Friday, 7 April 2017

Final Thoughts on Innovation and Entrepreneurialism Module, TMA1402

Just rounding off on the final day of the 2nd term of a three term Masters Degree in Digital Media. 

Phew, that was an interesting 12 weeks.

Facilitating what started as a rather disparate group of creative individuals, from a cross discipline pool of talents, ranging from Photographers, Digital Artists / web designers, Graphic Artists, Textile Designers and Fashion (oh, and not forgetting me as a Contemporary Artist & Illustrator), has been a challenge at times, but also great fun.

We set out with a brief that was highly flexible in many ways, almost to the point of ambiguity, but with the right mindset, determined optimism (especially on my part!), we've come a long way. 

Having set good boundaries to work within, documenting our thoughts and meetings, and most importantly, regular contact with our client, (Dr Liam Devlin), we have created a solid structure of delivery. By reflecting, evaluating and checking on the progress of our ideas, both informally in group chats, also with our client, and through formal presentations of those ideas, the group have created various artistic outputs, which meet the brief through innovative design choices.

Outputs from the exhibition, expressly designated as being suitable for archive, include artifacts that are complete in many cases, (Such as the internal reflections / e-portfolio web-site - Which for completeness (Created by Chelsea Horan and myself) can be found here:

a fully functioning Events Archive Website by Chelsea Horan and Daniel Ainsworth (here) >

- The above site is in production readiness for the closing event scheduled for May 5th.

We've started to finish off the long editing process of the film productions of the "Event Discussions" with the First Event (Edited by Grete Tvarkunaite and Adam Summerscales), below;

( Video By Adam Summerscales, April 2017

An example of a tangible output that we are proposing to hand to Dr Devlin as a little 'keepsake' is the production of a small book that details our 'interpretations' of each of the three "Discursive Documents" events.  The book will be printed for all the participants on the Masters Degree team, with some additional copies made available for the artists if they wish to have them.

While this is a work in progress, with the final event (the closing event) due in May, we have a few weeks to finalise the design and produce a sufficient print run of up to 20.

Above all, I think the outputs are 'fit for purpose'.  This is bourn out because of the positive feedback from not only members of the group, but other (albeit anecdotal evidence) casual viewers of our work.  This creates a positive sense of accomplishment.

Final Reflections & Conclusions;

  • It has been a pleasure to work with those people in the group who are organised and self motivated.  They have used their own autonomy and initiative to complete tasks to agreed group deadlines, and for that, as a facilitator of the group, I am personally grateful.
  • There were a small minority, only two or three within the team, who haven't chosen to, or been able to commit to the group in a particularly organised manner.  There will always be reasons for this, some intrinsic, some extrinsic, and the group structure must allow to accommodate for this. It's basic group dynamics, and good teams are flexible to take up issues.
  • I'm disappointed that one of the team started raising issues on the design of the internal website at the eleventh hour.  There has been ample time over the last twelve weeks to collaborate with the group and jointly define what might be acceptable and not acceptable for changes to be made in a timely manner.  Especially as the internal collaborative site was made available to everyone around week 8. To raise observations suggesting changes virtually at 'submission time' isn't very collaborative, or organised.
  • Perhaps in reflection, could this issue of someone only just getting involved in the final week be a failing on my part? That is, should I have been even more persuasive towards that individual to get engaged with the group much more at an earlier stage? 
  • But then again, as I've considered before, there are those who 'say' they want to engage, and those who actually do.  The American phrase of "there are those who talk the talk, and those who walk the walk" comes to mind.  What people say, versus what they do are two very different things. Simply put, actions do speak louder than words...


Ainsworth. D, & Horan, C. (2017): Website
Hadfield, G.P. & Horan, C. & al. (2017); Website
Summerscales, A.P. & Tvarkunaite, G. (2017); Video

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Thinking back over the last twelve weeks and facilitating the team for the ROTOR project.

Thinking again about the work I've been doing over the last twelve weeks, I've recalled some of the areas that have helped to keep the group happy and focussed, and some of the techniques that I used in my own industry over the last 30 or so years.

To maintain individual's happiness when working in teams, I have found that a key component to keeping those who 'want' to be motivated, (and those who's talents lie elsewhere), is to provide the critical element of autonomy; - the freedom to choose; to decide, to get involved, to produce something of their own.
(or not, as the case may be for some...)!

In the role of facilitator, one might view this very differently from a traditional role of being, say, a 'Manager'.  In older models of behaviour, a professional manager was expected to motivate people and constantly push them towards higher and higher achievements.  This works to a point. - But at what cost?

By driving people too hard, productivity actually falls, - it goes down in line with self-motivation, and I know this result from my own experience when pushing individuals in business to achieve KPI's (Key Performance Indicators) and sales targets too much; especially when working in an environment without the resources necessary to achieve what they have been committed to provide. (This also includes putting too much pressure on myself!)

A report that I read some time ago defined autonomy as: "the feeling that your life, its activities and habits, are self-chosen and self-endorsed." (Mautz, S. 2015, p126). Self-motivation and autonomy go hand in hand, each work in tandem with the other.  Without self-motivation, autonomy on its own doesn't create anything; but without autonomy to make many of your own decisions (within a good 'framework' of governance of course), then self-motivation on its own, without a level of empowerment, can become frustration and bitterness, both of which lead to a reduced creative output.

In his book, "Make It Matter: How Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning", the author Scott Mautz quotes Gretchen Spreitzer, a University of Michigan professor.  Her study found "that empowered employees report a high level of job satisfaction and organisational commitment, lower turnover, increased performance effectiveness, and increased motivation. Likewise, supervisors who reported higher levels of empowerment were seen by their subordinates as more innovative, upward influencing, and inspirational". (Mautz, S. 2016).

Mautz provided a framework in his report of eight methods to give people autonomy 'intelligently'.

Interestingly, I seemed to have followed this structure virtually autonomously! (What irony!)...
Mautz says: (I have Italicised his suggestions for readability in the following);

"1. Fulfil the foundational requirements
Ensure a baseline of trust, a practice of information sharing, and a willingness to delegate growth work,"  (Mautz, S. 2016).
This is the 'Framework of Governance'.  In week 2 of the project, after the team had voted for me to become their 'facilitator', I provided a structure to work within. This took the form of stated roles and responsibilities for each team member; a rough time plan; formalised & recorded meeting minutes and other devices, as a foundation for the team to move forwards with, through getting their 'group witnessed' commitment to operating within these loose, yet defined boundaries and expectations.

"2. Create an agreement for autonomy."
In week three, I created a signup sheet for each team member to agree to their roles and responsibilities, now that they had been established.  Everyone was given the opportunity to make their own 'choice' of contribution. Whilst I didn't feel the need to make the formal requirement for each team member to sign their names on a form (as with consideration, this was a voluntary group, - by tying people down too rigidly would probably have had an adverse affect.  In a commercial or salaried environment, such written commitments are, however, the norm). The simple fact that I had created such formalised sheet, and distributed all 12 copies of it so that each individual had a copy and knowledge of what each other's roles were, was felt to be sufficient.  This provided a level of committed 'buy-in'.  In other words, the individuals were not only making a commitment to themselves, but also to the wider group.

Example of Team Roles & Responsibilities documents,

with initial meeting minutes beginning to form.

"3. Facilitate recipient readiness."
"Provide training and resources and discuss the benefits of their newfound autonomy. Ease the fears of accountability that can come with empowerment by ensuring they're set up to win--and confident that they will." (Mautz, S. 2016).

The first few weeks of activity within the rotor team was very purposefully very "gentle", and I took a great deal of time to help to explain to each of the members what they had agreed to do, and what was required of each of them, but just as importantly, what the team should expect from me. Patience is happily, one of my better virtues, and I helped each person create a valuable contribution to the team wherever they had the appetite and capacity to do so.

"4. Provide intrinsic and extrinsic reward"
"More work without more reward is rarely welcome. And even if the work must be done, the motivation might not exist to do it. So ensure that there are intrinsic and extrinsic rewards..." (Mautz, S. 2016).

Bearing in mind that the rotor team had been asked to complete various activities on a voluntary basis, the need for continuous praise and the verbal reward was essential.  As the engagement was voluntary, extrinsic rewards of recognition must be sensitively delivered.  I have continually tried very hard to give recognition for all the good work that has been carried out, and I have tried to gently coach some members of the team who needed a little more encouragement.

There will always be people in a group who, for various reasons, may not be able to engage in either the way that they might want to or in a way which the rest of the group desires. Group dynamics, clashes of personalities; personal preferences to working relationships etc. are a complex sensitive human condition that we all fit somewhere into.  I've been careful not to let personalities or issues of motivation scupper the overall focus of the team.  My former management experience has been brought to bear on this through gentle guidance, individual counselling and sometimes direct persuasion.
Generally, I am very pleased that each member has performed well, at least to their own expectations, but mostly in excess of them!

"5. Facilitate by assisting success versus avoiding failure".
"Mistakes will be made when [people] are given autonomy--and then learning happens. So don't react poorly to their mistakes. Act as a facilitator, not a fixer, and allow delegated decisions.... 
shift to a mindset of assisting success. Help empowered people get past mistakes as needed, and then turn your energy back to finding ways to help them succeed." (Mautz, S. 2016).

While I find it reasonably easy to manage small teams like this one, of up to say, 15 people, much of my existing commercial experience in facilitating interpersonal relationships has been put to good use over the last 12 weeks.
I have seen a variety of management practices in my various vocational roles over the past 30+ years, (some good, some not so good, and some really awful!).  I've been able to recall those varied experiences and tried here, in this 'safe' environment, to practice the best elements.
I can remember a number of examples where individuals may have made genuine mistakes and I recall my late father's advice that "people who rarely ever make mistakes, rarely ever 'do anything' themselves!" It was good advice from him, - a company director who knew a great deal about the "humanness" of failure.

A failure is, in fact, a successful lesson, and any mistakes should be treated as such. I have witnessed too many managers in my own past, who were blaming everybody else and their employees for failures that arguably could be attributed back to them as managers. Unfortunately, by focusing on mistakes all the time, those managers were far less successful, and so their teams were equally less successful too.
Example of corrective 'Action Plan'
Thankfully, there have not been any 'failures' as such, as we have all been aware of our achievable objectives, and progress against plans has been carefully managed, applying corrective actions where issues were identified. (See week 7, mid-stage review, action plan for example).

The action plan was put in place to specifically address some observed concerns brought to the group through meeting our 'client' (Dr Devlin). This was extremely useful in helping to steer the team as they approached the 'implementation' phase of the project.
"6. Construct communication loops"
"Breakdowns in communication can mean a breakdown in trust between you and the empowered person. [Encourage] autonomous employees... to find ways to report back regularly on progress.
Checkpoints should be established to provide updates, encouragement, help, training in teachable moments, and to avoid operational drift whereby work migrates away from previously aligned objectives and parameters. 
"Those working autonomously can't forget to check in. You can't just delegate and check out, either. Communication needs to remain a two-way street." (Mautz, S. 2016).

We are social creatures. According to Robert Waldinger, a Harvard University Professor who has studied human motivation and 'happiness' over 3 decades, says that one of the critical things needed to keep people happy is to create healthy social relationships; strong 'networks' to use modern parlance. (Waldinger, R. 2015).

Throughout the whole engagement, after the team had asked me to help facilitate the work, I have made sure that there are clear records of meeting minutes, critical action plans devised and documented as necessary, a clear understanding of each of our availability including individual holiday commitments, and regular weekly progress meetings with clear objectives.
Example of initial Gantt Chart, showing key 'milestone' dates, timescales/timelines, resources and tasks
I initially created a Gantt Chart to show a graphical representation of timelines / tasks to be achieved and resources available.  While such Gantt charts are frequently used in industry and have been for many years, some of the group were not sufficiently familiar with this method and so I was able to provide additional alternative documented methods (e.g. See the Action Plan above in point 5), to help to communicate key issues and time constraints.
Nevertheless, I continued to use the working Gantt chart model for my own cross-referencing of events and to build a single picture of progress ('Actual' versus 'Planned' progress and so on).  The use of Gantt charts allows for what is known as "critical path analysis", which if simply put, is a visual ability to see bottlenecks in a plan. (That is, where conflicts arise because of task timing, execution and 'effort', out-weigh the resource ability to achieve them (in terms of time scheduling, critical task predecessors, task subordinates, execution time, labour and materials resource availability)).

I have also adopted and encouraged the use of "SMART" objectives too. (- More on SMART objectives later in this blog.).  This approach is essential to help generate action plans that are executable. (e.g. See Action Plan example in point 5 above).

"7. Covet communication loops"
"Communicate with empowered [team members] in such a manner that they actually come to covet the communication loops in place over time, viewing them as helpful and rewarding. (Mautz, S. 2016).

By holding regular meetings, and my adopting and adapting the University of Huddersfield's internal Microsoft SharePoint 360 facilities, the publication and communications network has been particularly efficient and useful. We have been able to use the SharePoint 360 facilities as an overall repository, for all the management and collaboration artefacts, together with the practical outputs from each of the "Rotor events". I have been at great pains to make sure that the internal collaboration pages are regularly updated, at a minimum of weekly, but in practice much more frequently. Everybody, therefore, has a clear understanding of where to find information, as well as where to save it.  The meetings have been clearly structured, using an agenda based framework with a review of previous agreements and actions, progress to date and forthcoming actions/actions arising.
See example of meeting notes below;

Example of Meeting Minutes (Week 11), Showing "Traffic Light" status.
"8. [Create} a measurement tether"
Periodically review progress on success criteria. It will keep you informed and keep the empowered motivated since they have tangible evidence they're on track to hitting their goals" (Mautz, S. 2016).

Because I have been able to facilitate the team through an acronym of "SMART" objectives, that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound: each of the actions on our action plan have had clearly defined statements which outline precisely those smart criteria, together with 'due by' or 'action by' date for everybody to see. More recently over the last 3-4 weeks, I have adopted a traffic light, red amber and green notation on the Meeting Notes (See example in Point 7 above), to help to highlight a sense of urgency on some items, where required. This has worked exceedingly well and I'm glad to report that almost all the actions, some 60 or so specific action points, are either complete (at the time of writing 47) and a further 13 amber status actions require some remedial work over the next four weeks to complete, prior to the closing event for the rotor exhibition which will be held on Thursday, 5 May.


  • While Mautz does provide a good framework to inculcate autonomy, I have generally been following his observations in any event.  It is interesting that his framework, having been found after I have already been facilitating the group for a number of weeks, fits with my approach methods too. 
  • I'm delighted that my management practices and facilitation skills are still effective, and current. 
  • Whether I continue to use these skills post MA study is hard for me to say, as I think much of the methods become baked in over time. 
  • I do, however, need to recognise when bad habits are drifting into my ability to facilitate teams, so this last twelve week period has been invaluable to me to bolster up innate skills.


Waldinger, R. (2015): What makes a good life? Harvard Study of Adult Development;

Mautz, S. (2015). Make It Matter: How Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning (pp127-129),
Mautz, S. (2016), Blog Article,   February 2016; Retrieved 2nd April 2017.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Adobe Premier Pro, V.s. Apple's Final Cut Pro. A Workshop with Dr Juliette MacDonald, Friday 31st March 2017

Following a very useful workshop in which Dr Juliet MacDonald compared the feature rich and fully integrated Adobe software suite "Creative Cloud" and its application Adobe Premiere Pro, against the Apple version known as Final Cut (version 7). It was suggested that we should try and avoid Final Cut Pro X (v10), because it seems that the Apple software is taken around the backward step.

Whilst Adobe After Effects is a good software application for animation, transitions and vector graphic imports, there are lots of layers and keyframes to it together with excellent control of title sequences, especially where there are lots of graphics that need to be intermeshed. The product is ideal for short time length videos.

Whereas Adobe Premiere Pro is much better for longer scale movies, simply because longer length clips are handled in a much more user-friendly way.

As a short exercise to get to grips with Adobe Premiere Pro, on opening the application
select "create new project".
Select the [editing] button on top.

Content and footage can now be imported, and it will appear at the bottom left-hand side of the screen. This shows a series of JPEG files
or sequences such as movie files et cetera (.MOV) or audio visual files (.AVI).

Once sequences selected, it can be dragged onto the right-hand pane, which is the "Timeline".
Use the timeline pointer at the top of the timeline area to scrub across the timeline frame.

The top left-hand panel shows the whole clip sequence, and it can be used in order to set your "In" and "Out" frames for your selected clip. (Also as a shortcut it is possible to use [I] to set the in position, and [O] to set the out position).

By using masks to create merged effects within a sequence, this can be a very useful tool. A combination of still photographs animated and overlaid with a moving image is particularly effective.

On the right-hand side of the bottom left panel [which can be navigated to through the shortcut of [~]] provides you with a view of the "Media Browser".

An important principle of Adobe Premiere Pro is that all the source files remain completely intact. That means that all the operations are nonintrusive, and hence our nondestructive. This is vitally important when you are using footage and editing on-the-fly.

To import files into your project, use either the "import" command or alternatively the Media Browser. These are two separate and different ways to perform an operation, something that regularly occurs in many of Adobe CC applications.

Once your raw files are imported, in the file menu, it is possible to create a new sequence. Try various video capture formats and choose the right input and output format depending on the following:
A) the constraints of the video capture
B) the speed and power capabilities of your PC or workstation
C) the intended output/audience/usage of your final film video.

In essence, the Adobe Premiere Pro screen is divided into two areas. On the left-hand side is the workspace or input area, and on the right-hand side is the output area effectively. If one thinks in these terms then the use of this application can become quite second nature and intuitive.
If using the timeline on the lower right-hand portion of the screen, it is also possible to double-click section sequence, which will automatically open the clip onto the left-hand top quadrant workspace area. It is then possible to use various effects of, for example, size, scale, motion position et cetera and a multitude of other effects through the "effects" tab.

Another useful pointer and suggestion when one is using projection mapping, especially with multiple projectors there is an open student free version of the application "Isadora" that many students have found particularly valuable.