My philosophy in fifty fragments.
Having decided that I should write a few words about my philosophy and approach, as I set out it feels a slightly pompous thing to do. Perhaps the pictures to the left will serve the purpose. I combined some of my photographs and thoughts in a series of designs originally created for business cards. I trust these give a glimpse of how I see things.
I began my journey standing on a conference stage with a large audience hanging on my every word. I’d recently received the UK’s most prestigious business award. The company I worked for, the UK’s largest exporter, had been transformed from virtually bankrupt to a world beater. Audiences with writing pad and pens in hand, wanted me to tell them what to do so they too could succeed.
I had a long and impressive list of things we’d done, and the road to fame and fortune beckoned me to share them, but I’d discovered something more important than any of these things. I’d learned that what you did, didn’t make the difference.
Though audiences craved them, the answers, had I chosen to share them, wouldn’t have helped. I’d learned that it’s not the answers they should be seeking, but the questions; not trying to copy what the successful have done, instead becoming who they were being.
The challenge for my future presentations and for my writing was how to write that ‘there are no answers’, to a world that craves and devours them and has little patience for anything that doesn’t offer an instant solution.
I sought to write without writing; to avoid answers by creating space between my words for the reader to discover their own answers.
To date I have pursued two approaches, which I choose simply to call picture books and stories.
I like to think of my picture books as ‘dot-to-dot’ books for the mind. Unlike those intended for the young in which children join the dots to create a defined picture, by combining sketches and quotations I seek to create ‘mind-points’ and invite the reader to connect these points to create their own unique pictures, their own solutions in the moment. In this way they begin creating the future from imagination rather than from memory.
The story based books aim first to transport the reader from the daily world of answer seeking, in a style that echoes the style of George Orwell in Animal Farm and the tradition of folk tales. The reason these tales perpetuate is that they encapsulate what otherwise would be complex ideas within simple settings that allow the ideas themselves to be captured and owned by the reader.
For example, metaphor allows the three animals of Letting Go to represent a range of human mindsets and attitudes towards change. In Travellers the metaphor of the journey is used to explore the contrast between the world seen through a questioning mind and that seen through one that views the world through answers. Coffee Maestro uses everyday situations as the setting to uproot long held perceptions of business and management, question their validity and invite a shift in understanding.
I’ve also met some classic books on my journey and have been moved to create my own versions of these, respectfully refreshed and updated for the electronic age.
The world seems full of books that claim to have the answer, here I offer something that recognises that the best person to arrive at your answer is you, and that far from needing to be given it, you probably already have it.
Discover more in
Words and photographs: Steve Unwin
Access to Excellence (photonbooks.com)