Less ‘Star Wars’, more ‘The Water-Babies’ this week.

Remember Mrs Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By?

Here’s what happened.

It all started when we booked a meeting room. (The offices will remain nameless. And identity-less. Unchallengeable credentials of grooviness and minimalist coolth rendered this building indistinguishable from anywhere else that has suffered a design-led re-fit in the last 5 years)

This booking process wasn’t a walk in the park, by the way. The keypad on the wall outside had to be activated at the right time, with the right code, and the right closing minute. You can do the arithmetic- those are big odds in favour of failing to even get into the room.

Perhaps this system ensures that every meeting starts on a note of triumphant achievement. And then. We all noticed the gradual increase in temperature at about the same time.

Amidst jokes about meetings held wearing only underpants, it became clear that no-one had magic power over that deceptively simple and small wall-mounted dial.

The service people were called. Most warmly.

It would be fixed – they were delighted to report – well within the contracted 24 hours.

Far, far away. The people to whom maintenance services had been contracted were based far, far away.

Look, the coffee shop was fine. Better, in fact. But this stuff matters.

‘Employee Engagement’ is a current top topic in this particular office.  How can employees be expected to ‘be engaged’ when basic aspects of support and the environment have been, literally, ‘dis-engaged’?

Can anyone be expected to be enthusiastic, energetic, innovative and committed when no such qualities are apparently demonstrated in return?

Do as you would be done by?

I heard that the problem was fixed the next day, and that a ‘how did we do?’ customer satisfaction email was sent the day after that.

What was the name of Mrs Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By’s buddy?

Oh yes, the tough and unyielding Mrs Be-Done-By-As-You-Did.


Penny Hunt and Change Chemistry logo imageSomeone called ‘ahoy’ to his coffee drinking friend as he came into the café today.

Fantastic beard (that Victorian explorer look has really taken hold, hasn’t it?), tweedy togs and fab trainers all signalled someone hipper than a hip thing.

Is ‘ahoy’ coming back, I wonder?

It’s an accident that we don’t all say this to each other all the time. Alexander Graham Bell’s favoured telephone greeting was’ ahoy-hoy’. While you may feel a giggle coming on, ‘ahoy’ wasn’t always just nautical.

image01But Edison preferred ‘hello’ and here we are.
(Or not. Is ‘Hi’ winning at the moment?)

The ahoy thing has wheedled its way into my head as being really rather significant.  If you can tear yourself away from the nautical imagery, what does ‘Ahoy’ feel like? To me it sounds confident, and makes me want to sit up and take notice. It feels like a word that should be shouted. Direct, but distant.

I ran a focus group this week in a certain company exploring the experience of working together and how to make things better.
There was lots of discussion about the differences between men and women – in how they work and how they communicate. It all felt pretty clear that the male mode was directness, the female mode was suggestion and circumlocution.

image00But the more we talked, the more this seemed like utter, unquestioned, rubbish in the workplace: in this particular workplace.
There are many meetings in this company. There are even de facto gatekeepers who police who knows about which meetings, and who attends. The CEO and his team is lofty and distant. Email circulation lists routinely have 20+ names on them. The management is very male. Yet the group felt distanced from discussion, from debate, from conversation; from what was really going on and being decided. A male culture existed, yet a communication behaviour that was not direct at all had grown up. The supposed male and female modes were completely mixed up.

And everyone in the group craved contact and involvement.

So what did the group conclude?

To ignore old fashioned male/female labels; to be more direct, and to make proper contact when they returned to work with their teams.

And my thought for the week?

Say ‘Hello’ not ‘Ahoy’.


Penny Hunt's blog coffee conversationsIt’s all over my fingers and the dipping end of the pen. Smells lovely. I feel I’m back wearing plaits, sitting with ankles crossed, concentrating on hitting that pre-ruled upper line with the letter ‘P’. The ink concentrates on the nail / knuckle area of my third finger. There’s still an ancient callous-y bit there from all those years of pre-keyboard handwriting.

And it’s such a lovely feeling!  Get that pen and paper out!


I’ve just come back from a calligraphy project in a colleague’s house involving walls, children’s poems, mess, and a tight timetable. I experienced dedicated time, focus, and physical effort. It was wonderful.

So let’s celebrate CRAFT and all the wonderful feelings unleashed by doing something with your hands, with making something, with having a real object to handle at the end your efforts.

It’s a contagious feeling. A small person (wearing plaits!) approaches my table in the café to get a closer look.  So in a spirit of generational continuity we settle down to some serious paper folding. You can hardly see my fingery ink smudges on the flapping bird. Hardly at all.
We are in companionable silence, punctuated with little exclamations of effort and delight, as I realize that our heads are bowed at exactly the same angle, and that I have left my espresso untouched.

I guess a child doesn’t drink coffee.

I’m a child at this moment. No doubt about it.

My new partner in paper crime speaks seriously of a surface design required for the paper fan. We consider it thoughtfully and debate options. We are fellow artisans. We conclude – I did nudge a little – that a calligraphy design will fit the bill.
Ten minutes later and a happiness without price smiles its way around the table.

It will be a present for her mum.

A little problem I’d been noodling over effortlessly resolves itself as I wave across the café. The concentration on a physical action has worked its magic. Everything and anything can be solved creatively by not trying to solve it, it seems.

So this is my creativity prescription.  Make something. Anything.

First, some encouragement: a little book to dip into.

Alex Munroe is a craftsman, an artist. His jewellery is enjoyed around the world. He has now written enchantingly about how he came to craft jewellery. His childhood was free and full of love, a sort of benign neglect that encouraged a curiosity into the workings of….everything, in rural Suffolk. Here he is on youtube talking about how ‘Two Turtle Doves: a Memoir of Making Things’ came to be.


We’re not all accomplished craftsmen. But we all have a craftsman within us. We are all craft-y. And that crafty part just loves to be let out.
I reach out across the table. A Cruella de Vil ink–drinking scenario is avoided just in time.

I sip the espresso, and slip back into adulthood.