collective voice

Thanks for dropping by our blog page. Our team of over 60 full-time experts use the latest thinking in behavioural design and enablement via our people-shaped methodology to Make Better Happen for individuals, organisations and communities. Our specialisms of applied behavioural insights, design through co-creation and leading-edge social marketing and engagement are at the core of all that we do. Our mission is to be part of a society that is well, confident and resilient. If we can help you take a journey to be your best self, please call us on 0845 5193 423 - our promise to you is that we never settle for second best.

Revealing our true emotional selves – leadership lessons learnt from a day on the fellside

January 23, 2017 15:37

What can the limbic emotional systems of working sheepdogs and sheep teach you about yourself, about those you work with, and the impact you have on each other?

Natural Leaders is a leadership development experience like no other. With traditional team development, teams put their best foot forward for fear of showing their vulnerabilities. This veneer of bravery limits learning and is potentially damaging to your organisation.

The supportive and safe learning environment of Natural Leaders was created to go beyond traditional team building – providing a vivid experience for leadership exploration on an individual level, as well as within teams.

 “It’s in the most fantastic setting, a really, really interesting day. You’re there in front of a bunch of peers with you, a dog and some sheep and you’re expected to make things happen – and wow, it happens.” - Julian Parsons, Head of Service Delivery, Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire & Rescue Service

Using the latest behavioural science, you will unpack your unique leadership attributes and come away with new strategies, skills, behaviours and models for effectively handling situational leadership like change, strategy development and challenge.

“It gives you a different perspective on how others lead and actually makes you reflect on how you lead yourself” – Fiona Stobart, Chief Executive, Hospice at Home Carlisle and North Lakeland

You may be surprised to learn that sheepdogs and sheep use their limbic emotional systems to react, build communities, function effectively and instil leaders and followers.

Despite their capabilities, sheepdogs are not inherent leaders. Instead, they are naturally bred to want to serve and to be a co-worker. Like your best manager and leaders, they know one truth and that is to work for their shepherd.

“It was a really interesting way of looking at leadership and working with people and looking at it from a completely different perspective.” – Dr Rachel Preston, GP, Cumbria CCG

Are you the shepherd or the sheepdog of your group? In many ways, both act as leaders in a symbiotic way. The trust relationship is very powerful and built on love and relationship, knowing how each other will react at any given moment.

"The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers." – Ralph Nader

Our limbic emotional systems read body language immediately. With just 20% of communication being verbal and non-verbal making up the other 80%, we cannot afford to underestimate the importance of body language and emotional management.

The unbiased feedback from our working sheepdogs and sheep will enlighten you beyond your imagination. Once you are in the field, job titles, responsibilities and hierarchies become irrelevant. Our animal teams respond to your commands; they read body language and leadership in a pure and telling non-judgemental manner, giving infinite opportunity to improve how we work for ourselves, with others, and for others.

During this immersive experience, you will enjoy a team breakfast and a home-cooked lunch, with refreshments available throughout.

This is your space away from the distractions of everyday life; you and your team will be made to feel at home in our beautiful 1790s converted barn, equipped with a modern learning centre to maximise your experience and outcomes.

Reflection is encouraged throughout your experience. You’ll be amazed as you begin to notice behaviours in the field that reflect experiences in your daily working life.

“I know that the majority of our 12-strong team had mixed ideas in terms of what lay ahead as the day began; never in their wildest imagination did they envisage how interesting, challenging and thought provoking it would be.” – Hilda Yarker, Communications Consultant, Your Housing Group

We learn and grow and our creativity is most encouraged when we are in new environments and situations. To achieve our true potential as leaders, we must test ourselves and stretch ourselves. It’s amazing what happens when we use the natural rhythms and forces of nature to learn, grow and succeed.

This is what a team shared with ITV Boarder News when they visited Natural Leaders.

To find out more about the Natural Leaders experience, get in touch with Stuart Jackson on 0151 647 4700 or at

4 Habits of Creative Folk

March 18, 2016 14:07

I’ve developed a bit of an obsession around creativity - what it is and how we can practice it.

For me, creativity is the start of exercising choice; it’s helping people to change, and also how we create new models and concepts. Experiences and choice all start with ideas that add value.

Of course, there is evidence to suggest we know where creativity lives (in the right side of the brain, neighbouring with impulsivity and emotion), but how can we fuel it?

Inspiration or Insanity

I have looked into the habits of some of history’s most creative minds in the hope that I might learn some tricks to expand my own creative productivity.

Some things I found have been rather weird and personal!

Steve Jobs - routinely sat on toilets, dangling his bare feet while he came up with new ideas.

Yoshiro Nakamatsu (inventor of the floppy disc) – dived deep underwater until his brain was deprived of oxygen. He would then write his ideas on an underwater sticky pad.

Ben Franklin - started his days with an air bath - half an hour each day in his birthday suit in front of an open window - to read, write, and get his mental juices flowing.

T.S. Eliot - wore green-tinted face powder and lipstick.

Friedrich von Schiller - sought inspiration from the scent of rotting apples.

Yeah, I get it - do weird things to be creative! The good news is that you don’t have to. Exploring how these great thinkers achieved their ‘creative Zen’ has led me to insights of four habits that really do help me to be creative and what’s more, they are based on biology as well as psychology.

It should be noted that we could list lots of other tools, tricks and experiences that do help. My four below are what I get most impact from, and are simple to build into everyday life.

Your Time

Make time and space to really relax on your own. We know collaboration, open offices, and being connected are really important fuel to feed our creativity, yet our brains need time and space to join up the dots in their own amazing way.

The benefits of relaxation and being on our own are powerful in many aspects, including:

  • The opportunity to find your flow
  • Daydreaming
  • Thinking about the meaning of things
  • Resetting your level of focus


For optimal creativity, set aside time for solitude:

  • Take a walk in nature - find an environment where distraction is minimal but the atmosphere is inspiring
  • Set time aside for a warm bath or extended shower
  • Dark rooms or spaces can also stimulate the imagination (no horror films beforehand, though!)
  • Write things down as they come to you, keep a 'scrapbook' - digital or physical

Thinking Differently

The most original contributions in any field don’t result from efforts to please the crowd. Research by neuroscientist Gregory Berns suggests that iconoclasts (or at least natural disruptors) “bombard the brain with new experiences” which scramble existing categories, links and assumptions and forge new connections.

One study of more than 3,000 entrepreneurs and business executives found that innovators spend 50 percent more time trying to think differently -  and these intentional efforts sparked new ideas and associations. Think of an idea as this: a combination of old elements organised or joined together in new ways.


  • Take a different route to work
  • Spend time in new places
  • Listen to a different type of music
  • Try new food

The more intentionally “do it on purpose” we are, the better.


Research by Italian cognitive scientist Lorenza Colzato and her colleagues shows one type of meditation is particularly effective for creative thinking. It’s called “open-monitoring” meditation – in which you are receptive to your thoughts and emotions without focusing intensely on, say, your breath.


  • You can record open-monitoring meditation with a voice recorder or phone app. This allows you to ramble audibly about ideas whilst capturing all the thoughts - without breaking your stride
  • By contrast, the more traditional focused-attention meditation was better for “convergent thinking” (coming up with a single solution to a problem). So depending on where you are in the creative process, you can select different forms of meditation appropriately.


  • Try simple meditation for 10-20 minutes a day. A great app for this is 'Omvana'.

Embrace Challenge

The amazing creatives from our history were not tortured souls looking to punish themselves. They were believers, passionate to explore what mattered to them. They were adept at finding meaning and learning from their setbacks.

Some of the greatest creators had what the contemporary world may see as a disadvantage - a disability, mental illness, or significant loss - “a big change.” They channeled this energy from loss into their passion and what mattered to them.


  • To help with your own creative growth, try this as a new habit, view a setback as an opportunity to reflect and grow: 'What can I learn from this and how can I take that learning forward?' - the '5 whys' root cause analysis method could assist you here
  • Share your creativity and listen well to what people share back

Thank you for reading.

Best wishes,


For more information email or call 0151 647 4700