We are proposing a creative leadership model for thinking together as a group. It’s not without challenges. One of the challenges is that we are very much used to the old paradigm, which is sitting back and listening to a lecture, then asking critical questions which do more for our ego than for the topic. Some of us like to show off our own knowledge on the topic, want to showcase our own creative leadership, or want to trip up the expert on some small mistake. Even if we are eager to learn more, we put ourselves in a position, not of a co-creator of knowledge, but of a passive recipient of understanding.
The lecture paradigm is comfortable for everyone. It’s comfortable for the audience, because they can sit back and listen, they can doodle or play with their smartphone. It requires a minimum of active engagement, which we are all familiar with from the long hours spent in that state at school. It’s also comfortable for the person giving the lecture. They have probably given the presentation many times over; if it’s written down, it’s a question of reading it correctly. If the talk consists mostly of slides, it’s a question of commenting on them and making sure of not going overtime. The PowerPoint itself tells the story. To be sure, some people do it very well; they have an engaging, or very humorous stage presence – it can be enjoyable, but it remains unidirectional and doesn’t involve co-creation.
Our creative leadership dialogue format is uncomfortable, because it requires active participation and active engagement. Participants ask the questions and structure the dialogue; they share the responsibility for an interesting outcome. It requires commitment and courage. The experts in creative leadership are encouraged to ask questions of the participants, to make it a true dialogue; this means it’s a two-way street, and participants need to abandon the comfortable position of being the only ones asking questions.
The forum format is also novel for the expert, and sometimes proves to be surprisingly uncomfortable. We thought we would be making it easy for our experts – just come as you are, and dialogue with forty participants – no lectures, no preparation, no PowerPoint. We are realizing that we are asking them to do something a lot harder. The lecture is literally something to hold on to. It can feel vulnerable to be sitting there, having to think on the spot and to be open to where the discussion is going. Our return guests find it much easier the second time around, when they know what to expect and get into the spirit of the dialogue more – not pushing their knowledge onto the world, but pulling in different perspectives and taking it from there.