Dr Nick Owen MBE PLUS

Working in and on the Business of Cultural Education


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The Ratcliffe-on-Soar Boss Bike Ride: navigating the elusive volcanoes.

Dan Lamoon from Colab Creation and I set off on our Boss Bike Ride from Nottingham train station in pursuit of some conversations about transitioning: not our own gender re-identification issues on this occasion, but reflections on what identity challenges our respective businesses were facing up to in the months ahead.

Dan was puzzling out about how we transition into a new way of working and how what ‘hybrid working’ really means these days when the novelty of WFH has well and truly worn off and the pleasure of back to back Zoom calls has long since lost its sheen.  What are we now aiming at in this transitioning world we wondered?

We decided to set ourselves a quite straight froward target for this ride: the cooling towers at Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station.  A regional monument to the days when Coal was King, the towers have always offered me a welcome home signal, whenever I’ve travelled back to Nottingham from some distant location.  A few years ago, one of those journeys was marked for ever in my memory by a young girl who remarked to her mum as we passed through East Midlands Parkway, ‘Look mummy, the volcanoes!’  What an evocative, natural world description of power for something so obviously modern and industrial.

Whilst they weren’t smoking on the day Dan and I rode out there, there is something about their elusive behaviour that conjures up a fog of political smoke and mirrors at work.

You’ll experience that elusive behaviour if you ride out to those towers as they show some very strange behaviour en route: one minute they’re directly in front of you, the next they’re on your left, then they’re behind you and before you know it, in front of you again.  

It’s a bit disconcerting and doesn’t help you orientate yourself too easily as you’re riding along.  It’s made worse when you think you’re nearly there, only to see them having shifted way off into the distance again.  And yet whilst you think they’re still miles away, lo and behold, you blink and there they are again.  You’ve inadvertently crept up on them and they’re there in all their volcanic, industrial magnificence.

This elusiveness echoed itself in our chats on the bikes.  Whilst we thought we had plotted out some clear transitions and targets for our businesses, in reality these are quite difficult things to navigate at the moment.  Many of us are trying to steer a path through the fog of Brexit, Covid, the cost-of-living crisis and the deep fog of the unknown unknowns that the Ukraine-Russia war is generating.  One minute you’re looking at your targets face on, the next they’re behind you and then before you know it, they’ve metamorphosed into something completely different. 

The cooling towers are supposed to make their own transition to closure by September 2024; but whether their future is also as elusive as their presence remains to be seen.  We’re taking bets on whether they’ve seen their last days or whether the current fogginess of the world’s economy might just reconfigure that future and we’ll see them fired up and supplying the region with coal fired power, just one more time.

You can support The Mighty Creatives Boss Bike Ride Campaign here.


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The Mablethorpe Boss Bike Ride: blowing away the preconceptions of Lincolnshire.

RAF Binbrook and its significance in the Cold War; a 1400 Megawatt high voltage electricity link connecting the electricity transmission systems at Bicker Fen in Lincolnshire, and Revsing in southern Jutland, Denmark, (also known as the Viking Link); and the Alford butchers who make Tomato Sausages for Yorkshire Immigrants. Who knew a pre-supposed isolated county life could conceal so much?

Riding out from Mablethorpe today with Aenaes Richardson from Magna Vitae was a great reminder of Lincolnshire’s significance in the 2nd World War and more latterly on the energy agenda.  Wind turbines are never out of view; the talk of nuclear dumps in Threddlethorpe is literally a hot topic; and cycling across the Viking Way which scars its way across fields and the ocean all the way to Denmark is a startling discovery when all you’re expecting are peaceful country lanes trailing down to the sea and the sky in Sutton on Sea.

But perhaps the biggest reveal of the rural idyll is that, actually, rural doesn’t mean isolation, it doesn’t mean disconnected and it doesn’t mean that it’s separated from the turbulence of economic, cultural and climate changes which are battering our more populated areas around the country. 

On the contrary, the region is in the thick of it as much as anywhere else.

Skegness has been at the forefront of hosting refuges from Afghanistan recently at its seaside Bed and Breakfasts  (only for them to be temporarily shipped to Leicester and back again on account of the poor standard of accommodation but that’s another story); climate emergency planning is expecting to see flooding in the City of Lincoln down at the Brayford Pool  in the not too distant future; and in the meantime we’re planning for large scale industrial expansion and new jobs for young people, and for industries looking for young new leaders.

Whilst Mablethorpe might have one of the biggest static caravan sites in the UK, one thing that isn’t static are the winds of change that are gusting along the roads, down the dykes and across the plains to Denmark and beyond.

If you’re young, want to play hard, work hard and shape your life in Lincolnshire, then now is an exceedingly good time to plan for that vibrant future.  Rural isolation? No chance.

If you’d like to get involved in future Boss Bike Rides, just check us out here.


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This is what a Boss looks like!

This is what a Boss looks like!

But you don’t have to be a BMX champ like GB Olympic Gold Medallist Charlotte Worthington to take part in our #BossBikeRides campaign and ride for our Creative Mentoring programme.

Want to learn more? Get on your bike over to the website now! 🚴🚴🚴https://themightycreatives.com/boss-bike-rides/


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Boss Bike Rides: exploring Market Bosworth on Sunday 4 July from 12 noon.

 Set up with Nottingham’s Switch Up! Boss Bike Rides provide informal opportunities for CEOs, founders and senior managers of any business (family business, small and medium to corporate or even sole traders) to meet, network, socialise and become a peer support network  – all through the medium of shared bike rides around the East Midlands and beyond.

 Our next major ride will be on Sunday 4 July, starting at the Market Square in Market Bosworth in North West Leicestershire.  The ride is a circular one and lasts about 3 hours and is suitable for riders who want to take it easy and have plenty of stops along the way!

 The route is here.

You are very welcome to join us for some or all of the part of the ride: it’s not a race either so you’ll be able to go at your own pace too with like minded colleagues.  It’s as much about sharing your experience of being ‘the boss’ as it is about riding a bike!

 If you would like to know more, or would like to join up, please get in touch any time.


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Boss Bike Rides: how to create a bit of Urban Magic.

The basic premises of Boss Bike Rides are that you spend time on a bike with someone else and that you then share your experiences of boss-ness, boss-dom and boss-icity or a combination of all of the above.

But what if you don’t have some-one to ride with? And what if you’re not sure about how to start up a conversation with someone you may have known a long time?

This might sound an odd supposition but given many of us have just spent 16+ months in various degrees of isolation and separateness, it’s not surprising that perhaps our previous confidence in social settings may have taken a bit of a shaking since the onset of social distancing.  So perhaps we could do with a bit of help in getting those conversations going again.

One way of doing that is suggested by the venture Street Wisdom who describe themselves as a “social enterprise that offers mind-opening WalkShops on streets all over the world. Run by volunteers, our immersive public experiences turn the city into your creative playground – a place to unlock fresh thinking and set new direction.”

Now, whilst their focus is on walking, the principles apply to cycling in general and to Boss Bike Riding in particular.

“All you need is to turn up with a question you’d like some fresh answers to. It could be a business-related question, a personal one. Or both. Come by yourself, tell your friends to sign up or even enrol your whole team – this is a great way for business colleagues to hit the refresh button.”

You can keep your question secret if you want, but it’s good to have something in mind. Nothing as big as ‘when am I going to win the Lottery?’ or as small as ‘Left or Right Lion?’ – but something that matters to you, right here, right now.

What happens next on a Street Wisdom walk is that you ‘tune into’ the street over four shorts walks: each walk you can make alone or with friends, and each walk had an instruction to guide you:

“Look for what you’re drawn to.”

“Slow right down.”

“Notice the patterns.”

“See the beauty in everything.”

When I undertook a Street Wisdom walk in Nottingham with a group of five complete strangers, the walks and the focus given by the instructions generated for all of us on the walks a quite astounding set of responses.

I found myself being drawn to the fountains on the other side of the square, feeling quite wistful about the lack of water features in the city and the distance we were from the coastline.

The instruction to Slow Right Down had me stopped dead still in my tracks for over fifteen minutes which enabled me to see how fast everyone rushes around the city: always with intent and a job to do or a place to go or a person to visit. Staying much longer under this instruction would have seen me draining away through the concrete, I was relaxing that rapidly.

It was on the third walk – Notice the Patterns – that I really started to feel the effects of the process. Normally I brush off patterns or pay no attention to them at all: but given ten minutes just to look at them made me hugely aware of just how patterned and ordered our city scape is: it was intoxicating to see patterns in every nook and cranny and in every small piece of iron railing, shop window and bus stop. Had this been after a Friday evening at the Cross Keys, one might have explained this with 15 pints of IPA: but no, this was Friday lunchtime and I was technically still at work.

The fourth walk – See the Beauty in everything – was the peak of the afternoon. It meant that it was impossible to go anywhere with stopping to marvel at everything. I found myself marvelling at all of modern technology when I overheard a couple of tourists extol loudly the wonder that was Skype, which had allowed them to talk to a long lost aunt in Australia that very morning.  Fast forward five years to the middle of the pandemic, and our familiarity with Teams and Zoom makes that appreciation of Skype has a warm cosy nostalgic glow woven through every strand of that moment.

After the four short walks, you’re encouraged to go off on a journey by yourself: your own street quest.   You do this with your own question at the back of your mind and later on meet up with the rest of the group to share your experiences and improved wisdom. I can’t tell you whether the question I had posed was answered other than to say that your first question may not be the right question; but I can tell you that all six of us were swept away by the experience and promised to go divining for more Nottingham in the weeks to come.

“It’s urban magic on your doorstep” say Street Wisdom and for once in your life, the reality lives up to the promise.

You can  interpret these Street Wisdom walks into 4 phases of your Boss Bike Ride of course and we look forward to seeing how your Boss Bike Ride can generate it’s own brand of urban magic.

Why Boss Bike Rides?  Here’s an answer.


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Boss Bike Rides: it’s all about the CRM (creativity, relationships and magic)

Our first ride in June 2021 saw us cycle off from the Beans café on Nottingham Embankment just shortly after sunrise (well, 8.30 to be precise), destination Leicester.

Before too long (just over 6km to be equally precise) we had shared thoughts about what creativity was all about and what role it had to play in innovating business.

Creativity: H, c or M?

We read in the literature of Historical  or ‘H’ Creativity in which creativity is solely the domain of ‘great’ individuals (John Gardner), or alternatively the writings  of  Anna Craft who refers to the notion of ‘little ‘c’ creativity in which creativity is demonstrated in the personal sphere of possibility thinking and problem solving for example. Might we now talk about M creativity (as in Mmmm? Creativity? ) – or molecular creativity, the phenomenon by which creativity is present in all aspects of human endeavour in all moments of the day – and means whatever we want it to mean?  Might magic be a better word?

Creative accounting, creative engineering, creative gun play. The word creative these days has ended up in so many odd phrases and at times that unconstructed old fashioned creatives who believed in the power of paint or performance despair at how promiscuous the word has become.

The Creative Process

Nevertheless, our discussion continued unabated and we discussed how difficult creativity can be to discuss, abated or unabated.  It just is, and no amount of discussion, reading or writing will ever satisfactorilty describe once and for all and finally what the damn thing is all about.

We did agree though that creativity wasn’t just about having a glorious generative good time.  It’s as much about convergent thinking as it is about divergent: it’s as much about ‘killing your darlings’ as it is raising them.  I’m not sure who the first creative was who coined this little motto, but it points to the uncomfortable fact that  creative act is as much about destruction as it was generation and that at the heart of the process, there is always a moment of supreme annihilation.

The important thing is to know where you are in the process.  If you’re converging when you need to diverge, diverging when you need to converge, then this just leads to a very unhappy time for every one around you.

Creative Relationships

Just outside Hathern on the A6,  we encountered the Old Curiosity Book Shop and this prompted some speculation on what role curiosity has in the creative process.  I was reminded of my days in Hull, studying the intricacies of creative relationships (funded by Creative Partnerships back in the day) and developed an understanding of the role of curiosity in these processes through what turned into be the ‘golden thread’ running through the thesis. The nub of this proposal was that the emergence of a creative relationship went through several phases:

Phase 1:          Non-alignment. The phase in which A and B are in no relationship with each other; are unaware of each others presence, needs, interests or desires.

Phase 2:          Alignment.   The phase in which A and B have been brought together by the presence of a third party – a catalyst (which may be a project, initiative or challenge) which acts to bind the responder and stimulus.

Phase 3           Curiosity. The phase in which either one of the two agents exhibit curiosity in the other; if both parties become mutually curious then the relationship response demonstrates a mutually reinforcing amplifying feedback loop, the response becomes more intense and the relationship shifts to the next phase.

Phase 4           Interest.  The phase in which curiosity has been superseded by a more intense attraction in each others presence, needs, interests or desires.  The two agents come closer together, whether this be either physically or emotionally. As with the phase before, if this interest is reciprocated then another mutually amplifying positive feedback loop is established and the relationship shifts to the next phase:

Phase 5           Intimacy          Where the relationship is marked by strong emotional, intellectual or physical connections and feelings relating to love (storge, philia, agape or eros) is demonstrated.  This may be the point at which the impact, or the results, of the relationship can be witnessed not only by the agents in the relationship but by the wider world in which those two agents are situated.

You could tell by this point that the unrelenting weather was turning us both a bit stir crazy so we thought it was about time to ride those final kilometers into central Leicester and complete the ride: which we did.  Not especially triumphantly  (we were too wet for that) but certainly relieved that our joint 106km could be notched up on the giant Boss Bike Ride Target Board.

If you’d like to join in a future Boss Bike Ride, you can do so here.

Or, if you’d like to support the campaign by donating and sharing it, you can do so here.


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Day 26 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: spinning for England.

As with the numbers, as with so much in life, it depends on how you tell it.

Faced with the last day of the Challenge today, what better way to finish the project than with the perfectly symmetrical outcome of 26 baskets in 26 minutes?  Not too many, and not in too short a time.  This may seem easy but in actual fact it’s trickier than it sounds.

Given recent history, overscoring was a distinct possibility today. The real challenge was to get the tempo just right, so that the 26th shot would whoosh through the hoop with just seconds to spare, meaning that there would be no time available to over shoot the target.

This was a tall order but, I’m pleased to say, everything went according to plan.  There was just the right number of plain terrible shots which didn’t go anywhere near basketball nirvana (27); the ideal number of near misses (127) and the precise number of shots which underlined the symbolism of the project as a whole (26).  And guess what? Accompanied with a mere 30 seconds to spare. And Yvonne, my independent invigilator has the figures to prove it.

The timing presented its own challenges.  Performing in doors for the first time in 26 days (thank you especially to the Priory City of Lincoln Academy Sports Centre for dedicating their superb facilities to me for the entirety of the evening), I was faced with a new court, a bewildering set of floor markings and critically a new hoop which made it clear from the off that it wasn’t going to cooperate with any fundraising campaign any time soon.

So, it took a good few minutes to understand the dynamics of net, hoop, ball, stand and court such that I was able to time – nearly to perfection – the precise completion of the target of 26 baskets in the regulation 26 minutes. 

So after 26 days, 4,062 shots of which 2,357 were near misses, 709 on target and an overall success rate of 17.5%,  this part of the campaign has come to an end. Job done.

The campaign though to provide young people with Let’s Create packs – the fundamental reason behind all this counting, ball and story spinning still has some way to go.

You can help tell our story by sharing yours here.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this campaign and for helping improve young people’s creative lives. The numbers of beneficiaries, income raised and targets surpassed will tell us something about that, but there will be many more testimonials of your support which we will never hear about, but which are nevertheless as real as any numbers on a spreadsheet.

And for that, we will all be eternally grateful.


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Day 23 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: RIP Hoop.

It’s been coming for a few days now but on the 113th throw from the free shot line on day 23 of 26, the hoop finally gave up its stubborn resistance to the painful attentions of the ball and failed spectacularly and fell gracelessly to the ground.

Any significance in the number 113?  It is, after all, a prime number and has 13 at the end of it. Perhaps this signals the end of the world to some people?  The coming of a New Age of Aquarius to others?  Or just the incremental failing of a series of material relationships in which grip was lost, thread laid bare and a fond parting of the ways resulted in gravity having the final word on the connection between brick, rawl plus, screw, back board, hoop bracket hole and ground.

Perhaps it was shooting the first 26 in a record beating 9’ 15” which did it.  Perhaps it was just old age and metal fatigue.  Perhaps as they grow old, basketball hoops get weary of the pounding, the bouncing and the whooshing and just want to retire gracefully and spend their days staring at the sunsets, pent up in thought about what happens when the final moments arrive.  Will they be quick? Painless? Ridiculous?

There have been a few occasions in my own life when I realised, I was within inches of my own demise.   Missing a wayward fireworks rocket by a few inches one Guy Fawkes Night flying along our road (rather up in the air) was one of them.  Not being in Vauxhall when a helicopter fell on a passing cyclist and killed him was on another.  I’ve felt since then that death, for all its sting, can be surprisingly farcical.  A case of would’na, could’na, should’na perhaps.

So, the search is on for a hoop and net which could withstand my attentions for the next three days.  All suggestions gratefully received.


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Day 22 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: One hund-red and eigh-ty! As if.

“One hund-red and eigh-ty! “Not that I’m going to reach those heights in the remaining five days but I remember mid-shot of how we celebrate numbers so joyfully.   That particular shot consequently went completely wayward and was a sharp reminder of the need to find a point on the wall, fix on it, follow through and not go off on a reverie of how we celebrate numbers on popular TV shows.

We can’t help but recognise Len Goodman’s ‘It’s Ten from Me’ in possibly every single episode of Strictly Come dancing though. And the cry of ‘One hundred and forty seven!’  in snooker as the maximum score available is potted once again.

Hitting those maximum scores shows us there’s no where else to go; that we’ve hit the pinnacle of achievement and in our small way have beaten our nerves, our competitors and the best of all, gravity.  It gives us a brief moment of invincibility even if it doesn’t last for very long and the next round, game or episode sees us crashing back to earth as our nerves, competitors and gravity reassert their dominance.

Be that as it may, having a modest target of 26 (“Twenty-six!”) does at least allow you several moments of invincibility, especially as you get nearer to the previously unimagined golden heights of 78 (“Seventy Eight!”). 

Speaking of which, why don’t they make records which spin at 78 rpm any more?

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood FactorTotal timeTotal ShotsTotal BasketsSuccess rate
1N/A08N/A0.308N/A268
21940157.73%0.577N/A5219423
31898721.06%0.07746.03%78383256.5%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%104573325.6%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%130765435.6%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%156932495.3%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%1821,106635.7%
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%2341,286634.9%
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%2601,452795.4%
111811212011.05%0.76966.85%2861,633975.9%
121761152413.64%0.92365.34%3121,8091176.5%
131791112413.41%0.92362.01%3381,9881417.1%
141761251910.80%0.73171.02%3642,1641607.4%
151671013219.16%1.23160.48%3902,3311928.2%
16147903523.81%1.34661.22%4162,4782279.2%
171541023724.03%1.42366.23%4422,63226410.0%
18170944828.24%1.84655.29%4682,80231211.1%
19167845432.34%2.07750.30%4942,96936612.3%
20157747044.59%2.69247.13%5203,12643613.9%
21163796640.49%2.53848.47%5463,28950215.3%
22178857441.57%2.84647.75%5723,46757616.6%

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.


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Day 21 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: the comfort of the spreadsheet.

There’s only five days to go now and the beauty of numerical modelling means that rather than having to go outside and risk catching Covid-19 (despite what the stats tell us) , I can lay underneath the warmth and comfort of the spreadsheets (it’s a shame Excel don’t make duvets) and predict what’s going to happen today. 

Five days ago, y = 1.8393x + 2.019.  This was, as you can appreciate, was a bit of a surprise.  A pleasant surprise I grant you, but still a surprise.  So, imagine my response the day after when y = 1.9618x + 1.325!  This was obviously not a flash in the pan.  It’s always an adventure at the free-throw line as they say in basketball circles.

And guess what happened next?  Yep, you’ve guessed it: y = 2.23x – 0.2426.  You could have blown me down with a feather.  Clearly a matter of now having a hot hand.  As they say.

Followed by amidst much Shakespearean sturm und drang y = 2.24727x – 1.8235.  Nail that trifecta!

And today I’m looking at y = 2.8649x – 4.4386.  Say no more. We’re really gonna light up the scoreboard today.

And in case we’ve forgotten: you can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.

Epilogue

Drat.

y = 3.0526x – 5.7526.

Need I say more?

Drat.