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Creative Growth: The Alchemist & The Octopus

Updated: Jul 27, 2022

Octopus and musician playing the saxophone/grafitti art
Photo by Crawford Jolly. Provided by Unsplash

As a creativity and growth coach I look at trends, metrics and research that reveal successful emerging strategies that can be deployed during periods of disruption and transition. Whether it is a company that has stalled because of uncertainty, or it is a leader concerned whether they have the skills and/or team for scaling up, the skills for the future are different than those of the past. Over the past three months, I’ve been interviewing and surveying leaders, asking them to evaluate their company and identify what new strategies and conditions are replacing the historical growth playbook.

For companies that are successfully driving exponential growth, even during the pandemic, two unlikely strategies are converging to help businesses and leaders become more adaptable, open to change, and connected. They are 1) the ability to transmute (change from one state to another) and 2) the ability to connect to many different fields, a state that I define as being tentacled.

As I looked at my most recent data (you can take the survey here), it was when the ability to be transmutable and tentacled at the same time was harnessed that exponential growth took place. In the individuals surveyed that had led organizations during the last two years, 72% said they agreed or strongly agreed that they used both skills adeptly. Compare that to the organizational evaluation: 73% agreed or strongly agreed that their businesses were tentacled, but only 27% agreed or strongly agreed that they were transmutable. Businesses are hard to change. Only 20% said their businesses were both transmutable and tentacled.

As I pondered what this might mean for both business leadership and businesses that are looking to grow, it is the intersection of using the ability to change states simultaneously with the ability to connect to other domains, thought leaders, in many different directions. It brought to mind that sometimes, what sounds like nonsense in a disruptive world, is actually a marriage, an unlikely romance, reminiscent of “The Owl and the Pussycat” union.

Here is my version of the Transmutable/Tentacled union. Meet the Alchemist and the Octopus. The Alchemist understands that to survive disruption, you must drive transformation from one state to another, and do it in away that meets both financial and growth objectives. The Octopus understands that to find a breakthrough ingredient, idea, or partnership you need to reach out in many different ways, sensing both the environment and possibility. And you need fertile ground or creativity to allow both to come together and grow. And that led to the urge to take creative license with Edward Lear’s legendary poem “The Owl and the Pussycat” first published in 1871 as part of his book Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany, and Alphabets. I hope it inspires you to dig deeper into the power of being transmutable and tentacled.

The Alchemist and the Octopus

Adapted by Kelly Tweeddale


The Alchemist and the Octopus took to sea

In a capsized inflatable boat,

They took metal dish-ies, a pail full of fish-ies,

And a dry sack of things that would float.

The Alchemist looked up to the stars above,

Mixed a potion of change in a jar,

"O delicate Octopus! O Octopus, ungloved,

What a sensational Octopus you are,

You are,

You are!

What a sensational Octopus you are!"


Octopus said to the Alchemist, "You artful chemist!

What winds of change you bring!

O let us join hands! To meet storms’ demands,

With your two and my eight leaving

Six seeking arms, to link other charms,

In a place where the Creative-Tree grows.

And there on an isle a Twiggy-twig stood

With a leaf, a bud, and a pose’,

One pose’,

Sweet pose’,

With a leaf, a bud, and a pose’.


"Dear wee tree, wish we to buy for one fish-ie

Your bloom.” Answered the Twiggy, "I agree."

So without delay, the pose’ was traded for a fillet

And the Twiggy-twig grew into a Tree.

They added blooms’ petals to the potion that changed metals

To gold, raining plentiful as an oncoming monsoon.

And hand in hand, around Creative-Tree in the sand,

They danced by the light of the moon,

The moon,

The moon,

They danced by the light of the moon.

Inspired by “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear

Break the Tape Leadership helps leaders unleash creativity and potential in themselves and the organizations they lead to generate meaningful momentum.

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