Michelle’s story

I’m Michelle a Creativity Coach + Visual Practitioner.

My mission is to get as many people reconnected to their natural creativity as possible.

Why?

Let’s face it, our communities and communities in countries all around the world are facing daunting challenges. I think about the big, hairy, scary issues like the need to reduce our use of non-renewable energy and lighten our load on the natural resources, serious issues of health and well-being in our communities and how we are providing futures for our children and their grandchildren. None of those are trivial and I could name more. But this is what has been a driver for me – I had to find what I could do to make a small bit of difference, in the face of all that.

As Albert Einstein said:

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

That’s the rub for me.

I believe we don’t tap the potential we have in us. For lots of reasons, our schools and work-places have taught us a single mode of thinking and working. We are strongly influenced and coached to be rational, logical, aka ‘professional’. Whether it’s a report, strategy or talk, we give primacy to the power of speech and the written word. Those things are good, but not to the exclusion of everything else.

As human beings we are wired with a huge capacity for innovative thought. But if we don’t use these natural capacities, we are not going to overcome the challenges I believe we are facing using old rules and ways of thinking. I don’t think those old ways will work.

That’s at the crux of what I’m passionate about… helping others who want to think differently and challenge the status quo… people who know there is more to them as individuals and teams and want a way to tap their creativity powers… people who are passionate about their work and are driven to make change in the world around them.

If that’s you, then I can reconnect you with your natural creativity.

The good news is creativity isn’t just for artists.

Creativity is a skill that can be learned.

I know this because after spending most of my working life in an applied science field, a life-changing sabbatical in Barcelona helped me to reconnect to the more creative part of myself.

If I can learn how to be more creative, so can you!

If you are still reading, here’s the whole back story…

From mid-20s to late 30s, I worked as a planner. Even though I always loved art, my focus was on building my career in environmental planning and facilitation. I had no clue how I could possibly blend the two together. So my creative interests remained hobbies, pursuits for my spare time.

After facilitating countless workshops for more than a decade, I became very aware that participants were succumbing to what I call “social loafing”. They would see the flipcharts and bowls of mints and I could almost feel their minds go into automatic ‘workshop’ mode. People saw it as an opportunity to relax and disengage, regardless of how well the material was presented or how important the topic was they were discussing. They had just done so many of the same type of events before. Many never delivered anything, so people learned to be a little cynical.

When I see a room full of people for a workshop, I see a huge investment of time and resources just in the people sitting in that room. I was always driven by the need to make the group’s time together as valuable and productive as possible – to honour the investment they and their organisations had made.

More than anything, I knew that I wanted my workshops to be engaging, über-productive and fun. I had sat through enough boring, disengaging meetings to know that I never wanted to replicate this experience for my participants.

I wanted to understand how to get people more engaged, more present and alive to the issues and how they could access different ways of thinking.

I wanted to shake things up.

But how?

Life brought me to a cross-roads at the end of 2002.

Everything had been thrown in the air and I knew several pieces were not coming back down. (They say if you want to make God laugh, show her your plans!)

That all changed when I decided to take a sabbatical.

In 2003, I moved to Europe and studied Spanish language and culture in Barcelona. It was during this time, I gave my creative side breathing space to dream and roam. I fell in love with jewelry design and silversmithing.

On my return, I let go of what I thought I “should” be doing and advanced my passion for creativity. I set up a studio and then earned a Fine Arts degree while running my consulting business. I now run Serenity Hills Studio – www.michellewalker.com.au– out of the old milking bales on our farm to showcase my silversmithing, jewellery and sculpture.

Without knowing exactly how to combine my creative abilities with my consulting business, I was drawn to discovering how these two interests intersected. This sparked my research of creative thinking techniques that I could use in my workshops.

While exploring, I came across the field of visual thinking and the specialist profession of graphic facilitation. I was overjoyed to discover the interconnection between art + mainstream consulting as a new way of doing business!

Over the next couple of years, I pursued this with a drive to learn more. I studied with Christina Merkley of SHIFT-IT Coaching, Peter and Diane Durand of AlphaChimp Studio, Whitney Freya of Creatively Fit Studios and Brandy Agerbeck of Loosetooth.com. Their ideas and methods helped reshape the way I serve and support clients today.

In 2011, I attended a Visual Practitioners conference in Hawaii and it absolutely transformed the way I thought about my business, group facilitation and how I wanted to work with people from then on.

This transformational time taught me several simple things.

    1. My art practice could inform and contribute profoundly to my consulting business
      and…
    2. My scientific background could provide a basis for understanding the research behind the power of creativity and innovative thinking so I could convey its relevance and significance to the world of work.

In January 2012, I launched Curious Minds Co., which had been percolating in the back of my mind and in my heart for over four years.

Early this same year, I designed and ran my first training course in visual facilitation and LOVED it. I received wonderful feedback and knew for sure that I had a strong passion for sharing what I’d learned about visual thinking and facilitation.

The past couple of years have brought big changes.

I have experienced a complete shift in the kind of clients I work with. Rather than my traditional connections with environment and conservation organisations, other sectors have shown interest in the way I work and services I offer.

Today, I work with a range of sectors – health, education, community development, agriculture, resources and finance. I also support a number of not-for-profit organisations and charities through my work.

I love working with groups who are passionate about what they do. Whether it’s a local Landcare group, a community-run organisation that supports people living with disabilities or teachers passionate about inspiring their students… The common ground is the desire to make a difference and being willing to explore new and different ways of thinking and working.

I get excited when I can help others tap their creative potential and be rock stars at what they do.

 

And I love seeing creative confidence emerge.

I feel I stand strong in the face of professional norms that would play down the importance of this different way of working and am able to challenge those norms using firm data from research. In this way I allow others to give themselves permission to do likewise.

The results have been wonderfully rewarding for both myself and in witnessing others embrace that part of their abilities. 

I am grateful I had the courage to pursue my love of creativity and in doing so, opened up a whole new way of working which is fulfilling beyond my dreams.

When I think about myself and my business these days, I don’t see ‘CONSULTANT’ or ‘BUSINESS WOMAN’ in the traditional way anymore. I see myself as a ‘cook’, brewing up ideas and baking yummy, enticing schmucklets (tasty things to eat). My way of working is to go into my ‘kitchen’ and take out all the ‘ingredients’ from my ‘pantry’ that I love and mix them together and bake them into a new course or offering. Then I see who’s interested in having a slice of learning with me! It’s a completely different mindset from most work / business models. And at the centre is being open to creativity.

Being open to creativity changes everything. 

It’s definitely a light-year from the ‘me’ that didn’t take the leap of faith into exploring creativity. The one who stuck to a ‘mainstream’ career and business model. That me is not exuberant about her work and the people she gets to work with. I could be that today. But fortunately, I found and reconnected with my natural creativity.

I no longer do ‘creativity’ on weekends.

I know now I will be doing this work for the rest of my life.

Ok, you are really keen to get this far… as a reward, more bits and bobs – some of them are blackmail-worthy…

Things I’m proud of:

  • I lead a talented team that won some shiny baubles and gongs for Queensland’s Coastal Policy in 2001 and 2002.
  • I was awarded an Australia Day Award in 2002 for my work in environmental planning.
  • I’ve a keen eye for detail and can hold the big picture at the same time.
  • I had the courage to pursue my love of creativity and in doing so, opened up a whole new way of working which is fulfilling beyond my dreams.
  • I have bravely embraced a range of ‘techie’ skills that several years ago would have made me faint with fear.

More snippets you might not know about me:

  • I am married to the love of my life and we live on a beautiful farm with cows, wallabies and loads of other wildlife in eastern Australia.
  • Rainbow is my favourite colour.
  • I love hammers and forging metal into beautiful designs.
  • I enjoy felting, making marmalade and bird watching.
  • I have a strange fetish for doilies and once made a public plea for funding for the ‘Wild Doily Eradication program’ (to wipe out cheap paper doilies that were taking over the natural habitat of the hand-made lace sub-species).
  • I love ice-cream, good espresso coffee and anything that takes you floating in the air (roller coaster rides, hang-gliding, parachuting and that time just before a plane lands).
  • I’ve always wanted to get into the Guinness Book of Records for blowing the most number of concentric bubbles (ie. bubbles inside each other) in bubble gum.
  • I was one of Queensland’s first Junior Rangers when I was eleven, earned lots of badges and then became a park ranger in my early 20s… I’ve always had a love of nature and am fearless in the face of leeches, ticks and snakes.
  • I adore travel and pack a lean, mean backpack. Survived for seven months in South America with just two t-shirts, one pair of shorts, one pair of long pants and a bar of soap.
  • I love designs that combine good function with sensational style and am a devotee of George Jensen, Alexander Calder, Andy Goldsworthy and John Fleuvog.

 

WOW! You deserve a gold star for coming this far.

Email me with a request for a present within my powers to give and I’ll see what I can do.


 

 

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