Keynotes—talks and short workshops in creativity, leadership, ethics, and poetry

Published : Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Drawing on his accessible and inspirational poetry and prose, and on his experience as a teacher and consultant to businesses of all kinds, Mark delivers powerful and enaging keynote talks and short (two- and three-hour) masterclasses on creativity, ethics, leadership and clear thought and speech.

The struggle to improve our sentences, he argues, is the struggle to improve ourselves.

Good writing is not just good business. It is part of, and a way to, a good life. Good writing clears your mind, and it helps you lead. Good writing is also good, the way good wine is good, the way a healthy ecosystem is good. The way good sex is good. Oh, and good writing is good manners; it’s good ethics; it’s good politics. Writing better, one taps into one’s creativity; one considers one’s listeners; one finds one’s self; one clarifies one’s purpose and message.

Mark makes a compelling and surprising case for what poets and poetry—and more broadly, all good writing—can teach leaders, teachers, business people, scholars, politicians, bureaucrats, scientists. All of us who use words to do our work. And that’s most of us.

Here are some of Mark’s keynotes.

Twelve big ideas to change your writing life
The seven heavenly virtues of business writing
Six poems to change your life
The language of leadership
The poetics of power and the power of poetry
The poet within
Writing like a leader and how poetry can help
The disciplines of beauty
The rules for paradise.

To book Mark:

Making Economical Sense

Published : Monday, September 03, 2007

Mean as much—as clearly—as you can in the fewest syllables; this is what good functional writing aspires to. It’s the idea that organises the workshops I run for—and the other consulting services I provide to—a wide range of businesses, professional and government organisations. I work to help them make economical sense.

You do that not by favouring the long word over the short or the technical word over the familiar, or the bureaucratic over the vernacular turn of phrase; you do it by turning your writing into an accomplished kind of talking.

Good writing—at work or in any context, for that matter—is talk tidied up. That’s the secret to good functional writing; that’s how you make economical sense at work. That’s also why good writing is so hard—and it’s how, if you follow me, it ought to be hard. Writing exactly what you mean, without scaring anyone’s horses, as though you were an intelligent person talking clearly to another such person, but doing it without the help of gestures and eye-contact and tone of voice: this takes both courage and technique; it also cuts against many the things we thought we knew about business, professional, bureaucratic, academic and other kinds of functional prose.

Writing expresses the conclusions our thinking led us to. Here’s another reason functional writing falters—writers start writing before they’ve stopped (sometimes even before they’ve started) thinking; writers write to discover rather than to articulate what they think. So, as I say in my red book, arrive before you begin. Good writing demands clearer thinking and its orderly expression.

Good functional writing should be soundly made, elegantly voiced and astutely pitched. My consulting work inevitably works at those three goals.

For the range of my consulting services in this area click here.

I also run tailored inhouse programs for The University of Sydney’s Centre for Continuing Education


Allen, Jack + Cottier; Allianz; Austrade; The Australia Council for the Arts; The Australian National Audit Office; the Australian and New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists (ANZAP); the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation; the Australian Securities and Investments Commission; Boots Pharmaceutical; Centrelink; the Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education; Charles Sturt University; the Department of Energy, Utilities and Sustainability (NSW); the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (Commonwealth); the Department of Housing (NSW); Energy Australia; the Environment Protection Authority; Harvey Norman; Integral Energy; IBM; IMET; ITC (at the University of Wollongong); Macquarie Bank; Macquarie Generation; Meyrick & Associates; Mission Australia; NECG (National Economics Consulting Group); the National Office for the Information Economy; the National Prescribing Service; NSW Health; the NSW Medical Board; the NSW Parliament; Pacific Publications; Ramsay Health; Ridley Agricultural; Syntegra; The Universities Admissions Board; the University of Canberra.


Published : Monday, September 03, 2007

For some years I ran a course called “Leadership & Organisational Culture” in a masters program at The University of Sydney. During those years I wrote widely, gave keynote speeches and delivered workshops on leadership, as I understood it.

I put that work aside in the late 1990s to work on my doctorate and a number of books. In that time I have learned a lot about writing—and, I guess, the world—that has reawakened my interest and deepened my understanding about leadership. As a result I am working on a book on the subject, under the working title The Art of the Impossible; Or, Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There, and I am delivering keynote talks and short courses built on the ideas that book explores.  Which are these:

Poets, mythmakers, songwriters and storytellers know things that political and organisational leaders—that all of us—could do with. Poets and thinkers know things, specifically, about observing the world (the inner world of oneself and one’s fellows, one’s friends and one’s enemies, as well as the outer world in which life and business are enacted) and telling what they see. Aspiring leaders shouldn’t look to the lives of the poets but to the wisdom expressed in their lines, and the disciplines that allowed them to write the lines, for leadership lessons in seeing clearly, talking honestly and engagingly, gaining perspective, learning courage and emotional intelligence and so on. There isn’t a smart thing you can’t learn in literature. And the smartest thing of all may be learning to lead by slowing down long enough to read—not only the books but one’s self, one’s enemy, one’s past, one’s future and one’s setting. So, my book is about what poetry and great books can teach leaders about leading. Starting with leading themselves.

“Don’t Just Do Something; Sit There” is, I believe, an old Buddhist saying. Poetry teaches us—to make it and to read it—to stand still a while and notice, and look deep and to find words for only exactly what seems true.

“The Art of the Impossible” plays on the definition of politics as the art of the possible. I want to suggest, not that leadership is impossible, but that its practice takes one on a deep, steep journey, constantly, and calls for skills of depth perception, and much else that ought to be impossible, but isn’t if you know how to do it and how to stay the course. I also want to emphasise that leadership is the art of making what seems impossible happen. The leader is, properly understood, the philosopher in the world, the walking-talking storyteller, the wise man or woman, whose chief wisdom is to know how to listen and reflect and only then act. Who learns, from the journey, how to lead the right (corporate) life and how to do the right thing. 

The leader’s journey, like the pilgrim’s in Dante, and like the artist’s, is the daily impossible passage far beneath the appearance of things, down deep to some surrender of mere self and back to the surface again. From where the leader knows how to tell the community its own true story—not merely his or her own.

For detail on workshops and talks, contact Collaborative Business.


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