Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. A memorable line, but Scotland’s Loch Ness is only 27 miles long and we still don’t know if there’s a monster in there or not. Without knowledge, imagination remains fixated on the unknown and produces fantasy more than discovery. A dominant discourse in organizations today declares that they operate in a “knowledge economy,” that they are filled with “knowledge workers” who create “knowledge products.” What role does leadership play  in that discourse? Gregory Bateson, the British anthropologist and cyberneticist, once wrote something to the effect that conversations are all that people have between them. Perhaps one role for leadership is to engender those conversations — across silos, beyond functions, unmindful of title or position, seeking the commonplace amid our differences. All of us lead when we interact with one another to meet a challenge for which our current understanding cannot provide an answer. Some people might call that creative leadership. It does not distinguish between imagination and knowledge. It doesn’t have to. It only has to keep the conversation going.

4 thoughts on “Talk the Talk

  1. Chris Deaver says:

    Great point. It’s interesting that as we move into this new, dynamic innovation-driven economy, how the principles of the knowledge-driven (goal of effectiveness) and labor-driven economies (goal of efficiency) apply even more dramatically. It’s not that we let go of anything, it’s simply that the new leader must now be equipped with more layers of capabilities.

  2. Chris Deaver says:

    Great point. It’s interesting that as we move into this new, dynamic innovation-driven economy, how the principles of the knowledge-driven (goal of effectiveness) and labor-driven economies (goal of efficiency) apply even more dramatically. It’s not that we let go of anything, it’s simply that the new leader must now be equipped with more layers of capabilities.

  3. Pete Scisco says:

    I agree with you, Chris, insofar as leaders don’t have to let go of one thing to grasp another. I sense from your response that you situate yourself from a view of abundance, not scarcity. I share that view. I part company with you somewhat in that I don’t think it’s necessary for leaders to gain more layers of capability (of course it’s always good for them to to learn and develop if they want to adapt and thrive, like anyone). I’m exploring the idea that the knowledge in organizations (in the world, for that matter) is bound up in our practices. Conversations (interactions, dialogue, whatever you want to call it), help turn practice into a discourse. That in turn lets us share and create knowledge and, with some effort, direct that knowledge back into our practice. Ikujiro Nonaka called this a “knowledge spiral” in 1991 HBR article. Leaders can advance and engage discursive power, I think, without equipping themselves with more layers of capabilities other than the capability to generate conversations. As you have done here. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Pete Scisco says:

    I agree with you, Chris, insofar as leaders don’t have to let go of one thing to grasp another. I sense from your response that you situate yourself from a view of abundance, not scarcity. I share that view. I part company with you somewhat in that I don’t think it’s necessary for leaders to gain more layers of capability (of course it’s always good for them to to learn and develop if they want to adapt and thrive, like anyone). I’m exploring the idea that the knowledge in organizations (in the world, for that matter) is bound up in our practices. Conversations (interactions, dialogue, whatever you want to call it), help turn practice into a discourse. That in turn lets us share and create knowledge and, with some effort, direct that knowledge back into our practice. Ikujiro Nonaka called this a “knowledge spiral” in 1991 HBR article. Leaders can advance and engage discursive power, I think, without equipping themselves with more layers of capabilities other than the capability to generate conversations. As you have done here. Thanks for sharing!

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