Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

“Customer Happiness & Employee Engagement are an Art: tools, techniques knowledge, teamwork, and creativity can generate the most extraordinary results!”, Rosaria Cirillo Louwman

At the end of last year, one of my graphic designer collaborators, Eleonora Spagnuolo, launched The Creativity Project starting with an Intuitive Painting Workshop.

I didn’t need to think twice about it. I was immediately on board; I participated in the first workshop round (beginners), then the second round (intermediate) and, by now, I’m hooked. Besides regularly meeting with the “painters group” of which I’m now part of, I have created a “creativity corner” in my office, where I keep all my tools and turn to every time I’m inspired or need inspiration.

Below a summary of the key things I learned and practiced so far during the Intuitive Painting Workshops:

1. Learn by doing & experimenting. Let go of all your worries or limits and just do it.

So very often we keep postponing what we want or even feel called to do (whether it is starting a new business or just a new project, work activity or hobby; whether it is to write a blog post or an article for the monthly company magazine; whether it is to give a speech to hundreds of people, a pep talk to few employees or having an awkward conversation with your manager or report), because of so many rational voices playing in our head over and over again like a broken record: “I have no time”, “I don’t know how to do it”, “I don’t understand it well enough”, “how will the other person react”, “what will they think.”

During the Intuitive Painting Workshop, I learned that I don’t need to know every possible art technique or tool to get started. I can follow one of the most powerful tools we all have: feelings and intuition. I can just feel & do. Once I start, every other piece will just fall into place.

Similarly, when designing Customer Experience, we cannot script every possible scenario that will happen. We need to empower the front-line employees to listen to customer needs, connect to their emotions, trust their intuition and act accordingly to deliver a WOW experience.

Creativity Volcanic rooted tree

A canvas I painted in one go during one of the last sessions of the Intermediate Workshop – by Then I learned to apply the principles described here (Artwork by Rosaria Cirillo Louwman)

2. Let go of the idea of achieving a result. Let your painting become whatever it wants to become

Once we stop postponing and we are finally in front of the white canvas ready to paint, the next “enemy” to conquer  is the attachment to a given result: the idea that to start we need to know where we are headed,  how to get there and, how does the arrival line exactly looks like. Creativity cannot spark free, and innovation cannot take place if we are fixed on a result.

To create something innovative we have to let go of expectations and dig deep into the process, putting our ideas, intuitions, and fears into action,” Eleonora Spagnuolo 

While  in business we might have an end goal (i.e. Customer or Employee Engagement), we still don’t necessarily need to have it all figured out before we start. In fact, many times we don’t know, and we just need to get started somewhere and be open to the journey ahead.  And sometimes the journey to the result is just as important and powerful as the result itself. Ultimately, the results will follow.

Allowing-my-creativity-to-flow-Happiness

The end result of my first canvas after 8-10 different layers of paint & 4 sessions of work. I called it “Happiness”

3. Don’t focus on what you don’t like. Focus on what works/what you like and expand it.

On every canvas I have worked on, there were parts I liked and parts that I didn’t quite like or didn’t seem to work well with the rest. I could spend lots of time trying to fix what I didn’t like, or I could instead focus on the parts that worked, that I liked and expand these. I discovered the second way can be far more enjoyable, fulfilling and leading to better results.

The same happens in business (and in daily life), especially in relationship with coworkers. We can spend a lot of energy trying to fix what we don’t like, or we can focus on what we like, on what works. For example, with kids or with members of a team, we can choose to critic and try to correct “bad” behaviours or we can instead choose to praise and reward good behaviour. Two famous quotes on this line of thought:

Reinforce what you want to see repeated.What gets rewarded gets done.” Brian Tracy

What you focus on expands. So focus on what you want, not what you do not want.” Esther Jno-Charles

Creativity-Expand-on-what-you-like

Expand what you like: One detail of my canvas where I focused and highlighted something I really liked of the previous layer

4. Let go of attachment (to a layer, to details, to a color or the final result)

As I was painting, sometimes I would get extra focused on a tiny detail in the corner, losing the bigger picture and, most important, closing off my energy because I was trapping it into one small area rather than letting it flow and expand making use of the entire canvas. Then Eleonora would come around and remind me that it was time to move on from that detail, or she would just spread my arms wide open (like a big flying bird) and readdress them to entire canvas. Other times, after having made a layer, I would like some part of its so much that I would be afraid to paint over it to keep these parts or just because it seemed a pity to paint over them. Art, like life and any experience, is a build up of layers and moments. You need to let one moment be, enjoy it as it happens and move on.

Sometimes we invest an extra amount of energy (than the one that would be needed to achieve a result) or even get stuck, because of our attachment to a certain detail or to a given way to do something. We often even get in conflicts with other people because our “how to” can be different… it’s only when we can let go of our attachment that the magic happens. Only then, we make space for our creativity to come up, for innovation to happen and for collaboration to be pleasant and fruitful.

The many layers I did on one of my canvas, every time letting go of attachment to previous one

Some of the many layers I did on my first canvas, every time letting go of attachment to previous one (Artwork by Rosaria Cirillo Louwman)

5. When you get stuck, hang on. Just do something (either change your perspective or make a radical gesture) and see how that gets you unstuck. 

I especially loved this learning. So many times, I (and the other participants) would just get stuck, block and have no ideas or inspiration on how to continue. A simple gesture, like turning the canvas upside down (which equals to a change of perspective or point of view in business and life), would be enough to get me unstuck & move forward in my creative journey. When that wasn’t enough, Eleonora’s favorite tool was a “dramatic gesture”: for example, when one of the participants got stuck, she threw an entire bucket of purple paint on her painting. While at that moment I was relieved that it wasn’t on my canvas, given how much I dislike purple (in Italy – and in theatre – is often associated with bad luck), during the process, I also learned to use and exploit colors which I wouldn’t usually work with, and that lead to beautiful paintings in the end!

Painting peacock

A dramatic layer of purple paint transformed the painting and lead to a beautiful peacock. (Artwork by Savrina Grewal)

6. Build on each other contribution

During the workshop we also did many “team paintings.” Two were especially inspiring to me:

  • Painting together on one shared canvas: we put a big loose canvas on the floor and worked all together on it over multiple sessions, every so often deciding together on directions to take or tools to use and, all the time, finding ways not to block each other or step onto each other foot.
  • Alternating turns to paint a standard canvas building on each other previous contribution and without attachment to the layers made by each of us.

In both cases, it was quite extraordinary to see how beautiful the final result was and how enjoyable it could be to “do it together.”

Painting together on our collective canvas

Painting together on our shared canvas

 

One of the final collective paintings, painted by 8 people together & in exposition at Jam Workspace in Amsterdam

 

7. Trust the process & creativity will sparkle

Throughout each and every session, whether it was solo painting or group painting, it was always about “trusting the process”. Once you let the energy flow, creativity sparks, the magic starts to happen, and a beautiful outcome will undoubtedly follow. We have all been through a version of the following, right?

Creativity

A version of the creative process

8. Be yourself, follow the music, follow your intuition & have fun. Enjoy the experience. Results will follow.

This one doesn’t need explanation, does it?

Each and every workshop session was colorful, freeing & energizing, and that made me feel happy & engaged.

Do you want to have your team to experience the same learnings and more, experiencing the principles of Customer and Employee Happiness & Engagement Art during a fun and inspiring team building event? Then get in touch with us to discuss further. I would love to learn more about your (team) needs and develop a customised workshop for your team.

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