Power and Trust of Collective Intelligence (Part I)


What would you think of joining a worldwide community of Change Agents for three days in Berlin around a theme to reflect on the current state of the world?

For the past nine years, the Berlin Change Days have provided this opportunity. About 150 professional individuals and influencers passionate about driving change in organizations and in the world at large have joined the event which takes place each year in the fall, many returning year after year.

Berlin Change Days 2017 was Oct 27-29. I attended the event for the second year in a row. The experience was once again uniquely astounding and awakening. What makes Berlin Change Days so unique?

Part of the answer lies in the format of the conference and the themes explored at Berlin Change Days. But what really makes BCD unique is the alchemy and emergent dynamics that develop over the course of the three days.


Berlin Change Days 2017 : FORMAT & THEME

It should not be surprising that Berlin Change Days is not a conference where participants listen to lecturers or have discussions with one another, statically sitting in more or less comfortable chairs for three days.

With the exception of the opening words by the Berlin Change Days hosts and the opening key note, the event consists of 30+ workshops using innovative facilitation techniques crafted by expert facilitators to provide an experience on the theme of the conference.

This year’s Berlin Change Days theme was “Power and Trust – Leading change in a VUCA world.”

The opening words by Holger Nauheimer, Berlin Change Days founder and host, asking “What(TF) is going on around us?” referring to current events in the world, such as the rise of populism which has led to the most unlikely political landscape in Europe and the USA, set the tone for the conference.

In the opening keynote, Julie Diamond, author of Power: A User’s Guide, provided quick insights on Trust and Power. She basically established that we do not inherently trust each other. And therefore we cannot be fundamentally trusted with power. The way we use it can wreak havoc in how we engage in relationships with others. But using power well is something that can be learned.

Holger’s opening words and Julie’s opening keynote provided great insights on power and trust, to further explore in the different activities of Berlin Change Days 2017.

With more than 30 workshops running in waves of 7 workshops in parallel, the difficulty was to choose the ones to participate in.



Workshop #1: The Power issue in Agile Transformation 


For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had an issue with misuse of power and abuse of trust in every aspect of life. It was such an obsession that I made it a purpose in life to help address issues of power and trust in the corporate world. For 18 years now, I have been entangled in the power dynamics of agile transformations at large corporations.

In Berlin Change Days 2017 I was honored to share my experience through this workshop I co-designed and co-hosted with my two colleagues Catherine Boudlal and Christophe Kimpe.

The workshop sets the stage in a fictitious enterprise that undergoes an agile transformation. Through role playing, the participants experience what it feels to go through an Agile transformation in a pyramidal hierarchical structure from the perspective of the managers and the workers. The workshop ended with a debriefing circle where facilitators and participants had meaningful feedback on the experience.

Following the experience at Berlin Change Days 2017, I am planning on hosting this workshop again as a means to bring awareness to leaders on the impact of power misuse in Agile transformations.


Workshop #2: Navigating the Traps of Power by Julie Diamond

Power is taboo. We often equate the notion of power to that of positional power. Positional power is taken for granted. It is not easy to approach those perpetrating a misuse of positional power on this topic.

In this workshop, Julie helped us understand the different dynamics at play behind the notion of power. She helped us understand that positional power is not the only way of misusing power. She provided a common framework to open a dialog with one another on the topic of power and diagnose different ways to misuse power and what to do about it.

My key learnings from this workshop are:

  • There are different kinds of power: positional, social, relational, physical, educational, reputational, etc.
  • We make too much reliance on the same kind of power

The three main traps of power are:

  • Hiding behind positional power
  • Misusing a perceived lack of power by taking a posture of victim
  • Not acknowledging the gap between how power is perceived by the holder and the expectations others project on it


Workshop #3: Trusting the power of YOU by Simone Sloan & Minna Taylor

In this workshop, we practiced a few exercises to develop an awareness of:

  • How our confidence increases with our trust in others
  • How our behavior reflects/is at odd with our core values when we are in a higher or lower rank position than others
  • How to build on this awareness of the connection between our behavior and our core values to engage authentically with others in team dynamics

My key learnings from this workshop are good reminders that engaging authentically is key for building strong dynamics as a team member, as a leader or as a facilitator. I will definitely give it more attention in my day-to-day work as a coach, as a member of various teams and in the relationships with leaders I work with.

To be continued… Stay Tuned!



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