The Art of Creating Safe Spaces for Creative Leadership

This post is dedicated to one of our "obsessions" at LeftFieldLab: Creative Leadership. It's an emerging discipline that augments the traditional leadership toolbox to foster a new mindset that seeks to enhance an organisations creative problem solving capabilities. As discussed before both our school and university systems don't encourage creative thinking at all - the opposite seems to be the current paradigm with the STEM ideology (e.g. engineering, maths, science) driving the knowledge agenda in most countries. But luckily there are some great experiments happening at the fringes, so a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to visit a Creative Leadership course at the Kaospilot School in Denmark. Allow me to reflect on a few things that I took home with me from this quite transformative learning  experience:    

To create a "safe space" for deep creative thinking one must step out of the "facilitator" role. Many of us that have to host workshops or ideation sessions fall into the trap of just facilitating - which might entail running through a list of exercises, filling out templates and some more playful stuff that might involve LEGO. At Kaospilot we where encouraged - stretched is probably the better word - to forget the template / structure / crutch and start with a good dose of humility, vulnerability as well as listening skills. The latter works on three levels that are best described by way of metaphors: the mirror, the tunnel as well as the antenna. The "antenna" mode of listening is key when working with large groups in order to "read" the room and manage the energy flows of the session.

Another great technique involves the power of pause, hesitation as well as silence and is called "smell the fart". This is used by conductors of large orchestras and it's that moment of expectant tension before everyone starts playing and the conductors gaze pans across his orchestra to focus everyones attention on the task at hand. In staying with this metaphor from the performing arts, we also looked at creating "arches" which are little movements that help us manage creative tensions and idea flows in groups.

The final thing I want to share today is the value of deeper personal connections that are formed through meaningful conversations, asking the right questions and giving good feedback. It started out with none of us having to share our jobs, titles etc. but rather listening to each others stories in a one-on-one session under the title "In my life I want to stand for..." which opened up a much deeper space to connect as a group. Then we were also encouraged to ask open questions that seek to proben deeper into the choices we have made in the past and how that might influence our future journey. And finally we used appreciated feedback techniques at the end of each day that center around two dimensions: "You really served the group well by..." and "I want to see more of..." this aspect of your personality.

These are just some of the ideas that I took home with me to Cape Town after 3 intense days of introspection and interaction, so I am happy to report that we are going to host the Kaospilot Creative Leadership session in the Mother City in October 2018. Please get in touch if you need more information.