Ian's blog


*Filtering posts tagged inspiration

  • Opening eyes to new possibilities. A day on a Fuel Safari...

    The Fuel Safari was everything I hoped it would be, and many things I hadn’t even considered might be possible. Without a shadow of a doubt, that was down to Ian, his approach and his ability to pick out details others overlook. I can see myself undertaking a Fuel Safari each year.

    Simon White, Formation London


    It’s ten thirty on a Thursday morning and I’m sitting on the steps of the Seven Dials monument in London’s Covent Garden. Takeaway coffees in hand, I’m here with Simon White. Ahead of us lies six hours of discovery: walking, talking and plotting. Welcome to Fuel Safari, my one-day session to rediscover your fuel.

    Fuel Safari is different from traditional coaching. I guess I’m an ‘AntiCoach’, I bring my passion, curiosity and outsider point-of-view to ask the right questions. The morning is about inputs, walking around Soho and Fitzrovia, asking questions, getting inspiration IN. The afternoon is about outputs, mapping the ‘what next?’, laying down the building blocks, getting inspiration OUT.

    Today’s client is the founder of Formation London. Formation London helps brands, agencies and organisations innovate, adapt and thrive. The company has had a good year, now Simon needs the fuel to lay the foundation stones for 2016.

    Much of my work is around storytelling and today’s Fuel Safari is no different: it’s about identifying and mapping a future story. Also my objective is to make sure that my clients are putting their real selves into their careers, work lives and businesses. That’s what I’m obsessive about: reconnecting people with their stories, purpose and passions. Making sure that the path ahead is aligned with who they are.

    Fuel Safari is a journey, taking executives, entrepreneurs and freelancers from where they are now to where they could be. I like to start the day here at Seven Dials, at this hub in the centre of seven ‘spokes’. Too often we are forced into making simplistic binary - yes-or-no - decisions in life. But life is more complex than that. There are often more than two options. Here at Seven Dials, we look around us and see seven routes going off in different directions. Which path shall we choose?

    We head north, taking the side streets; busy streets are no-go areas on my safaris. We’re away from the hustle and bustle, so we can slow down, follow our curiosity. Pausing to look at a piece of graffiti on Cleveland Street (“All the good things are wild and free”), stopping at a bench on Fitzroy Square. I have a rough plan for where we’re going, weaving through the alleyways and cut-throughs north of Oxford Street. At Margaret Street I give Simon a choice. “Do you want to go left or right?”

    “Straight on!” he replies.

    As we walk I’m asking questions, listening, noticing. Stopping to capture thoughts and ideas on a pack of Artefact cards in my pocket. And when we need our own fuel, we find a pit-stop. Today it’s Kaffeine in Eastcastle Street.

    After a stop on Carnaby Street for lunch, we grab a table at the Hospital Club and fan out this morning’s cards. Simon adds in his own suggestions and we’re away: building and mapping. Mapping the core proposition, ideas for new products, ways that his business can stand apart. Throughout the process I’m searching for alignment: is he bringing Simon - and what he stands for - to every fragment of the business? By 4pm Simon’s fuel tanks are full: he says we’ve opened up opportunities that he just wouldn’t have considered on his own.

    We’ve gone on a literal and metaphorical journey, on the move most of the day. Most of us get too busy to stand back from the day-to-day and ask why we do what we do. I listen, then connect the dots.

    If you’re looking for personality profiling, go and see a coach. But if you’re stuck at a crossroads, looking for way forward and need someone to help navigate your what next, come and see an AntiCoach (email hello@iansanders.com and we can arrange a conversation*).

    I’ll leave you with some more thoughts from Simon.

    Going on a Fuel Safari opened my eyes to possibilities that I had previously overlooked, as well as plenty of ideas and paths that had been hidden in the undergrowth that is modern life. Ian helped to strip away the complexity of things to expose some incredibly interesting thoughts. And he even managed to encapsulate what it is I do in with Formation London a simple, single-minded statement that resonates clearly with others.

    The follow-up exercise in the afternoon of mapping out those thoughts was so useful - a chance to discuss, pick apart and rebuild thinking as part of the open-minded approach Ian has devised. Not only did it demonstrate how I’d got to where I am, but it shone a light on the right places to go next.

    Best of all, I’m left with something I can draw upon for inspiration as I move into the year ahead - and beyond.”


    * Fuel Safaris cost £1,000 for the day. If you make a booking by the end of January 2016, pay just £500. Email hello@iansanders.com to start a conversation.

  • Inspiration isn’t only for artists: let your employees sit by the sea

    I was chatting to a friend who’s an artist. She hadn’t been productive lately because she wasn’t finding time to let the inspiration in. Not only in seeing views that she might want to paint; but also in nurturing her creativity. And of course, getting inspiration in isn’t only for artists. For any of us who rely on new thinking or creative energy, we need to get inspired, whether we’re an entrepreneur, an exec in an organisation or a freelancer. That’s how we get our ideas.

    Like my friend, we need to create the time to go and get inspired. I did this last Friday, taking two hours off to walk along a sea-wall in a place I’d never been to before, to look at some big skies and bring clarity to some ideas. I also took my camera with me.

    It felt good. And it reminded me of a story about another friend, David. Back in the ‘90s he was working in radio production. Tasked by his boss to devise some programme ideas to pitch Radio 1, David asked whether he could go and sit by the sea to do it - that was where he’d be most productive. His boss laughed at his suggestion.

    Hopefully employers’ attitudes have changed since and bosses today - especially in the creative industries - know that generating ideas won’t happen sitting at our desks.

    So if you claim to be an innovative business, here’s the test - will you let your executives go sit by the sea?

  • Take your ideas for a walk

    I saw a tweet earlier in the week from The Names Not Numbers ideas festival; it was a quote from the writer Aminatta Forna, "Paul Klee said he took a line for a walk when he drew. I take a thought for a walk." 

    And it reminded me that I actually do take my thoughts for a walk.

    Since I quit the conventional office I’ve worked from a mix of spaces to suit the task in hand, wherever I’m most productive. I’ve learned that the bits in between are just as valuable - either just walking from A to B; or going for a stroll, a cycle, or a run with the intention of connecting the dots on an idea. Living by the coast, the big skies of the Thames Estuary are the perfect backdrop for taking ideas out in the fresh air.

    I might be seeking a solution to a client’s challenge, exploring a new approach or trying to make sense of an early-stage idea; I find that act of walking & thinking is like shuffling a pack of cards.

    And by taking my ideas for a walk, I tend to return with them in much better shape.

  • My 3 Takeaways from ‘FT Innovate’

    My activity on Twitter tends to be a good metric for how excited I am about a project. It’s the same at a conference or talk: if I hear something that resonates - and if I can get it down in 140 characters - I like to share it.

    At yesterday’s FT Innovate 2012 conference when speaker Wendy Tan White said “Men are from Foursquare, women are from Pinterest “ it felt instantly tweetable. Okay it wasn’t going to change the world: it’s just a smart soundbite, but as you’ll see from the above screen grab, I wasn’t the only one to find it so tweetable!

    I struggled to fit the highlights into 140 characters so here are my three takeaways from day two at the conference (they’re all about innovations in attitudes to business rather than tech innovation itself):

    1. Go sit by the sea. Wendy Tan White founded the website builder Moonfruit. She said that if you’re looking for stimulation in business "go painting, go sit by the sea, go talk to someone you don't like". I love this: indeed I ‘wrote’ this post on a seafront run at lunchtime today; last month I went to Barcelona principally to get  business inspiration. It works!
    2. Be the outsider. Lady GaGa’s manager Troy Carter talked about the the power of the outsider. “The founder of Coca-Cola wasn’t a beverage guy,” he told us. When Troy set up his business many of the team were from outside the music industry, the COO was a teacher. I too trade on being an outsider. Whilst some clients might hire me as an industry expert, others do for my fresh perspective, able to apply lessons from other experiences to their business.
    3. Stay customer-centric, ditch ‘users’. Tom Hulme is the Design Director of IDEO who spoke about the need to be more consumer-centric. It’s an obvious point but many businesses develop propositions without involving the customer at an early stage. He also suggested - echoing a point made by Jack Dorsey - that tech companies should stop calling their customers ‘users’. I agree.  A ‘user’sounds detached and inhuman- it doesn’t nurture a customer-centric mindset. So let’s change the language.

    Finally back to Twitter. I didn’t see much of day one of the conference but I did catch Philip Clarke, CEO of Tesco. He was asked why, despite having an active Twitter account, he hadn’t tweeted since 31 December last year. Mr Clarke sais he hadn’t tweeted as he now blogs instead, kind of missing the point; after all it’s not as if blogging has superseded tweeting. But there’s another point here: every CEO doesn’t have to be on Twitter. Sure a brand like Tesco needs to for customer-engagement, but the head of the company doesn’t. Perhaps Mr.Clarke should have replied that he tried Twitter but it wasn’t for him; he prefers to blog. Business leaders and execs should play where they play best. And that’s why you’ll never find me on Facebook...

    (Videos are available of the conference here, although you’ll need to sign-in -it’s free. Disclosure: I write for the Financial Times and interviewed some of the speakers at FT Innovate. However this blog post was written in a personal capacity)

  • A 70s rock legend, an art gallery and how to make your ideas happen

    Throughout my working life I've learnt a lot about what it takes to come up with ideas - whether for a book, a business, another creative project, or a marketing solution for a client - and I know what it takes to execute.

    A couple of months back I met up with Marianne Cantwell, founder of Free Range Humans who shot a little video of me for her online course. This two minute extract below captures how I come up with creative ideas, what I learnt from music legend Wilko Johnson, my tips on idea execution and what on earth I'm doing working out of an art gallery!

    Ian Sanders interview from Marianne Cantwell on Vimeo.