativity” is wrong.  More challenging work that stretches outside student’s comfort zones could be presented in schools.
  2. cultural experience is not the same as cultural education
  3. the arts have let themselves be classified as alternative education for non-academic children.  Until this changes the arts will always be seen as lower status.  We should be campaigning to be seen as real academic subjects as well as meeting a participation agenda.  The arts are for all children and all abilities.

What the arts sector can do together as a community.

Important to see the bigger picture – why education needs changing.  1 in 5 children are leaving school without good literacy skills. 40% are leaving without GCSE’s.

Mayor’s Office Initiatives:

Excellence Fund – £23million to raise teaching excellence in science and maths, english and languages and ‘other subjects’ (left deliberately vague to see what comes forward)

London Curriculum – to use London itself to help teach the national curriculum and come up with a range of resources.


Steve Moffit introducing Scott Noppe-Brandon:

We need to have international perspectives.

Scott Noppe-Brandon

Author of Imagination First and former Executive Director of the Lincoln Centre Institute, now Co-Founder/Director of Squiggle Consulting LLC.

The challenges:

  • The changing global economy that demands an imaginative, innovative and creative workforce equipped with skills that cut across traditional academic disciplines

  • Mastering and capitalising on technology as a power for transforming learning and enabling the youth to give voice and visibility to their knowledge, aspirations and achievements.

We talk a lot about nouns but we forget about the verbs.  How do we achieve change by not trying to achieve change?  But rather because it’s the right strategy, the right context for change?

At the Lincoln Centre, education was not there to promote the culture of the parent organisation.  We wanted to have students not only learning about the arts, but learning about themselves and about learning itself.

We need to be pragmatic optimists.

Ask yourself: are you optimistic or pessimistic about what you are doing and what is happening?

If you are optimistic you are right, but if you are pessimistic you are a pragmatic realistic.  

How can you be both without each cancelling each other out?

In front of students you have to be optimistic for the possibilities of each of them.

We have to be counter-logical and think about things in a way that goes against what seems to be how they should be and yet still makes sense.

imagination ~ the ability to think about things as if they could be otherwise ~ asking “what if…”  This can be taught and learned.

creativity ~ imagination enacted.  You need to know how you do what you do. This too can be taught and learned.

innovation ~ when the form is pushed and changed; pushing the limits so something new is created, made or made to happen.

enterprise & entrepreneurialism ~ when you do something in the world with what you have newly created.

All of these elements work together through commerce, culture and education:

imagination ceativity innovation graphic 2 copy

John Dooley talked about an ‘aesthetic education’ – the opposite of anaesthetic, making it so that that life is not dull.  But this won’t sell, so we have to reframe it.  We have to look at the question of how time, effort, and resource are monetised.

You can’t continue to do work because it is good for people alone otherwise it will not be valued.

Talking with Scott 1Talking with Scott 2

Who’s challenging me?

Who’s asking me the questions that I don’t know how to ask myself yet?

I have this idea of ‘civic dialogues…’  If you want to be relevant, you have to be having relevant conversations.  So I went to talk to people I wasn’t already talking to … the military (who are incredibly insightful and articulate about the role of creativity); spiritual leaders; neuroscientists…  We piloted with 12 civic dialogues across the country to find out if people were interested.  These dialogues led to new discoveries for all, harnessing the diversity of these atypical combinations, which was then translated into action:  making ‘Friday conversations’ that are still meaningful on Monday morning… and in ways that have commerce, culture and education working together.

Cezanne Card Players

Cezanne:  The Card Players,  1890-92, Metropolitan Museum of New York

“Your eyes see the front of the picture, and your imagination curves to the other side.” Cezanne

Creativity and imagination are more and more part of commerce and business schools: how do you create?  From rich content knowledge how to curve round the corner into imaginative thinking and action.  This needs to be driven by social good and economic benefits.

10 Capacities (or Principles) for Imaginative Learning

These are what we expect students to become expert in:

  • Noticing Deeply
  • Embodying
  • Questioning
  • Identifying Patterns
  • Making Connections
  • Exhibiting Empathy
  • Creating Meaning
  • Taking Action
  • Reflecting/Assessing
  • Tolerating Ambiguity


Panel Discussion highlights

Francis Augusto, Sociology Student & member of Dare London:

Young people should be here in more numbers…

It is very simple to find out what young people think.  Go and ask them…

Stella Barnes, Director of Participation, Ovalhouse:

Young people don’t believe they have a voice.

We need to make a case for the arts and we need to make it in a very loud voice.  We can do this by sharing rather than being competitive and fighting each other over resources.  And we can share our learning.

This is the moment that we have to come together.

Rys Farthing, Policy & Research Officer, Child Poverty Action Group

Recent research findings from surveying 399 young people form three socio-economic groups revealed:

  1. 25% of 11-18 year olds getting free school meals, out of work parent(s)…
  2. 15% of 11-18 year olds from families in poverty, low income households…
  3. but only 8% 11-18 year olds from above poverty households…

…did not select a course because of price.

These courses were mostly creative subjects, including and especially:

  • art
  • photography
  • design & technology
  • food technology
  • music

See also panel member Charlie Tim’s post after the event:

What Can Culture Do For Young People?

Panel (Phillip Flood)

The Panel (l-r) Francis Augusto, Stella Barnes, Tony Sewell, Giles Fraser, (Rys Farthing not visible), Charlie Timms (photo: @Philip_Flood)

Simon Mellor: A Daydream for the Arts

What problem do we solve in the arts?

What we do will only be truly valued when the public believes and starts to demand arts investment in order to solve a problem they care about.

Steve Moffitt: Closing Thoughts

We have to envision the future we want and we have to do this in the context in which our work takes place.

We are all going to have to broaden who we talk to.  We have to engage in a different way than we have before.  There is some territory here that we have to fill.

There are some things we, at A New Direction, will encourage you to do.

We have to be brave.

And we have to have Scott’s pragmatic optimism.

Some of my reflections . . .

Imaginative extension ——————> can we dream up together our ideal communities, families, schools and work with the arts and creativity at their heart?

What if we we could…?

What if we did…?

We have to find better ways of having these conversations without using the blanket term of ‘young people’, as Mushana from Young & Serious said from the audience during the panel session.  We would be outraged to hear ourselves bundled up as old people, or even older people, we would be fast and loud and strident at insisting on our uniqueness and our individuality, and so, too, we must find better ways of talking that draw out these same distinctions, multiplicities and distinctiveness when we talk about people under the age of 25.

It would be wonderful to be part of any version of Scott Noppe-Brandon’s ‘civic dialogues’ ~ surely this is a potent(ial) next action: to reconvene around these themes and questions with people who span a much wider diversity of age, profession, passion and preoccupation; to start to learn together from each other about what matters, what we all care deeply about being and becoming as a creative aspirational 21st century humanity, and what we might make and do together to create an ideal emergent future that stretches the limits of all of our dreams and imaginations and creative capabilities.

And of course this will require us to learn – to discover and develop different ways of thinking and doing things and different things to do and think.

Why do we, of all people, forget this?

We are naturally biased in the arts in talking about desirable futures and aspirations that are worth striving and reaching towards, but more and more research is suggesting that we humans are most driven and compelled to act in response to threats and problems that move us to get away from – it is our focus and attention on undesirable and dangerous threats and difficulties that galvanise our decisions and spring us into our most instinctive and unstoppable action.  If we want to be relevant, to be in the mainstream conversations, we need to become much better at being able to speak about why we matter in terms of the problems, threats, worries and dangers we can help to avoid, lessen, reduce and overcome.  This doesn’t mean changing our values and what we care about most passionately.  Rather it is learning to talk of these things in the language of the people we seek to convince, at least as well as we talk about the potential we are capable of enabling and the enrichment we are expert at realising.

It is perhaps also worth remembering the necessary rudimentary aspects of what people need to become persuaded to act:

Monroe’s Motivation Sequence

Developed in the 1930’s by Professor Alan Monroe,  this sequence has five steps that follow the psychology of persuasion:

  1. Œ   Attention – they want and feel they need to listen
  2.    Need – an aroused sense that some real action is needed
  3. Ž   Satisfaction – clear connections can be seen between how the proposed solution satisfies the need
  4.    Visualisation – vivid imagery is conjured up so that they can literally see how they will benefit from taking the proposed action
  5.    Action – strong persuasive appeal that effectively calls people to action

The Ladder of Influence:

Put another way, these are the 5 essential steps a persuasive speaker or advocate must achieve in order for their audience to progress from receiving a message to becoming compelled to act on it

5th ~ and so they ACT

because they want and feel compelled to do as proposed

4th ~ they CARE 

they can see real personal value in what is being proposed or called for

 3rd ~ they BELIEVE 

both speaker and messages seem fully credible and connect with what they believe already to be true  

2nd ~ they UNDERSTAND 

what they hear makes sense to them

 1st ~ they HEAR

they feel that they want and need to listen

I believe there is also much that we might learn from the research and advocacy that is being successfully forged in happiness and wellbeing and resilience studies and strategies.  The arts share many similar characteristics of apparently intrinsic, unquantifiable and indefinable values, and yet these areas are fast and emphatically developing a growing and compelling rhetoric that is getting attention, resource and commitment from global, national and local ‘people with the power’.  I would argue, based on our work helping to develop mastery in these fields, that these areas share more similarities than difference with the arts and creative learning.

And so why should not the United Nations be considering making a minimum arts offer as indispensable an entitlement to every human on the planet, (as we now accept about learning to communicate and to read), in the same way as they have now sanctioned entitlement to happiness in this year’s first ever just celebrated UN International Day of Happiness?  Imagine if these had been the Secretary-General’s words (which I have only slightly re-written from his message for the day):

I am encouraged by the efforts of some Governments to design policies based on comprehensive artistic indicators. I encourage others to follow suit. On this first International Day of the Arts, let us reinforce our commitment to inclusive and sustainable human development and renew our pledge to help others. When we contribute to the common good, we ourselves are enriched. Artistic excellence promotes happiness and will help build the future we want.

The arts could have an extremely persuasive case to make for the contribution we make to people’s lasting and self-sustaining happiness, resilience and wellbeing, increasingly so now that more and more convincing research is finding that:

  • happy people are more successful, productive and creative, as well as making better relationships, staying healthier and living longer, and and and…


  • we can all learn to become happier: only 50% of our happiness seems to come from our genetic inheritance, and only 8% from our current circumstances of health, wealth and security.  At least 42% of our happiness comes from how we choose to think and act.

The UK now has an emerging set of indicators under research feeding into a new notion for a Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index informed by what they have been doing for some years in Bhutan.  Surely this might be an area where we can find ourselves a place at the table, amongst a gathering of listeners who we might cause to feel that they really need to strain in to hear and understand what we have to bring?  Consider these ideas from a Bhutanese teacher quoted in the Guardian article Gross National Happiness in Bhutan: the big idea from a tiny state that could change the world

The infusion of GNH into education has also meant daily meditation sessions and soothing traditional music replacing the clang of the school bell.

“An education doesn’t just mean getting good grades, it means preparing them to be good people,” says Dukpa. “This next generation is going to face a very scary world as their environment changes and social pressures increase. We need to prepare them for this.”

One of the leading organisations influencing government and social policies in the UK is the new economics foundation.  In this extract from their report National Accounts of Well-being notice the resonances with our own aspirations and agenda for change:

National Accounts of Well-being uses comprehensive data from a survey of 22 European nations examining both personal and social well-being. Personal well-being describes people’s experiences of their positive and negative emotions, satisfaction, vitality, resilience, self-esteem and sense of purpose and meaning. Social well-being is made up of two main components: supportive relationships, and a feeling of trust and belonging. Together they form a picture of what we all really want: a fulfilling and happy life. With National Accounts of Well-being, policymakers have a new compass to guide us. 

It is extremely easy to see where the arts and creativity can play a vital role in the new economics foundation’s prescription for 5 Ways To Wellbeing:

  • Connect
  • Be Active
  • Take Notice
  • Keep Learning
  • Give

Why is any explicit reference to the arts mostly missing from these studies,  indexing and conversations?  Why aren’t the arts already seen to be an essential component of any happiness and wellbeing strategy?

What if they were…?

We are getting surer and more confident in articulating a set of artistic disciplines (or principles, or capabilities, or areas of expertise) that can be learned and nurtured and mastered.  For instance, the 10 Disciplines that Scott Noppe-Brandon listed correlate strongly with the creative capabilities we know from Ken Robinson’s ideas that many of us learned and worked with through our work in Creative Partnerships.  This is our adapted version of these:

  • imagining
  • original thinking
  • experimentation & risk-taking
  • problem solving
  • challenging & questioning
  • listening & noticing
  • reflection
  • collaboration
  • resilience

And here again is Scott Noppe-Brandon’s combination to compare and connect across:

10 Capacities (or Principles) for Imaginative Learning

what we expect students to become expert in:

  • Noticing Deeply
  • Embodying
  • Questioning
  • Identifying Patterns
  • Making Connections
  • Exhibiting Empathy
  • Creating Meaning
  • Taking Action
  • Reflecting/Assessing
  • Tolerating Ambiguity

Compare these with Martin Seligman’s 5 Essential Elements of Flourishing ~ a new understanding of happiness and wellbeing and how to achieve them:

  • Positive Emotion
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishments

What we know in the arts about ‘engagement’ alone should be swelling and vibrating through the airwaves.

As, too, should be the expertise, understanding and real lived-through wisdom we have to bring to contemporary studies into resilience.  This list of 10 essential elements of Resilience from Steven Southwick & Dennis Charney’s research is potentially rich with resonances to our own arts disciplines and practices, let alone what we already know in the arts about resilience itself:

  • Realistic Optimism
  • Facing Fears
  • Moral Compass
  • Spiritual Practice
  • Social Support
  • Resilient Role Models
  • Physical Fitness
  • Brain Fitness
  • Cognitive & Emotional Agility
  • Meaning & Purpose

It is worth us in the arts listening again to the words from the 1968 speech by Robert Kennedy on GNP that have played a significant part in inspiring and validating the current happiness and wellbeing movement, (including David Cameron who quoted them with a vehement passion in his 2010 TED Talk The Next Age of Government).  I have substituted Kennedy’s ‘America’ with ‘London’ here for deliberate effect:

“Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product … if we should judge [London] by that – counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our [trees] and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts … armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts … the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

“Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about [London] except why we are proud that we are [Londoners].”

We are living in a world struggling to reinvent itself around new economic models that recognise that increased wealth is no guarantee of increased happiness and wellbeing, and reaching out for new solutions and ways of working, of ways of being and being together, that bring much greater, longer lasting and less expensive resilience and flourishing to more of us across an increasingly connected and interdependent global community.

Where is our Manifesto for change?

What if we could imagine ourselves at the centre of these conversations?

What if more and more people recognised and knew what we know about the potency and power of art and artistry to release human imagination and creative problem solving to make innovative new realisations that push us out into radically new possibilities that are fully equal to the problems we are facing and capable of answering the most urgent and complex difficulties of our time and place?

What if we could bring a united, heightened and imaginative curiosity, our creativity fully opened and expertly readied, and our collaborative enterprise unified into a complex synergy to a seat at the table where the most important re-imaginings, conversations and innovations are striving to be made for the better education, cultural vitality and more sustainable rewarding commerce we now so urgently need to find and make…?

Fantastic & ridiculous idealism?

Or pragmatic optimism?

Central St Martins (Michael Judge).jpg-large

…imagination curves to the other side…(photo: @michaeljudge)