Poetry & Innovation

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I had the privilege of spending an evening and a day with the Poet David Whyte last weekend in Charleston.  He talked about a major presentation he did for the senior leadership at Starbucks.  As one executive expressed it, “The ways of thinking and the language that we use that got us this far are not sufficient for where we now find ourselves.”  Having consulted with more than a hundred organizations and also coached many senior executives over the past 27 years, I too am finding that most senior leaders and their teams do not have an adequate language or way of conceptualizing and expressing the territory they now find themselves inhabiting.  The rules have fundamentally changed and the enemy turns out to be the very ways of thinking and communicating that up to this point have made us successful.  We now need a more open level of expression and a more flexible way of understanding both who we are, who are customers are, where the world is heading and where we now find ourselves standing.

We all need a more open, less restrictive way of thinking, communicating and interacting if we are to have the imagination, creativity and connectivity to respond and innovate most effectively.  One of my greatest teacher’s in this realm of thinking was the great visionary poet, William Blake.  For example I find a great resonance and freedom of thought that is evoked in me by his statement, “How do we know but every bird that cuts the airy way is but a world of infinite delight, closed to our senses five.”  Or take for example, “To see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wildflower; to hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.”

The challenge for all leaders and teams is how to both deal with rapid discontinuities AND how to become more innovative.  The enemy to both is “old ways of thinking” and old forms of communicating, connecting and relating that limit human potential, imagination and capacity.  How will you begin to open up your own thinking and invite into your life and that of those around you a larger, wider and more openly creative way of seeing and embracing the world?

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