Work Leading Life: An Opening Chapter

Tom Foster

Meeting People. Telling Stories. Crafting Experiences.

These are the three fundamental tenets of Quicksand. These activities are our process. They are activities we believe in. They are what we’re all about.

I understood this from afar – exactly one year ago, living in London – before I even registered my first enquiry for work with my esteemed now-colleague, Kevin. But a modest assurance from deducing something to be true, as set against a profound certainty arising from an experience are two quite different propositions.

To explain this and relate it clearly, I thought my inaugural post on our blog could adopt the structure set out by our three tenets. In doing so, I hope that I can begin to illustrate the potential that our human-centred process has for the realisation of even the humblest of talents.

But, as I was hired as a storyteller of sorts, I would like to begin with the area I consider as my domain. It also somehow feels more apt to begin with an opening chapter.

Presenting during a visioning exercise at the Quicksand offsite to Coorg.

Telling (my) Story

I joined Quicksand in February this year. May marks my third month as a full member of the team. More than this, I hypothesise that my arrival in our Delhi office signifies an evolution of character in my life.

Juxtaposition. It’s good for all of us. Remove yourself from your context, find an environment that challenges you and then exercise your human instincts. I’ve long known the benefits of this, but the formative challenges I sought out – and grew from – in life never quite managed to match those I sought in my work. And one’s work is a sure place to look to determine a sense of purpose and meaning in life.

To become a Quicksand-er I took a bold decision: I left my home to come to India from London. Not to seek any great fortune, but to seek full contact with life through immersion – which, as readers will know is the defining step of any design model. Perhaps an apt metaphor for subsequent chapters of the journey to come.

At Boatcamp 2016: a social entrepreneurship bootcamp that took place on a boat between Rome and Barcelona.

Meeting (my) People

Arriving in Delhi for work after a long courtship, I was excited, anxious and slightly overwhelmed – all very understandable human responses to change. But the overwhelming impact was surprisingly one of stimulation and alertness.

Very quickly, I found myself in south India for the immersive phase of a corporate branding project. Soon after, I was somehow back where I went to university – in Leeds, UK – helping to explore an interactive art collaboration that had emerged from our ever-evolving design platform, Unbox.

So far – and not exhaustively – I’ve contributed to grant proposals, sketched out user interfaces and interviewed ethnic drinks vendors under the shadows of immense southern temples. I’ve been from Madurai to Mumbai, to Bangalore and back, seeing more of this – to me – unchartered part of the world than I’d ever previously believed I would.

All of this, whilst slowly and purposefully learning to know my new colleagues, nay friends. And, importantly, learning to let them know me.

These kinds of experiences, all at once – relocation, travel and the unleashing of creative confidence – change a person quickly. So much so, that I’m tempted to refer to these last few months as an awakening.

The Quicksand team discussing future plans whilst in Coorg.

Crafting (my) Experience

Because we deal in the currencies of information and process, it’s a necessary activity at Quicksand to regularly debate our proposition and identity. Or, quite simply – to constantly retell our story.

In the latest iteration of our business development materials, Quicksand defined the quality of its innovation by the individual personalities within the team. An idea which resonated powerfully with me as I made sense of my own recent developments.

This felt like a deep acknowledgement of humanity – a recognition of the force which defines our capacity for ideas and innovation. In the context of emerging friendships, my job has started to feel like an invitation to nurture a personal sense of agency in the world.

In return, my expected contribution is to bring this liberated agency to bear on the problems we identify and solve. Basically, whether for colleague or clients, Quicksand is a prompt to seize control of your own story.

With Quicksand, I feel that I have begun to close the gap between my personal identity, and my profession. I can feel the quality of my ideas growing, fuelled by an imagination which is increasingly alive to the world. I feel the lines blurring between work and life.

This model I’ve happened across, is really an inspiring model for living well.

I can’t wait for chapter two.

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