Creativity doesn’t need to be messy

creative mind

I came across the above image a few weeks ago. Every time I see it I think “that mind looks like it’s releasing chaos”. We are all wired differently: some of us require structured ways of being, while others thrive on the oceans of chaos. We tend to believe that creatives are on the chaotic side of the spectrum (we love the idea of an artist passionately letting the brush flash back and forth at the speed of light as they unleash the next great masterpiece!).

Yet, the opposite is often more true: creatives tend towards planning for innovation, and executing plans for increased probability of success. I recall the notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci: the intricate detail of flying machines transported from his imagination to his sketchbook; the numerous sketches of his famous works as he worked on shades of light and angles of composition.

For organisations to be innovative there also needs to be structure in the innovation pipeline. So what does that structure need? It needs many things, but here’s just a few essential ingredients:

A Blank Canvas: Culture

The culture of the organisation needs to be ‘ready’ for innovation. Culture is set through the formation of defines vision (purpose) and values (guiding principles that bring us together around our purpose). Vision of the future requires innovation to get there.

The culture needs to actively promote innovation at every level of the organisation. Did you know that the idea of the common matchbox came from a factory worker? Does this surprise you? Organisations need to promote the coming forth of ideas from everyone – who knows where the next innovative solution will come from.

The culture needs to foster a spirit of gratitude: if staff have ideas that work – give them the credit for it! This fosters a culture of trust and commitment rather than distrust and resentment.

Artists: Leadership

Leadership drives the creation of a masterpiece. They pull everyone around the vision and supporting values. They craft and create the culture. They inspire; motivate and encourage. They create a sense of urgency and pull teams together to drive positive change.

Leaders also have an essential role in modelling the behaviours they desire from staff. Simon Sinek is correct with his book title Leaders Eat Last. They model drive, commitment, values, behaviours, integrity, character, etc.

Creative Process: Structure

Innovative and creative processes require a structure to work within. This ensures projects yield results and that projects are completed. Whether that structure is a change management process or a Project Management framework, the structure ensures a higher probability of success.

Creativity does not need to be messy: it can be a well-oiled machine adding massive value and advantage to the organisation.

The Value of following a Life Vision

Image result for life vision

There are many benefits of having a life vision and knowing what progress you want to make. Here are seven benefits of having Vision for your life or organisation:

  • It focuses your attention on what is important
  • It helps us to persevere when the going gets tough
  • It clarifies our lives and defines who we are
  • It enables us to say “No” when other things are outwith our purpose
  • It helps us to develop confidence, competence and excellence
  • It yields fruit – we reap the benefit and achieve!
  • It makes life more meaningful, which in turn makes us happier people!

Perhaps you have never thought about having a vision for your life: There’s no day like today to start dreaming, daring and doing!


Working together is at the heart of it all

Ripon YMCA is a Social Housing Provider situated in the heart of Ripon and serving young people from the wider locality. This year Ripon YMCA will have been serving young people and the local community for 102 years. We have a rich and varied history of working drawing alongside vulnerable young people and helping them to transform their lives.

Today Ripon YMCA provides residential accommodation for 19 young adults aged 16-35. We provide practical support which helps tenants develop their potential in mind, body and spirit, enabling them to move from dependence to independence.

We also facilitate a number of activity groups such as the YMCA Red Triangle Drama Group meets on Wednesday evenings 7-9:00pm and helps young people to develop their character and confidence through performing arts, providing young people with a positive outlet for engaging in community events.  Ripon YMCA also hosts a toddler group called Helter Skelter which meets in our community hall 4 mornings a week. New members are warmly welcomed to both groups.



Over the past three months we have been seeking to meet with and partner with other local charities and organisations to create a collaborative approach to supporting our tenants and engaging more proactively with the local community. As such we have sought to get involved with Connecting Ripon, a gathering of charity and community leaders seeking to help Ripon become “A more connected area where our communities work together to make the city and rural parishes a great place to live, work and play”.

Connecting Ripon aims to:

– Celebrate and strengthen volunteering in Ripon and its surrounding villages;
– Support the development of inter-generational projects which benefit local communities;
– Increase awareness of what’s happening in terms of new opportunities to learn; earn; socialise; volunteer and to raise support for good causes through new media such as social media and super-fast broadband

More information on the work of Connecting Ripon is available here has been a privilege for us at Ripon YMCA to join the Connecting Ripon group because we share their values and commitment to community engagement.


I was travelling to Ripon this morning and the sun was just beginning to pop its head over the horizon. It was warm and bright and as its invisible rays kissed my face I was reminded that every day is a new day and a fresh start. This is true for us at Ripon YMCA: we believe in giving every person a fresh start and we are committed to providing every tenant with the support they require to move from dependence to independence positively. We cannot do this alone. Our work requires a community approach. Here are a few of the ways you can get involved:

  • Become a trustee: We are currently seeking volunteer trustees with a background in Business, finance or housing.
  • Volunteer a few hours: Help maintain our premises; chat with tenants; teach a skill; support admin – the opportunities are plentiful
  • Give a gift or create a Legacy: our work requires funding and gifts are always gratefully received.
  • Raise funds: this is one of the best and most fun-filled ways of supporting our work. We are seeking to raise funds to expand our current work through local sponsorship. Can you run a race? Sleep rough for a night? Be creative? – The possibilities are abundant.

We are excited about the future. It looks bright. It is exciting. And it is definitely worth getting involved in. If you would like to know more you can email or call the Ripon YMCA office on 01765 607609.

This article was written by Stuart McCormack for the ‘Connecting Ripon‘ column in the Ripon Gazette and featured in the February 2, 2017 editiion


Transformation is a big word with big connotations. I wonder what it makes you think about?

For some it will make you think about dramatic change – the difference between colour and shades. For others it will have connotations of Transformational “leadership” made popular through the theories and writings of Bernard Bass, Warren Bennis and John Kotter (to name but a few leadership authors who have expounded this particular style of leading). Other readers may be drawn to thoughts of spirituality and transformed life, while my daughter is likely to think about Cinderella preparing to attend the princes’ ball.

Transformation is a big concept – an audacious concept that, for many, seems nigh on impossible.  But is it an impossible expectation that transformation can occur. I believe not. Transformation is not bound to the realms of fairy tales and science fiction. I recall talking with my grandfather many years ago. We were discussing technology – something that at that time neither of us knew much about. My grandfather was telling me how the world had been changed in his lifetime: cars, phones, television, gender issues, computers. He was amazed by the rate of change the world was facing and he felt privileged to be alive in the twentieth century. The world is a transformed place. Innovations are occurring all around us and it can seem impossible to keep up with the rate of change. It appears that the only constant in life now is Change itself.

Change brings with it stresses and anxieties for many people. As our world transforms we need to learn new ways of thriving and living with enjoyment rather than enduring life. It is possible to do so.

We need to find out personal and organisational sense of purpose.

We need to identify where we can contribute to a transforming world.

We need to return afresh to some foundational principles of life in order to thrive rather than merely survive.

I believe that every person can make great progress to contribute positively in our world today. Transformation requires purpose and partnerships that mutually benefit every stakeholder; a well formed and grounded plan; practice of positive habits; perseverance when situations are difficult (as they do get); and opportunity to celebrate progress and success.

Is transformation quick? Sometimes it may be, but perhaps transformation is more incremental in nature. That perhaps is the subject of another P7L thought.

Until then, keep moving onward and upward.


Are you a city on a hill or a spooky castle?: Thoughts on discipleship and leadership

I was listening to the EntreLeader Podcast recently as I drove to work. The presenter described the interviewee as ‘a city on a hill’. I loved that description and was struck by the thought that Christ-centred people are called to be cities on a hill. And then I thought…



Am I a city on a hill? A city provides safety, shelter, company, hope, opportunities, friendships, warmth, food, etc. as Christ-centred people we are called to be the type of person others are drawn to. Isn’t that what Jesus was like? People were drawn to him. People wanted to hear his words; they wanted to learn his wisdom; they wanted to be his mate!

There’s something good about hanging out with someone who makes you believe, feel and think you are amazing, special and cared for – we gravitate towards these people; We aspire to be like these people. Christian Leaders should be those who are most like Jesus: we need to follow those who have an ability to shine Jesus’ light into our lives so that through their support and example we also begin to shine like a city set on a hill.

It is a sad reality that often leaders are less city and more castle. So how can we identify a spooky castle?



I’m sure you’ve seen movies or kids’ cartoons where the protagonists arrive at a dark, dark castle in the middle of the night. The rain is pouring down; the wind is howling like a wolf; the car has broken down and they need shelter for the night.

They find a dark castle with foreboding walls and a single light shining through one small window. In their desperation they knock on the door and you just know they should turn around and flee!!

The spooky castle person is unapproachable: They incite fear and often manipulate and control others; their words can be harsh and they don’t have much real compassion for others; they tend towards being the centre of everything and they believe that everything is all about them. Often these traits are very subtle rather than overt: when around these people you are likely to experience thoughts of self-doubt and you may often feel that you are never good enough. If you are in a situation, relationship or community that leaves you feeling this way regularly then you need to get out! Fast! Like now!!

As Leaders, or as followers of Jesus, we need to be sure that we are never the proverbial ‘spooky castle in the dark’. We are to be like Jesus: approachable; warm; full of love; kind; caring; strong; positive; etc. We need to be genuinely there for other people in order to serve and build them up to be the best they can possibly be.

The truth is that we are mostly a combination of both: our nature is darkness and light. But we don’t need to stay as we are: the Gospel of Jesus leads us into a model of discipleship that encourages us to choose and change to be more like Jesus (HE is the ultimate City on a Hill). So here’s the challenge and some points for reflection:


Which one are you most like?
How can you make your light shine brighter?
How are you adding value to other people’s lives today?
Are you an approachable leader?
do you need to escape a castle and find a city?
What one thing can you change simply right now to let your light shine brighter?


 City On a Hill




 Spooky Castle
I’d love to hear your thoughts and reflections. Please leave some comments in the space below.

Leadership and the Gospel

I have been around churches for 38 years at the time of writing. I have experienced many churches, faith groups and forms of Christian community. Some have been positive and a true source of blessing; some negative and abusive; some neutral and nice. But one thing they all have in common is that they are formed under the influence of their leadership – one way or another Leadership.

My hope with this site is that it might become a place where conversations occur and connections are made regarding the value of positive leadership styles which will enhance Gospel impact with regard to personal lives, processes of discipleship and mission strategy.

I believe there is need for Christian leaders to be value-led and servant-modelled. Their values and servant-hood needs to be centred upon the person and teachings of Jesus in order to be as effective in releasing the church to understand, grasp and apply the gospel in all aspects of life, faith and society. The Gospel has failed to massively impact society as a whole in our generation and we need to be asking WHY this is the case.

Within the scriptures all the NT writers centre upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As I observe many contexts and have experienced many expressions of the Church I am concerned that their is a disconnect between the following components:

  • Our understanding and application of the Centrality of Jesus
  • Our understanding and application of ‘the Gospel’
  • Our understanding and outworking of Discipleship
  • Our understanding and practice of mission in today’s world

I hope that we can explore these together and come to understand how they can and do fit together in perfect balance to glorify Jesus and extend the kingdom of God preached by Christ and the apostles in every generation.