A good friend of ours, Steve Chapman, has just completed the most awesome project, partially powered by the Artefacts he kept on his wall as a record of progress. We just had to ask him to tell us all about it...
I only ever seem to find out what my projects are about the moment I finish them. They’re more organic than mechanic and tend to start out as a curious question that then takes on a life of its own. I see my job as simply following their often-erratic path to see where they lead me. To nurture and nudge rather than manage and measure.
In early 2018 one such curious question came to me whilst out running. It was prompted by seeing yet another tweet about yet another brand-new leadership podcast promising to reveal top leadership secrets to turbo-charge your career and turn you into some sort of omnipotent LinkedIn god. Or something similar. I didn’t read on. But whilst out running I started to wonder if the medium of podcasting had become all a bit meh! “I wonder what the opposite of a podcast might be?” I thought to myself.
Two and a half years later I found myself recording the penultimate 99th episode of Sound of Silence (the world’s first silent podcast featuring special guests) with comedian Eddie Izzard backstage at a theatre in Bexhill-on-sea.
This was never part of the plan, but that’s what I love about having no real objectives – wherever the project wants to go is always so much better than where I would have led it!
Now, recording the world’s first silent podcast featuring special guests isn’t as easy as it may sound. Or if you weren’t thinking it sounded easy – recording the world’s first silent podcast featuring special guests is as difficult as it sounds. The biggest and most problematic problem was finding guests who a) didn’t think it was a Chris Morris-esque wind-up or b) didn’t suspect that I was luring them to a quiet place to murder them! I needed to cast my net wide in the hope that at least one person would say “yes” which meant sending out many, many invites.
I am a visual thinker and my plans tend to change and morph on an almost daily basis and, as this project had the added uncertainty of involving lots of other people, I turned to my trusty supply of Artefact cards to help me make sense of it all.
Whilst I spent many years managing projects with Gannt charts and various metrics and dashboards, I find it so much more helpful (and exciting) to be able to physically move cards around and, on occasions, rip them up in a fit of frustration and throw them in the bin.
So in the spring of 2018 I created four zones on the wall of my little studio for different categories of cards. Zone 1) Potential guests – people I’d love to have on the podcast, Zone 2) Guests who had said “yes” to being on it but I’d yet to record with, Zone 3) Guests whose episodes I’d recorded but not yet broadcast and Zone 4) Episodes that had been broadcast.
I guess there was also an unofficial fifth zone which was the 60% of guests I asked who said “no” or ignored my request. Week by week the cards would gradually move from zone to zone. Some made it all the way to the end and others didn’t. As time progress I realised that this was not only a brilliant way to keep track of things, it was also an invaluable way of keeping motivated. In the moments I felt like giving up I’d glance up and notice that more and more little yellow cards were making their way across the wall to the glory of zone 4!
At lunchtime on the 25th August 2020, the final 100th episode was broadcast and, with a sense of satisfaction (and a dose of “thank **** for that!”) I added the final card to zone 4. After 18 months, and an inordinate amount of train tickets , the podcast was finally complete.
And for me personally, the completed collection of artefact cards is equally as beautiful as the completed podcast. The plan has become as much of a work of art as the work of art itself.
I bet nobody has ever said that about a Gannt chart!
Steve is an artist, writer and speaker interested in creativity and the human condition. The silence collected through his Sound of Silence project has been turned into an online exhibition of silence that can be visited at www.soundofsilence.org.uk. You can find out more about Steve at www.canscorpionssmoke.com or follow him on Instagram/Twitter via @stevexoh.