Power and Trust of Collective Intelligence (Part II)


Workshop #4: From Inner-Leadership to real Co-Creation by Ursula Hillbrand

I decided to attend this workshop because I was genuinely inspired by the short video Ursula presented at Berlin Change Days 2017 in which she explained how she was able to bring positive change in the way people engage with each other at the European Commission through participatory events she facilitated.

In this workshop, Ursula offered some practical insights into the four fold practice of Participatory Leadership, the framework she used at the European Commission. Participants discussed what their strengths and weaknesses were with regards to the four practices and where they needed more practice.

What is Participatory Leadership?

Participatory Leadership, also known as the Art of Hosting, is a highly effective way of harnessing the collective wisdom and self-organizing capacity of groups of any size.  Based on the assumption that people give their energy and lend their resources to what matters most to them – in work as in life – the Art of Hosting blends a suite of powerful conversational processes to invite people to step in and take charge of the challenges facing them.

What is the four-fold practice?

The four-fold practice is a set of four practices for individuals to authentically engage in conversations at Participatory Leadership events.

The four practices are:

1. Be Present: personal practice to learn to host self in conversation

2. Practice Conversation: dialog practice with others to learn to participate authentically

3. Host Conversations: facilitation of events to build trust for innovation and change

4. Co-Create: participation in co-creation of innovation to address complex challenges


My key learnings from this workshop are:

The meaningful results obtained in the participatory events Ursula hosted at the European Commission reinforced my convictions that the future of leadership is to unleash untapped collective intelligence in organizations and empower people to engage in new and different ways with each other to co-create innovative solutions to address complex challenges in the world. But based on my experience as an Enterprise agility and leadership coach, it is easier said than done.

Leaders find it more and more difficult to manage the increasing complexity of today’s world brought on by globalization, the rapid rate at which new technologies appear, and changes in customer interactions. Yet the current directive, top-down management system continues to prevail in most companies. It is a strong model that is working still exactly as designed originally over 100 years ago.

It only takes a look at three of its main characteristics to demonstrate it:

1. Strong auto-immunity to change and very low entropic tolerance:

Any change initiative introduced to the system, even with strong executive sponsorship, has limited impact on it. It is by design. As soon as things do not go according to plan, management takes control to revert to what they know.

2. Self-promotion of the management model:

The system creates a strong attraction for the role of manager as the role comes with an increasing economic valorization and empowerment over an increasing number of individuals with each step up the corporate ladder. In most companies, climbing the corporate ladder is also the only possible career advancement.

3. Self-regulation through expendable manpower:

The system supports an organizational structure that organizes jobs on a division of responsibilities to minimize skill requirements and make it fairly easy to enable manpower replacement. Today, most companies have staffing strategy of roughly 50% full-time employees vs. 50% externally-contracted employees. It has become a commonly accepted practice that the externally-contracted base of employees be replaced at the companies will. This practice is a powerful lever for leaders to regulate company operational costs.

Meanwhile results from employee engagement surveys show employee engagement at record low year after year. Corporate initiatives to “drive” employee engagement, team empowerment, and “harvest” collective intelligence have little inference on the results. Leaders continue to fail to acknowledge the principal cause of this is the directive, top-down model of leadership they continue to hold on to.

So my key takeaway from Ursula’s workshop is that a cultural change towards Participatory Leadership must start with a pilot initiative with the HR department. I am determined to experiment with this in 2018. I will write another blog article later to share my experience…

Discover the first part



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