Lisa Baxter

On Being Conformist and the Reasons Why I Am Not One

Conforming is the kiss of death – spiritual death, intellectual death, professional death. To conform is to ‘settle’ with what’s being served up. The way to be and do things. It’s accepting the power structures that are at play, and allowing the tail to wag the dog. The problem with conforming is that it kills imagination and stifles innovation. It is stagnation. It turns us into laggards. We lose our sense of self, our uniqueness, and our sparkle. Whilst I applaud the daring non-conformist souls who work tirelessly to shift the dial in the arts and cultural sector, I despair at the prevailing entrenched practices that grind us down and wear us out until we forget why we are in this amazing business in the first place. You know what I’m talking about. Mercifully, as an independent operator, I don’t suffer the same restrictions. Give me a rule and I’ll question it, break it [if needs be] and rustle something up that works better, or changes the fundamental premise of that rule. How does this feel? Messy. Hard Graft. Purposeful. Exhilarating. Exasperating. Emboldening. Deflating. Exciting. Creative. Important … and always Rewarding. I’ll take that over conformity any time. My hope is that through my blogs, I can share some of my work, perspectives, processes and ideas to inspire people to step out of the torpor of conformity and try something new, different, experimental or even downright outrageous. Thought exercise Bring to mind the things which you advertently or inadvertently conform to, for example, ways of doing things, established mindsets, or the expectations of important others. Pay attention to them and how they impact on your well-being, your performance and your sense of purpose. To put some wind in your sails, I’d like to recommend an absolutely brilliant book by Sam Conniff Allende called ‘Be More Pirate’ which I found hugely affirming. Not only does it inspire you to make ‘good trouble’, but you learn a hell of a lot about Pirates. I leave you with two quotes from the book: “Causing good trouble requires confidence in your own abilities to stand up to power and then holding your nerve to actually see it through.” “… you can’t get stuff done by breaking the rules alone. You have to provide an alternative. You have to change the game and rewrite the rules.”

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Arts and Culture, Innovation, Institutionalism, Organisational Culture, Organisational Development, Purpose, ,

The Growing Edge: Beyond the Comfort Zone

“Growth edges are the places that have fear on one side and change on the other. The edge is the place in the middle …It’s the gatekeeper to moving from the known to the unknown.”Kim Romain Welcome to my first ever blog. Preparing to become a blogger – I prefer to call them ‘thoughts’, offered up as gifts rather than sales pitches – has prompted me to think deeply about why I do what I do, and how. The term ‘the growing edge’ came to mind. You see, we all operate at the edge of our ‘what next?’ That threshold between what we are doing right now and the opportunity to stretch, grow, discover and innovate. In my professional experience, too few of us are brave enough to cross that threshold. Staying put means little changes, placing us in danger of becoming what the late and great Diane Ragsdale referred to as ‘permanently failing organisations’. As cruel as this might sound, it holds truth. That’s why I support arts and cultural organisations to cross the threshold of their growing edge and embrace their ‘new, different, better and smarter’. How? By asking searching questions, surfacing difficult truths, identifying blind spots, challenging world views, eliciting new perspectives, recognising and realising potential, amplifying creative muscle, encouraging risk-taking and equipping people with the confidence, mindsets, learning experiences and skills to flourish. All of this involves moving out of your comfort zone into the fear zone, then into the learning zone and beyond, into growth. Embracing your growing edge is not for everyone, for example, those who want quick fixes, or to outsource solutions, or apply yesterday’s logic to today’s problems – yet everyone needs this. As someone who is always embracing her own growing edge, I am excited about what the next few years will bring as I examine my own practice [we must all always do this], seek out fresh ideas and perspectives, and strive to develop new processes to address challenges and opportunities I don’t even know exist yet. Onwards. Thought exercise: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk to blossom.” Anais Nin

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Institutionalism, Organisational Culture, Organisational Development, Professional Development, , , ,
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