Mapping it all out

There are a number of movies and television shows that feature a protagonist starring at a large bulletin board filled with myriad pieces of evidence, gang/mafia power structures, and the like. Heather and I just finished the first season of Homeland that featured one such collage created by lead character Carrie Matheson, played by Claire Daines, during a manic state.

Pulling back on the colour coded sheets of random pieces of communication, what first seemed like a jumbled mess now revealed patterns, messages and the first vestiges of a solution.

I spent a remarkable day on Monday being immersed in the world of the Edmonton Arts Council. The team of about 17 arts professionals was incredibly generous with their time and their insights.  I was able to pepper questions to the senior leadership team, dive deep with each department head (operations, grants, communication/advocacy/strategic planning, public art) and spend time with new Executive Director Paul Moulton.  

Paul Moulton, Executive Director of Edmonton Arts Council and Bob Rasko who does the programming for Sir Winston Churchill Square
Ironically enough, he started his new gig on about the same day that I did.  Only a month into the role, he still managed to offer valuable perspective, wisdom and support in our quest to get Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB) mobilized.

The opportunity to be there in person, at their offices in the Prince of Wales Armoury near the City Centre Airport, spending time with the people who are the "magic" of the organization, and tour some of their offsite operations, like TIX on the Square and the programming they do at Sir Winston Churchill Square, was invaluable.

TIX on the Square
I get so much more knowledge and understanding - and more quickly - in an experiential learning scenario.  Nuances come alive and nuggets of wisdom sink in much more deeply than had I read a report, visited a website, looked at a brochure, or watched a YouTube video.  Don't get me wrong, I did many of those things, but it was this 7-hour immersion that proved most valuable in creating an understanding of where we need to go as an organization.

I am a visual thinker.  Anyone who reads this blog, follows my social media adventures, or has seen me in a conference or workshop situation, will know that I like to work things out, in graphical detail, in my black notebook.  Having my pen in hand, drawing pictures, words, arrows and thought bubbles helps me to remember, distill, and synthesize ideas and challenges that are quite complex.

Yesterday I moved from my black notebook to the whiteboard, spending three hours in an available classroom in the Arts Centre taking everything I had in my head and my jumbled notes from Monday and drawing them out.  I started at one end of the two boards, and worked my way to the other end, probably 12-feet away.

Every few minutes I would stand back, grab a sip of water, and see what was forming: the patterns, the path, and the gaps.  It was an amazing process, so different than trying to do the same thing in the smaller format of a notebook.  This required standing, moving around, looking at the board from different positions, allowing the air and the energy of the space to provide uplift and inspiration.

I brought Misty in toward the end of the day to talk her through what the process had generated in terms of a go forward plan.  Being able to move back and forth from one end of the mind map to the other, leveraging illustrations, words, emphasis and the big picture it revealed was incredibly effective.

I'm enormously grateful to all of my colleagues at the Edmonton Arts Council for giving of their time and their wisdom so freely.  I'm emboldened by their desire to create a stronger bridge between their community and ours.  I'm excited to put a plan forward to our board for their consideration which would enable us to build an organization that will help create the culturally dynamic community and region that is envisioned in the Municipal Development Plan.


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