Find the Sparkle

Do you believe in non-human intelligent beings, born of this world and yet unseen, and for so long unheard? Have you encountered any anthropomorphised archetypes that are as real and yet are as alive and as relevant as any conscious creature and vital to our creativity?

Maybe you don’t see them, our modern eyes see far too dimly. Maybe you don’t hear their voices, our ears are not so finely tuned. But maybe you have felt their presence.

I have a system for writing books which is part of my Kudos Effect course. It’s a process of stages and considerations that if you follow, provides a framework to help you unlock your creativity to write the best book you could write.

But there’s one part of that creative process that is more important than any other and I’ve called that ‘Find the Sparkle’.

There are various systems and support out there to help you structure your writing.  But without the ‘Sparkle’ we find ourselves having to force ourselves to write, our energy drains and we get faced with blocks or produce a manuscript that is stodgy, dull and lifeless. Without the Sparkle a book is painful to write, but worse, it’s painful (or near impossible) to read.

Maybe you have shrugged the feeling off as ‘being in the zone’ and didn’t acknowledge the being, working with you, within you.

The Sparkle is a creature born of your inspiration and your uniqueness. It doesn’t have life with just one or the other. The Sparkle is the zest, as mischievous as a pixie, as fragile as a gossamer winged faerie and just as illusive.

When we find our Sparkle, our passion feeds it and it returns a peculiar kind of energy, as potent as any magik, which if harnessed can be used to power our creative corporeal manifestation: our ideas become bright and potent. Our hopes become possibilities. Obstacles to our success melt away and evaporate like early morning autumn frost.

The process defies the physical laws of entropy which state that energy cannot be created nor destroyed only converted and that all energy conversion moves downwards towards chaos. Here we have the mythical perpetual motion machine where the very process creates energy and the waste product side effect is joy. Here we can defy the ancient alchemists of old who tried in vain to turn base metals into gold. Our Sparkle turns all to glittering riches.

Where does such a being live? How can we coax her out?

How can we unlearn how to see and open our eyes like our inspired ancestors who with ochre paints and bare hands founded the human race in cyclopean caves of dreams?

How can we reverse the calamity of the loss of our muses and our gods that left us cold and alone and cut off from our divine creative source? Can the voices and the music return to our ears to lift us out of our unreal adopted emotions of anxiety, guilt and shame at our own inadequacies. How can we find the power to do anything more than the minimum that we think we are just about able to achieve.

A clue comes from the fact that the Sparkle has a name. Her name comes from the Greek to mean god within or inspiration from divine possession and revelation.

In English it’s translated as: Enthusiasm.

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see:

Touching makes you feel different

Many people have prophesied the demise of the printed book due to the popularity of ebooks read on screens, comparing it to changes in transport: why would you ride a horse to get to a distant town when you can get a train?

Put like that the answer is obvious but it’s not the right comparison. It would be more accurate to say that we’re comparing a car with a bicycle. The car didn’t replace the bicycle even though it was developed afterwards and built upon the technology invented for the bicycle. They both have different uses even though they are both transport.

Another comparison could be the fact that television didn’t replace radio as many thought it would. The key to it is this: they deliver a different experience. The misunderstanding with the difference between radio and television came from those people who thought that television was just like radio but with moving images added. (Initially it was). In reality it developed into a completely different medium that delivers a different art form.

Digital screen readers are different from physical books. Here are some important differences:

Digital Screen

Use mostly transmitted light

Complex and expensive to construct


Made of hard materials

Need electric power

Media can be changed

Interaction is 2D

Printed Page

Always use reflected light

Cheap and simple to construct


Made of soft materials

Need no power

Media is unchanging

Interaction is 3D

There are dozens more, but just these few give us clues to the substantial differences that give us very different experiences.

When we read a book we have to not only hold it in our hands but physically open and turn the pages in three dimensional space.

We have to hold it in such a way that we keep it open at the right page and the right way round to read.

If we drop it, we know it won’t lose the text, but might get creased.

We can feel the texture of the weave of the paper and can subconsciously judge its quality by comparing with countless other types of paper and materials.

If we run a finger down the edge of a page it will cut us.

We can judge the differing size, flexibility, dryness and thickness of the paper as we handle it.

It even has a smell.

Each book we pick up has these slightly different characteristics, the experience of one set of text to another is not homogenous.

We can, if we wish, write on the pages, turn over a corner, insert a bookmark to keep our place or even tear a page out.

Reading a book is tactile in a way a digital reader is not.

Some people have postulated that screens will one day have textures too (and smells). Perhaps, but what a waste of energy when the technology for a textured page already exists. It’s a bit like the Amazing Left-Handed Strawberry Peeler: don’t invent something that’s of no-use to anybody, solves a problem no-one has, or overcomplicates a job where’s there’s an easy way of doing it.

Research has been done on comprehension of text on a digital screen verses a printed page. It showed that comprehension was better with the printed page. I don’t find this surprising.

I believe that we read a screen in a different way than how we read a printed page. If you’ve ever been in the position to have to proof read a batch of text, you’ll know that it’s much harder to do it on-screen. You’ll more than likely have missed loads of mistakes on the screen that are easily spotted on the printed version.

The car will never replace the bicycle, television will never replace radio and ebooks will never replace printed books. Each medium will have it’s advantages in one area or another, and not always in the ways we first expect. As they say, with radio compared to tv, with radio, the pictures are better.

Will digital readers replace printed books? I think that where the experience of the reading is as important as the absorbing the data within the text, then printed books will remain. The difference is that we now have a choice of how we want to absorb textual data.

We get bamboozled with technology and get carried away thinking that the future will be an unbridled extension of that technology. It never is. That’s why we don’t consume our food in a meal pill. We don’t wear colourless, feature and textureless jumpsuits to keep us warm and most of us have duvets and sheets on out beds.

The reason we cook and eat interesting meal, wear the latest fashions and don’t lie on a plain mattress with the room temperature turned up at night is the same reason that ebooks won’t wipe out physical printed books: we like to touch and feel.

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see:

The invisible barrier to creativity and the 90 degree twist

What does my bath, the motor car, R2D2 and a dinosaur on Doctor Who have in common? Read on to find out…

If you’ve seen me speak live you’ll have seen a certain audience participation part where I humiliate a member of the audience on stage to prove that they are limiting their creativity. It’s a simple trick that I won’t reveal here, you’ll have to see me on stage to find out what it is. I’ve been using it since 1993 when it was invented by a friend of mine in a play about what stops us from achieving the success we’re capable of.

Don’t worry, the person helping me on stage isn’t really humiliated. They even get a free book. It’s the audience who realise what the experiment means and that they DO have invisible barriers that stop them from achieving. When they’re pointed out in someone else,  it dawns on them that they’re actually free to do so much more.

We face invisible barriers all the time, every day. They’re usually hidden in the ‘that’s the way we do it because that’s the way we’ve always done it.’ Sometimes we try to innovate  but the end result is only half hearted because the invisible barrier is still there.

I was almost caught out with a mundane, everyday example this month. We’re re-designing our bathroom. It’s a rectangular room with the bath on one longer side and the shower, basin and toilet on the other longer side. We were dictated in our choices of new bathroom furniture by not considering that they could all be moved from their original positions. As soon as we realised we could rotate the bath 90 degrees and have it along the shorter wall, the room ceased to be a ‘corridor’ and became a usable space.

So the barrier there was an unthinking thought that the bath couldn’t be moved. Maybe I didn’t think of moving it because I knew that I don’t personally have the skills to move the plumbing. That was the restriction that held back the best idea.

Innovation is often described as ‘doing something better or in a better way’. But more often than not, true innovation isn’t just doing something ‘a little bit better’ it’s also about doing it different by turning it 90 degrees. By that I mean that the ‘change’ that is made is not always an obvious and progressive one that you’ll get to if you spend enough time thinking about it. If you do that method, the train track of thought will always get to the same destination. What we need to do is think at 90 degrees; to change HOW we think about the problem, to circumnavigate the invisible barrier that keeps us on the train track or in our comfort zone of what’s obviously possible.

Henry Ford was reported as saying that if he’d asked the public what innovation they would have wanted in their transportation in 1884 they would probably have replied, “please get us faster horses”. What they got the following year was a different solution, one at 90 degrees to the problem: the motor car.

Sticking with the motor car as an example, did you know that the first cars didn’t have steering wheels? It seems like an obvious solution to ‘how do you change direction on a wheeled vehicle’ that we scarcely think that it too was an innovation that had to be thought of. The first cars had reigns, the same as the horse drawn carriages that preceded them. You pulled the left reign or lever and it rotated the front wheels to the left. Pull the right lever and you go to the right. The 90 degree innovation was to join the two levers up and make them into a circle. Add a rack and pinion so that the rotary motion of the steering wheel is turned into linear motion of the lever which then pushes or pulls the wheels left or right.

In the early 1970s, the BBC special effects department on Doctor Who pioneered a new technique that would revolutionise the film and tv special effects industry. They called it Colour Separation Overlay, or CSO for short. It was a fairly straight forward technique of replacing one colour in the television signal with the signal from another camera. So one camera would film an actor standing in front of a yellow background and another camera would film another scene. When the signals were added, everything yellow in the signal was replaced by the image from the second camera. It looked like the actor was somewhere else entirely. Brilliant. (These days the technique is often referred to as chromakey or blue-screen, since the colour chosen is often blue.)

Those early effects, although crude by todays standards, were amazing. It was a brilliant innovation, but there was still an invisible barrier in place that took the experts a while to spot. In those 1970s episodes you’ll see the character of Doctor Who in a cave. They’d filmed Jon Pertwee in front of a CSO screen and then film a cave and put them together. The Doctor is now in a cave! A year earlier they’d simply have taken Pertwee to the cave and filmed him there. They weren’t really taking advantage of the technique.

Then, when a script required dinosaurs to march through London, they knew they could really put it to the test. They made a model of the dinosaur and filmed it against the CSO screen using stop motion animation and then keyed the footage onto the footage of the streets. It was only after they’d gone to all the effort and expense of doing it that someone pointed out that the dinosaur model didn’t have to be life-size. It could as easily been six inches tall. They effect might even have been better if it had been. They had missed the 90 degree twist.

When George Lucas began filming the first Star Wars film in 1976 he had to make innovations every day to make that film that delivered so many new effects and methods. A curious one is the story of R2D2. As you remember, he’s a small dustbin-sized robot with three legs and a domed head. The fact that he’s small and a robot made the Lucas’ effects people immediately jump to the obvious conclusion that the prop should be remote radio controlled. They worked with test models, overcame the problem of radio interference, gave R2D2 the third leg for balance. It was working.

Then they went to film the first scene in the deserts of Tunisia. Sand. As you can imagine, a heavy prop on tiny wheels didn’t really work on sand. They would either have to lay rails (as the BBC had done with the Daleks in quarries on Doctor Who two years earlier) or rethink the sand. The 90 degree innovation was to lose the third leg and place a small actor inside the prop so it could ‘waddle’ across the sand. It worked, and the rest is history, making a star of former circus act, Kenny Baker.

Even the best of us can miss the obvious. But at least George Lucas didn’t build life-size starships…

What’s the 90 degree twist in your life and business that will smash through the invisible barrier of sameness and obviousness to create that innovation that takes you to a new level?

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see:

How can we be more creative?

It’s a common enough question. Most people realise that we need to be more creative. Creativity is about new ways of doing things and new things done. So in a world where change is certain, creativity is the method we have to be able to cope with and surf on that change.

There are numerous books written on the subject (three of them are mine) and immeasurable articles telling us the top tips on how we can unlock our creativity. Some put forward things they call tools (like MindMaps, Thinking Hats or other mind games). Some say there is a process you have to go through. And some say simply, ‘do something different’.

But it seems that there are a few things you need:

• some level of self confidence in your abilities,

• a lack of judgmental thinking (i.e. you’re open to ideas without labeling them right, wrong or can’t be done).

• time

• focus (i.e. free from distractions that do not concern the task in hand)

It sounds easy. If that was all that was needed, wouldn’t more people have more brilliant ideas? Why are so many people, well, so uninspired? Surely there’s some other missing ingredient, some magic spark?

Creativity can be reduced down to connections being made between other ideas that make connections between different neurons in the brain which then results in some action being taken to manifest the new combination (the new idea).

So if we’re not having ideas, it’s that process that isn’t happening.

Let’s look back at the things we need and see why their needed and why one or more of them is often missing.

Self confidence in our abilities: this is the main reason people don’t manifest their greatness, don’t go for their dreams, don’t have the best ideas and don’t carry them through. Deep down at some level they have doubt. Doubt in some aspect of their ability, their personality or what they feel others might think. In some way all of us have doubt. We fear we won’t be loved or that we’re not lovable. We fear we’re not good enough and that paralyses our creativity. The origin of this doubt is complex, it can be a remnant from childhood, a defence mechanism to keep us out of embarrassment or a belief based on evidence from the past that may be real, but we fear failure so much that we can’t get past it to try again.

Non-judgmental thinking: we’re trained to think critically, to test and measure, to examine the facts and reject the false. That’s a good thing. But we sometimes jump too quickly to criticise and judge, squashing potentially great ideas when they’re in a delicate primordial state. This type of thinking shuts down the connection process in the brain.

Time: we’re all to busy. far to busy to find the time to sit quietly and think, or to take a walk or whatever it takes to allow our brains to make the secret connections we need it to make. One thing is certain – the brain doesn’t perform at it’s most creative under undue stress. It will find an answer, the task will be done, but at a cost. The brain will only make the most obvious connection, the quickest route to the solution. This is why we appear to work well under pressure. But in reality, that work is rarely truly ground breaking. Finding the right time is important too. It’s not likely the be after lunch or when you’re tired.

Focus: This is also connected to time. We’re so busy multitasking and live in a world of distraction that even if we think we’ve found a time slot to be creative in, we contaminate it with emails, tweets, other tasks, worry and interruptions. Creativity is a solo activity, a solo activity that also works when creative individuals create a solo team that acts as one mind.

If that is beginning to sound complex again, it can be reduced down to this: to be more creative we need to do whatever is possible to enable more and more varied connections between our neurons. Now since we can’t sit there and ‘do’ that, we have to follow the suggestions described above which create the opportunity for those neurons to connect and build mindflow.

If we do that, then the other tools DO come into play: read more, travel more, do different things, draw more, write more, play more.

If we are able to do that, when we are later faced with a new problem, such as ‘how can I make more money’ – we will have more resources (i.e. more connections in our neural net) to draw upon. Our brain becomes less like a railway track that always takes us back and forth on the same line, and becomes more like paths through the wood, that takes us left, right, back, forward, where paths merge and have dead ends but may well just lead to a secret glade where the answer to our problem awaits.

Get connecting.

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How to write songs (or create just about anything)

John Lennon and Paul McCartneyThere’s an important difference between most classically trained musicians and self-taught musicians that gives us an interesting clue into our creativity. It’s to do with the difference between prescriptive practice and trial and error…

Few self-taught musicians play classical music, they tend to play more popular styles. The reason for that is that classical playing is difficult and requires dedication and discipline that, in most cases, needs tuition to get right. Pop music on the other hand has few rules and it doesn’t matter if you don’t know what they are.

Most songwriters and music composers are of the self-taught pop music kind. In fact, being a self taught pop musician almost always leads to composition, whereas much fewer classical players write their own music. (Just about every fledgling rock guitarist has written a batch of songs within 6 months of learning to play. The average member of any orchestra, no matter how accomplished, may never put pen to paper).

The reason is that the two types of playing, or rather the journey that arrives at the types of playing, use different kinds of learning and result in different types of creative expression.

With the classical musician, the task is to master the instrument in the proper way, to learn the language of music to be able to read it and perform it with accuracy and then hopefully, with personality.

With a pop musician, the task is to knock out your favourite tunes to entertain yourself and others as quickly as possible.

With the classical musician, the task of learning heads towards perfection through practice. Mistakes are corrected and eventually eradicated.

With the pop musician, mistakes arrive quickly due to ignorance or lack of technical ability on how the favourite song should be played. But instead of correcting, some of these errors are kept in to give a deliberately imperfect performance of the song. Getting ‘the gist’ of it gives a much quicker result.

With the classical musician, the task of playing does not naturally lead to original composition whereas with the pop musician, original composition is the natural destination. When the pop musician strikes the wrong chord, or sings the wrong note or lyric and that mistake sounds ‘interesting’ they have, due to that mistake, become a songwriter.

The thing that first impressed Paul McCartney when he first met John Lennon when John was playing with his band The Quarrymen at the school fete on 6th July 1957, was that John clearly didn’t know all the words to the rock and roll songs they were performing and because of that he made new ones up that sounded roughly right. He was already a proto-songwriter.

The driving force for many pop musicians isn’t that different from classical musicians: they both start off wanting to perform a particular piece with perfection.

With Paul McCartney, he wanted to sound like his heroes such as Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. His early inadequacies meant that he could get close, but not all the way. Those performances that were close, but slightly different then easily became modified into new songs in their own right. They sounded similar to the inspiration but had a different personality. This inability of Lennon and McCartney to write songs exactly like their heroes is what gave us that amazing Beatle sound and those brilliant new songs.

As the sixties progressed and McCartney became such an amazingly proficient musician, he could replicate his favourite songs exactly and easily so had to draw upon new sources and methods to create new songs. You can hear the transition in 1965/66 with the songs like Yesterday and Eleanor Rigby. The reason he could move on to write in a different way was because of the way he had learnt to play, by trial and error. The resulting connections in his neural pathways gave rise to a whole new direction for his composition.

With a pop musician, most new compositions arise from the happy coincidence of unusual chord progressions, melody or rhythm combinations. This is because the way they learnt to engage with music was in a way that allowed errors, and, allowed those errors to be incorporated and developed.

In business we need to think more like the pop musician rather than the classical musician. Our aim is not to aim for a prefect rendition as an end in itself, but to aim for perfection as a method that throws up interesting diversions that could very well lead to a fantastic innovation.

Creativity and the Beatles

This is adapted from my forthcoming book, Creativity and the Beatles.

Read more here.

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A trip to Sava Centre, 1978

We’re going on an adventure. We going to Washington DC where the DC stands for Durham County. It’s a small industrial area just outside Sunderland. Daddy tells me they’ve built a hypermarket there, the first in the North East and we’re going there. We are going to Sava Centre! Sava Centre is a partnership between J. Sainsbury who specialises in food and British Home Stores who sell clothes and hi-fi stuff. This was going to be a shop that had everything under one roof. It’s going to be massive!

Prior to this my only experience of a supermarket is the Co-op in the village. It’s not a supermarket my todays standards, they only have one till and one little old lady to hammer the keys on it. They only stock the little things; little tins of beans, little tins of beans and sausage, small pieces of lamb and tiny bits of ham. You put all your shopping in a little wire basket. I always wondered about those baskets that were never really designed for human use. They looked like they were designed for a creature that had arms that spring horizontally out from its waist, like a child’s drawing.

We park our dark green Austin Princess 1800HL in an enormous car park and walk over to the entrance of ‘The Galleries’, the facility that housed Sava Centre and other outlets. The place is heaving with people so it’s hard to see what’s going on being so close to the ground unlike the tall adults. Looking up I see a massive blue and red logo, a giant ‘S’ for Sava Centre that looks a bit like the Superman logo. I was the only one at school who could draw the Superman logo properly. It’s an ‘S” in a shield but you need to draw the negative space around it to actually draw it. I taught the class how to do it. We approached giant glass doors which slide open with a swoosh just like on Star Trek and we’re in.

The first thing I notice is the lilting music, constantly playing and echoing round the cavernous cathedral-like structure. It’s a short song, played over and over again with a woman singing, “Sava Centre – always the best for you”. Then it stops for a while and there’s a plinky plonky instrumental version of Dr Hook’s ‘When You’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman’. I know it’s that band as I saw them on Multi-Coloured Swap Shop a few weeks ago. (I was having my breakfast one Saturday when I heard Noel Edmunds say “and next well be having Dr Hook in the studio to take your calls”. I thought he’d said “Doctor Who” and raced into the lounge and memorised the telephone number 01 811 8055 only to find it was a bunch of hairy country rockers and disappointingly not Tom Baker.)

I look up to the ceiling which is miles away. To the left and right are thousands and thousands of checkout tills stretching into infinity with their big thick black rubber conveyor belts and flashing lights on poles. The goods are all neatly packed on shelves, stacked right up into the sky. I ponder that I’d need a pair of binoculars to read the labels of what’s on the top shelf and wonder how you get up there to get at them. There are thousands of isles with everything you could think of.

Wondering off I find the Star Wars figure isle and get lost in absorbing the packaging. It’s a kind of dizziness much more powerful than being in a sweet shop. The black and silver packs, stacked on the wire displays is hypnotic. There are so many to choose from. Daddy said my brother and I could have one each.

I choose R5-D4, the little red droid with a white conical head, a bit like R2-D2 but who was only in the film for two minutes before he blew his motivator and Luke Skywalker chose R2-D2 instead. R5-D4 looked so exciting. He didn’t have a back story or character that the film prescribed. I could invent all that for him and have new adventures with him that I would be able to invent. There’s a girl next to me, looking a the silver plated figure of Death Star Droid with his insectoid head and large black eyes. That would have been my next choice if I could have had two.

There’s also a small boy crawling around on the floor with a 8” radio controlled R2-D2. I don’t look at the larger figures like those, knowing that we can’t afford them. The small boy is rotating the R2-D2 figure and saying, “exterminate, exterminate” as if it’s a Dalek. The girl looks over to me. Her look says “What an idiot”, referring to the small boy’s grave error in mistaking Star Wars’ R2-D2 for a Dalek from Doctor Who. We both laugh.

From time to time the music would stop, often halfway through the jingle, “Sava Centre – always the…” and there would be a ‘ping-pong’ sound and then a woman’s voice. We stop to listen. Sometimes it said “This is a staff announcement.” and we’re able to relax and get back to our shopping. This time it says, “This is a customer announcement. Make sure you visit the Road Safety demonstration and pick up your RoSPA reflector. Thank you.” The girl shows me hers.

“I’ve got one.” she says, “There over there”. I went over to investigate.

There are demonstrations of products including walking three-foot dolls and free tastings of various nibbles. I get my free reflector. I decide to use it as a transmat pad for my Star Wars figures when I get home.

I rejoin my parents in time to queue up and put our stuff on the conveyor belt where the price labels are read by the lady and prices typed into a real computer. All this shopping, it looks like it’ll last us a whole month! It comes to the outrageously high price of £29 (99p of which is for R5-D4 and 99p for my brother’s Snaggletooth). Then we return to the car and get back home quite late, but just in time for Blakes’ 7…

Can you recall when much of the world around you was new? As children with childish minds we had to interpret this strange world, we had to make connections and guess as to the meaning of many things. Oh to be able to think like that again…

The Thinking Cap Experiment(This is an adapted extract from my forthcoming book, ‘The Thinking Cap Experiment’ due out sometime soon. It’s a novel, you know how it is…)

Book Ayd to speak about Creativity and Inspiration for Innovation at your event. A great way to open your conference!
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