Seeing things differently; let’s go for it in 2013

Seeing things differently

It’s been an interesting year and it’s wonderful to see how people and businesses are making new opportunities in challenging times. It’s been a pleasure working with social enterprises as well as conventional businesses this year; their energy, enthusiasm and flexible approach to business is a constant source of inspiration. One of the aspects of social enterprises that impresses is their ability to adapt, to come up with new ideas, and to look ahead at what they must to to sustain their services as funding becomes more and more difficult to access. Organisations such as The Women’s Centre in Glasgow and Glasgow Wood Recycling, stay ahead of the game without ever losing sight of their key objectives – to help change people’s lives for the better.

A worldwide example of a social enterprise is the International Network of Street Papers, based in Glasgow, which supports more than 100 street publications in 40 countries and in 24 languages. Its combined readership is estimated at 6 million, and Scotland’s First Minister prefers the content of Scotland’s Big Issue to virtually any other paper. More importantly, this social enterprise never loses sight of its key mission – which is to provide a genuine opportunity for people who have no home to regain their self-respect and move on. Setting its own example in innovative thinking, the INSP has just launched its first digital street paper in the north of England, and will be followed by Chicago’s street paper, Streetwise. Follow the link to find out more or to donate.

Thinking on Stilts

I wonder if you read the article about the retired couple in Gloucestershire, who were so fed up after their house was flooded for the third time, that they decided to rebuild it on stilts?

It can’t have been easy to face up to the prospect of yet another watery assault on their home and possessions, knowing that insurance costs will go through the roof while the property value sinks into the basement. I’d love to know how they came up with the idea of simply moving the house up a notch – neatly sidestepping, or up-stepping the whole Catch22 problem.

There’s no question that this is a hard time for many businesses. Whatever the politicians may say, we know it’s harder to get finance, tougher to make sales, and sometimes a struggle keeping our heads above water. I can’t help thinking that there’s something to be learned from Mr and Mrs Ray of Gloucestershire?

Often we are so close to our businesses that we can’t think beyond the usual solutions to the everyday challenges. It can take a completely fresh eye to see what we’re not seeing, and to point out opportunities that we may be missing. It’s all about changing your perspective, like the Rays. Consider these options for going about it:

  • Open your mind to change – believe that there is no such thing as a silly idea
  • Find a trusted associate or business coach who will ask you hard questions and challenge your thinking
  • Set aside the time you need to think out of the box (or on stilts)
  • Focus on the future and what your business will look like with the problem solved
  • Believe in your solution and go for success.

Good luck.

Re-create yourself

My husband and good friend, Graham, always splits the word “recreation” and places  emphasis on the first syllable as well as the third. He claims that re- creating yourself is essential to happiness and I believe that he’s right.

It’s all too easy in these days of very mobile technology to believe that we carry everything we need about with us. It’s also too easy to find ourselves “just checking” the phone or the tablet for tweets/emails/messages at 11 at night, some of which might just be work-related. There can seem to be no end to it – work, and thoughts of work permeate our waking and sleeping if we don’t take time away for ourselves.

I was lucky to grow up in a family where books, crafts, gardening, dancing, conversation were all valued. We weren’t an especially musical family but we all listened to what we liked. It sounds so unsophisticated now, but I remember the pleasures of talking about a book we had enjoyed, seeing my Dad come up the garden with fresh vegetables he’d grown, or my Mum hold up a picture jumper she had made for one of the children. I would spend hours drawing or making things out of bits and pieces, and when my children were small, they did the same.

The point of all this isn’t a trip down my own Memory Lane; it’s to say that I think we have to be careful not to lose sight of our own creativity, because in that lies our capacity for re-creation of ourselves.

To my mind, the possibilities are endless. I recently had my old sewing machine serviced, and rediscovered the absolute pleasure I get from designing and making clothes for a friend’s baby girl. I love acting in our Stark Theatre group in Glasgow, and I dance, not very well, every week with like-minded Lerockers. Friends produce wonderful food, jams and cordials made from the fruits of their gardens; they form rock bands and play for charity; they restore steam locomotives to their former glory.

But it really doesn’t matter what you do; the important thing – the only thing – is to find the time. Then, switch off the technology, get out the tools, or the dancing shoes, or the guitar, and just – re-create yourself!