Ian Cooper – Soho Square 26th March 2015

I’d have to put myself forward as one of those people who is somewhat sceptical about some (most) of those ‘out there’ concepts and techniques. My wife’s best friend had been a Bowen Therapist for quite some years before I would let her near me despite a catalogue of niggles, aches and pains. I eventually relented under protest and in severe pain from a back injury which was rendering me immobile and in agony. A poke here and a poke there (well, a few more than that) and I hobbled away full of doubt. A couple of days later, whilst not exactly leaping about the place, I was able to do up my own shoelaces without fainting with the pain… so, maybe, there was more to this mumbo jumbo than met my doubting eye.

Since then I’ve tried to be more open minded about such things, so a damp grey Thursday morning saw me joining 4 other explorers and our guide Nick in Soho Square to see what this was all about.

We started with a brief explanation of Street Wisdom and then went into a few tuning exercises each of about 5 minutes in order to prepare for our longer walk and exploration of our question.

I was surprised at how easily we all (yup, including me) seemed to drop into the technique and really gain unexpected insights and observations.

The BIG question session was, effectively, an extension of each of the shorter ones allowing us time to follow thoughts and patterns. I’ve been pondering accepting a voluntary trusteeship in a charity but to do so would mean taking up time that I could be doing other more fun or profitable things.

I noticed 2 buildings in the square… upon one were painted the words ‘House of Charity’ the other was a former Hospital for Women, supported by voluntary contributions. Further down the street was a sign for free wifi then, later, another for free hair consultations at a salon… suggesting it was OK not to charge for things? The sign for the restaurant L’Escargot with its picture of snails led me to question whether I had to rush into a decision or, possibly, that I was behaving like a snail… so get on with it.

Ian CooperLater in the cafe, talking about our walks, it came to me that an analogy I used to use in business could be applied to our learning. It’s like when you do a jigsaw puzzle. You start with all the edges to create a framework into which you drop the remaining pieces.

What I’d experienced in Street Wisdom was the tuning of my mind and a framework to recognise clues and to collect my observations. Whether I put them together in the right order or I discard some pieces is up to me but, maybe, the street does have the answers or, at least a route to them.

Not bad for an old sceptic, eh?

Ian Cooper

Piccadilly Circuitous…

Bet you thought the statue in Piccadilly Circus was called Eros.  But you’d be wrong.

That’s just one of the many, many surprises uncovered when a group from the nearby St James’ Chuch set out for some serious wandering on their first Street Wisdom.   I understand most churches celebrate Lent in a traditional, rather sombre way.  But St James isn’t most churches.  And this is clear the moment you arrive to find the courtyard bustling with market traders, an espresso bar buzzing with customers and a pews dotted with snoozing rough sleepers comfortably catching up on missed sleep.  And Lucy Winkett, who organised the Street Wisdom, isn’t the normal vicar.   Her approach to Lent – and life – is anything but trad.  Which is how she and her colleagues came up with the idea of  “Loitering within Lent”, a series of experiences designed to make people reflect on life from different perspectives.   When she heard about Street Wisdom, she felt iy would fit in perfectly – and she was right.


I didnt notice till half way through the Tune Your Senses phase, what the sign next to us was saying…

With someone ‘up there’ providing gorgeous pre-spring weather and a post-card perfect setting,  the event was a rich and rewarding experience not just for the participants but also for Jo and I.   We learned about how even an ugly strip of torn black plastic, or the scent of lavender or some gently moving planks of wood can spark off a revelatory insight.   We were touched the youthful appetite to learn within some more ‘senior citizens’ and by the age-old wisdom in some Generation Y-ers.  Our erudite participants introduced us to a great quote by Rilke and we heard the word ‘panoply’ used in ordinary conversation.   We met Joey the dog.  And learned the real name of that statue we thought we knew so well.     Turns out it’s not Eros but the Angel of Christian Charity.   Amazing what you learn when you really look!


Judging by this plaque on St James’ back door,
we are not the first people to have had the idea that
wisdom is everywhere when you really look around you

If you took part and want to add your own comments, please do so below.   Thanks for inviting us!

Street Wisdøm!

Friday dawned ominously cloudy and cold in Stockholm.  We thought we were in for Sleet Wisdom.  But by the time we gathered at the ultra hip Urban Deli at 1330 the sun was pushing through the clouds and as we started the Tune Up, church bells (synchronistically) started ringing.


It was a wonderful way to kick off the city’s first (but surely not last) Street Wisdom.   People were asking questions about personal life, career, new work directions, next steps.   And answers – as ever – were in rich supply.  Two participants even bumped into Sweden’s leading actor.  So it was a celebrity event too!

If you were one of those taking part, please add your comments below.   Tack!

I have pretzels and box wine. Take me to your artistic leader.


Messages from aliens spotted on by Thomas:   I have pretzels and box wine. Take me to your artistic leader.

March 2015: London reveals her secrets

A magnificently crisp winter’s day drew a small, diverse, but perfectly formed band of adventurers to London’s Covent Garden. As the morning mist evaporated and the city woke slowly around us, we began our search for answers – but our wanderings would lead us around unexpected corners of both our minds and the city we thought we knew.

Shaking sleepy Sunday heads, we were soon looking up, down and all around at the buildings, street life and shop fronts of this ancient part of one of the world’s great metropolises. Many of us were familiar with this well trodden tourist zone, having rushed through it thousands of times on our way to other destinations, but there were secrets lurking at its heart.

StPaulsAs our volunteer Street Leader, David Micklem, helped us to tune up, slow down and observe the world around us, a few in our group stumbled upon a hidden churchyard created in 1633. The peace and tranquillity found in its garden were ethereal in the midst of such a dense and busy area. A garden of snowdrops looked upon benches dedicated to those who had passed on and were much missed. It made me think a little about how I might like to be remembered one day and began a playful couple of hours as I tried to answer my question for the day: ‘How can I be a better, truer version of myself?’

The cobblestones are steeped in a million stories here and slowing…right…down gave the opportunity to be enmeshed with the dramas playing out all around us while sensing the history of lives that had gone before. Little moments that normally flit by came clearly into frame: the older couple holding hands, a red haired girl looking lost and despondent, the homeless man folding his clothes under a portico. It takes you out of your own head and into a zone where you’re much more aware of human interactions.

The Street is a wise and often capricious muse. I occasionally laughed softly to myself as I wandered the roads and alleyways of central London and answers appeared in the most unlikely of places. A maze laid out in a courtyard lured me into its dead ends until I finally found my way to the centre. A metaphor perhaps to keep trying, never give up. Above me, inscribed over a doorway, were the words ‘Que sara sara’ (What Will Be Will Be).

The answer to my question came from a sign propped up in a bookstore window. It was a quote from a new fiction novel: “You can be whatever you want, but you will always be yourself”. The shop assistant approached me and we had an interesting conversation about the book, which he had read. It got me thinking about the way we outwardly portray ourselves as opposed to our inner voices and convictions. Unhappiness appears when the gap between those two things is at its greatest and reconciling them is the key.

As I walked back to meet our group again, a holographic photo of Marilyn Monroe mouthed the word ‘Wow!’ at me and made me laugh again. Street Wisdom is nothing if not playful, joyful and unexpected. There were plenty of revelations to share amongst the 10 of us ranging from gentle insights and appreciation of the headspace to direct answers that hit some participants right between the eyes. For me, the messages from the street are always loud and clear – we just need to be ready to hear them.


Photos courtesy of Ashley Jones

Covent garden cobbles

Buenos Aires Wisdom – Dec 14

Buenos Aires Street Wisdom - Dec 14

It can be a challenge sometimes to slow …. right …. down, detaching yourself from the ‘everyday you’ that uses the streets merely as a form of getting from A to B, always calculating the quickest route.

Buenos Aires Wisdom - Dec 14 (9)So on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Buenos Aires, SW set out to change the way eight curious new recruits perceive their urban surroundings. We chose the colourful neighbourhood of Palermo, hoping its cobbled streets, graffittied walls and lively street markets would provide some fresh answers. A lesson in the art of street love and appreciation started with seeing the beauty in everything.

“It’s not often you’re asked to find the beauty in a pile of litter spilling over and out of a street dustbin” laughed Martin, one of the group members, “so I started to think about the joy and satisfaction each individual piece of rubbish gave to somebody once upon a time.” Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder. He then went on to spare a thought for the ‘cartoneros‘ (cardboard collectors who work by night and recycle the street waste) and how they must view the streets of BA.

After a series of similar Mindfulness exercises, each new recruit returned to our meeting point with smiles, stories and a new-found appreciation for an environment they knew so well.

Then for the grand finale: the group was instructed to walk the streets with a work/life question in mind. “Not too big, not too small. Somewhere in between ‘what’s the meaning of life?’ and ‘What side of the bed to sleep on?’” I explained to a group of initially puzzled faces.

The questions were varied, ranging from ‘Do I stay in Buenos Aires or should I move to pastures new?’ to ‘I need inspiration for a book I’m writing.

One by one, everyone came back buzzing with new ideas, enthusiastic to share their thoughts.

Buenos Aires Street Wisdom - Dec 14Jayson, who was looking to make the most of some new free time, went into a book shop and was drawn to a music book, then found the same obscure African instrument in the street market that he regretted not buying on a recent trip to Africa. He never thought he’d see one again, so he’s going to buy it and learn to play!

Lorna, who wanted to worry less about money, realised a few things: she is randomly drawn to lampposts (!), but more importantly, no matter how much money you have, life will always continue to move forward. Money comes and goes, so it’s about enjoying whatever you have when you have it…And maybe trying to resist buying the lovely yellow handbag she ‘happened’ to wander past three times.

All in all, it was an enlightening afternoon and a successful launch of Street Wisdom South America. Each of the eight recruits have at least one person, if not whole work teams, who could benefit from opening their eyes and hearts to the streets, so the quest continues in earnest across the Atlantic.

Jack Coleman Street WisdomI’d like to thank Clemmy, Jayson, Lorna, Rosie, Gustavo, Anya, Grant and Martin for taking part.

Jack Coleman


‘Permission to stop, think and dawdle.’ An outdoor experiment in problem solving.

When we’re looking for answers in our working lives, we might pick up a book, look online or ask a friend. We probably don’t tend to look around the streets for answers.

That however, is what Street Wisdom’s designed for, a three hour walking-workshop to find inspiration in the everyday environment around us. Having been on a couple of Street Wisdoms facilitated by its founders Chris and David, I decided to host my own, inviting Lucy Taylor to join me as co-host.

I’d chosen the library since traditionally that’s a place people go to find answers; it was counter to that we headed outside, searching local alleyways, dead ends and shopping streets for ours. The group went off with a question to ask, such as, what direction to take their business in 2015; how to find new clients; how to incorporate the local community into what they do.

Having experienced Street Wisdom events in Soho and in Shoreditch, this experience in Leigh-on-sea felt different. Here, in a coastal town where the river Thames meets the sea, the attendees were much more familiar with the local streets than they would be in a big city.

Admittedly a cold Friday afternoon in December wasn’t the perfect weather for walking around slowly, so two hours after we started, against the backdrop of a stunning estuary sunset, we gathered in the warmth of the Peter Boat pub in Leigh-on-Sea’s Old Town. Over mulled wine and coffee the attendees shared their feedback. They told us that even though they knew Leigh well, today they had managed to walk in unfamiliar streets, they saw noticeboards, shops and businesses they had never previously. ‘It’s there but we don’t see it,’ said one.

One of the group had been brave enough to ask strangers for help with his question, and got great insight from talking to a homeless man. Several fed back that they had found value not so much in finding any answers, but through the exploration, in the process of Street Wisdom itself that unlocked something new.

Friday’s Street Wisdom gave people the opportunity to try something new, to be curious, to slow down in a town they thought they knew so well. As one person told me, ‘it gave me permission to stop, think and dawdle.’

I think of Street Wisdom as a live experiment, a process to reset your mind and rethink your approach to everything from creativity to problem solving. As Matt told me, as someone who walks around town at high speed, focused on where he’s headed, just the act of walking slowly was a new way of looking at the world.
Here are some more comments from four of the participants:

‘It was a great Friday afternoon away from the same old same old and interesting how we can learn to see and think more by removing ourselves from our normal environment and at the same time connecting with the environment we’re in on a deeper level.’ Andrew.

‘An eye-opening journey through the streets of Leigh that helped me connect with more of life than usual. Valuable experiments that can be used anytime or place giving us the potential to explore what we may overlook.’ David

‘Street Wisdom was a great experience. I was really surprised by how much more I really ‘saw’ simply by slowing down and by looking for something specific. I often look but without knowing what it is I’m looking for – today has given me a new technique to practice.’ Jo

‘Even though I did not come up with a specific question for this I found the exercise valuable in the questions that helped in noticing things and patterns that surround us. I believe I can use what I learned today to explore more, notice more and focus more by slowing down.’ Lisa

Ian Sanders is a creative consultant, business storyteller and writer.

Windy City Wisdom

What is the future of the workplace? What does it need to be? Does work even have a future?

These are the sort of questions The Workplace Conversation #TWPC is asking and on 21st November they mounted a Street Wisdom in Chicago to get fresh inspiration.

It was the first SW in the city, And the first ever Street Wisdom, as far as we know, to be held INSIDE. It was freezing in the city, so we took to the Merchandise Mart, a vast 1930’s industrial temple that was, when it opened the largest building in the world.

Today it’s a fascinating warren of art deco interior streets, home to – among thousands of other companies – Google, Motorola, Discover and the bustling digital start up hub 1871.

It turned out to be the perfect environment to hold a Street Wisdom. And this kicked off a really inspiring conversation about the road ahead for our workplaces and the work we do in them.

Lucky Creation (San Francisco)

Good LuckLucky Creation is the name of a wonderful vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  It’s also the place where we found ourselves discussing all that happened in our Street Wisdom on 4th April, the first ever event to be held in the USA.   We hadn’t planned to be there, but that’s Street Wisdom.  The right thing just sort of happens.   We didnt order off the very complex menu.  Having spent the morning trusting the environment to send us insights and learnings, we just asked our hosts to serve us what they thought was right.  Good call.    We talked.  We ate.  We talked through our Street Wisdom experiences.  We talked about being Intensely Laid-Back.  We thought about being Defiantly Happy.  We laughed.  We ate some more.   And to finish everyone had a go summing up their experience in a few short words on a postcard.   Here are some of those comments…

“I was wondering if I should move house.  Then I saw a business sign which read Hang On Realty”   Daniel

“Decided to decide later”  Erin

“It’s easy to forget your feet hurt”  Byron

“Experience Nature, City and Art with a child’s mind”  Paul

“Sacred City Streets.  They speak to you…”   Michelle

“It was refreshing to go for a walk with open eyes looking around and within for clues about things in my life”  Doug

All great comments – and do keep them coming!   And maybe the most succinct – and certainly most tasty – comment of all?  Lucky Creation.

Street Wis San Fran IMG_696220140405_100912_Clay St

Berlin Wisdom – 21st March 14

We held our first German Street Wisdom in Berlin last Friday. It rocked.
Many thanks for Karen for bringing together such a fabulous group of women.
It was also the first one that my wife has attended and therefore much was at stake.
When we were chatting it was obvious that the standards were high, many in the group were highly aware of how they process and really valued being able to take some time out in such a cool city to see what stimulus would do for them.
It was labelled a morning of decadence and it truly delivered

Our first stop was a park. Street Wisdom Berlin

What we learnt here was that amongst the craziness of a big city, there is an oasis of calm (and a few drug dealers to deal with)

Once tuned up, they were released on the town.

As ever, Street Wisdom delivered. Some had breakthroughs on projects, life and all manner of issues.

Others got clear on what their question really is.

Some used the opportunity to process in what was a bubble of groove in an otherwise crazy life.

Berlin is a great city for Street Wisdom, and the folk there embraced it fully.

I know that as a result one will be held in Dusseldorf soon, am therefore sure that Germany will soon have a load of Stasse Wisdom going on…

Chris BB