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This BBC profile of Brian Eno was broadcast last Saturday afternoon on ABC Radio National’s Into the Music program.  There’s so much in this 50 minutes of listening – about creating and spontaneity, on letting go of categories and labels, about what emerges (or doesn’t) from exploring and experimenting.  David Bowie, David Byrne and others talk about collaborating with Eno in his years as a music producer.  Then there’s the highly sought after Eno as consultant, demonstrating the value to organisations of a creative and playful mind.

Here are some of the ideas that caught my attention as they might apply to facilitation and writing.

on remembering thoughts that you have and using them

Very early on, Eno wrote down his thoughts in a list to capture them.  The paper list became too large to manage, so he created a set of cards which he called the oblique strategies.  Whenever he was stuck for inspiration, he’d grab the card and do what it told him to do. What are you really thinking about just now.  Incorporate – In total darkness, in a very large room, quietly – Who should be doing this job?  How would they do it?

on mistakes

Eno’s first oblique strategy was Honour thy error as a hidden intention.  “Working fast [as he did] there is a danger of overlooking interesting accidents. [Instead] … it’s an accident. I’ll pay some attention to it and see what emerges”.

on control

You can “be almost on the edge of control”.   The process is not chaotic, not completely lost, but “not so over-controlled that I’m bored by it”.  Eno likens it to surfing – the skill and unpredictability of being just on the edge of falling over.

on being asked to talk to people about ideas – his consultancy work

“The focus of having to articulate something to a group of people really makes you think about it. If ideas are just rattling around in your head without ever having to be articulated you can think you understand a lot more than you do”.

If you are the least bit interested in playing with ideas and thoughts and seeing what emerges, listen.  Some great music history is a bonus!

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney

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