The Most Incredible Thing – and It Is

On Monday I took in The Most Incredible Thing,  the new ballet from the Pet Shop Boys and Javier De Frutos. Neil and Chris have adapted Hans Christian Andersen’s dark 1870 fairy-tale and given it a score that included driving house and four-square beats that took me all the way back to the 1988. The dance and staging were superb, and I grinned through the performance.

But, of course, this is not a review, it’s a creativity blog. And Anderson’s fairytale has a lot to say about creativity. Really. It has.

The story is a simple one. A King offers his daughter and half his kingdom to the person who can show him the most incredible thing. The competition, staged in the ballet as a soviet-style, vodka-fuelled Britain’s got-talent cringe-fest, is in essence to produce the most creative artefact. The winner is Leo, who creates a magical clock than entrances all.

The most creative thing? Not in this dark tale, alas. Karl, a psychopathic military nut, destroys the clock and imprisons Leo. And according to the rules of the competition, he is deemed the winner. Because the most incredible thing was to destroy the most incredible thing.

So is the destruction of something creative, well, creative? Do we have to reject what was once creative in order to be creative anew? My first reaction was, of course, no.

But on reflection, I think Mr Andersen was onto something. To create new, we often need to be dissatisfied with the current – what was once created.  So we don’t need to destroy it, but we might reject it turn that corner, in order to create.

By the way, don’t worry about Leo. The magical clock rebuilds itself and destroys Karl, leaving Leo to marry the King’s Daughter, and they all live happily ever after.

But it does leave me to think – was destroying the most incredible thing that destroyed the most incredible thing the most incredible thing?


Supporting Reflection and Creative Thinking

My colleagues and I have just submitted a paper named “Supporting Reflection and Creative Thinking by Carers of Older People with Dementia” for a conference on Pervasive Care for People with Dementia and their Carers. It details some work we have been doing recently to trial the use of iPod Touch devices with commercially available and free apps to test a concept for increasing richness of the information captured by carers who work with people with dementia.

Caring for people with dementia has quite a few challenges. No two days are the same. No two sufferers are the same, as dementia does not have a “standard progression”. Add to that the medical issues that come with old age and you have fairly complex needs.

A key challenge is to ensure that the care plan for each resident in the care home has a tailored personal care plan, and to keep it up-to-date as the resident’s condition progresses. So the carers need to record changes and issues they notice. Good idea, but not so easy in practice. Especially when PCs running the required software are limited, space is limited, and time available for writing up the notes are limited. Often what gets recorded is brief and task oriented. It does not provide any reflection about why the issue or change has arisen, nor suggestions for what could be tried to solve it.

So what we’re doing this week with one care home we’re working with is to test if they could use a simple messaging tool that integrates with a dictation software to record more information throughout the day, which can then be reviewed and collated more simply at the end of the day. We also introduced an app we’ve developed that allows carers to search for similar cases when dealing with challenging behaviour (see post image) – more about that in a later post.

The carers can choose whether they prefer to dictate the notes, e.g. if they have a quiet moment, which will then be automatically turned into text. Alternatively if they are in a noisy environment, or where they might be overheard by residents, they can use the keyboard to enter notes.

So far the responses we’ve had are positive. The carers like the devices, and have found the apps simple to use. It will be interesting as more feedback comes in to see how the iPods survived the environment and if the notes that have been recorded are richer than what they were before the devices were introduced.

Whatever the outcome, I’m full of admiration for the can-do attitude of the carers. Some of them had never used a smart phone or used anything like the iPod Touch before. And all of them warned me before we started that they were ‘not very good’ with computers. But they took to it like ducks to water. Having a go was not a problem. Even if some were a bit hesitant to begin with. I just love their attitude. I’ve never had such willing participants 😀

Author: Kristine Pitts

Facilitative Leadership and Climate

I watched the first episode of the new Jamie Oliver programme on Channel 4 (9pm) last night – Dream School ( His mission is to turn around the lives of a bunch of young people who, like him, dropped out of education with less than 5 GCSEs. To do this, he has brought together some of Britain’s most inspirational individuals including David Starkey, Rolf Harris, Simon Callow, Ellen MacArthur and Robert Winston.

Last night’s episode made me think about what I’ve been learning on the MICL. David Starkey seemed to embody all that is wrong with bad leadership. He is clearly hugely knowledgeable in his field and has a passion for his subject (so common of many organisational leaders), but his inability to create a positive, supportive climate in which the students felt able to participate and learn was cringe-making. At one point, he verbally abused a student (a pity he chose the one who had just had a very positive experience in a session with Simon Callow during which he felt the relationship between tutor and student was less hierarchical than he had experienced at school). He certainly didn’t encourage the heart, inspire a shared vision, model the way or enable others. No space for engagement, creativity and reflection there.

He isn’t a trained teacher (at least I don’t think so!) and this makes great television, but his old-fashioned methods made me wonder how much of his kind of approach to leadership, learning and development is still in our academic system.

Throughout our teaching so far on the MICL, we have been encouraged to reflect. Many opportunities and channels have been made available to us to digest and interpret what we are being taught. There have been plenty of opportunities for us to learn by doing and to share our experiences. As a group of students we are open and honest with each other and with our tutors. I know we are at Masters level and there may not be such a requirement to cover a strict lesson format that schools have to, but I would like to think that Starkey’s approach, which has already horrified the head teacher at Dream School (the only ‘real’ post) is dying out in schools.

Did you see it?