“From passive consumption to active co-creation”


Didier Marlier

July 11, 2010

From Disruption to Engagement

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“This was the best experience of my professional career: the program you designed kept external interventions to the minimum and allowed us to share our own experiences, learn together and from each other. We now feel that our future does not depend from consultants but is entirely in our hands!” This was one of the most moving feedback we received in our career this week when my partners Tritia Neeb, Ben Clayton-Jolly, Michael Newman and I ran a “Leadership in action” development program with one of our most cherished client.

Inversely, one of our other partners still vividly remembers the Management Conference he recently witnessed; The purpose was to engage the top 300 leaders of the organization and the management team had heavily invested in it: 5 stars hotel, top external speakers (paid a fortune), the “big guys” flying on the compound by helicopter to provide a feeling of power and success to the rest, a rather generous take-away gift under the form of Ipads… If that wasn’t an obvious willingness to engage and celebrate, what else could it be?

It was a disaster… The whole style of the conference went a bit like on the short clip here below where a new leader (Rolo Lee/John Cleese), in charge of a new strategy has been parachuted to engage the whole organization… The  meeting switches people’s energy into passive consumption then silent and disengaged obedience.

Very different are some of the sessions we recently were invited to, in several parts of the world, by different clients. The executive teams had chosen much simpler (and cheaper) residential areas but with a strong informal style and intimacy conducive atmosphere and service.

Leaders were clear about what was non negotiable and presented it in a didactical style (explaining how and why they had come to such conclusions) and invited rapidly their people to join them in co-creating clarity, meaning and ownership about how the new strategy, organization or culture would be implemented. Leaders were not “broadcasting” but constructing, they were connectors rather than directors (as Gerd Leonhard would say).

They were no prestigious speakers: their time was allocated to engage people into talking to each other and get to know each other better.

When observing those conferences where openness and transparency were truly lived, I can’t prevent myself from thinking to the arrogance of a  Personal Assistant, a few years ago, intruding into our debate with her boss (who rapidly agreed with her): we were trying to encourage them to open up, build bridges with their people, show intimacy and approachability while engaging them into owning the strategy. In a shock, she replied: “Strategy is too important to be shared with employees…” There you are, this company is history today…

On my way to Zürich… Have a great week all and a good holiday for those of you taking some!


  1. simon Robson

    The training was excellent. I have already had the opportunity to share the things I learned with others, and by doing so, continue to reinforce the lessons. The exercises, speakers, and the three elements that make up a persuasive delivery (Ethos, Pathos…) were very good and the lessons were well thought out. The secluded setting allowed us to meet with fellow participants after dinner to share stories, experiences, and to generally get to know each other a little better. This has been the best Rhodia training I have had, and feel privileged to receive it. Thanks to my team members, and especially Ben and Tritia (who both spent a lot of extra time with us) for this very enriching experience. Good luck to everyone and remember to use what you have learned,

  2. Ivo Knottnerus

    Hi Didier,

    How are you I hope all is well.

    Unfortunately, residing in Istanbul now, the video is blocked by the Turkish government, and so is You Tube. I hope to find a way around it soon…

    Coming back to your blog… I fully agree. I can speak from my own experience at my previous company that we once had a session where we were invited to co-create the strategy of the company’s University and all it learning and development involved. It was a very basic meeting with 20 people from all over the company who together created the new strategy. We were involved, committed and there were no speakers. Break and dinner times were to get to know each other better and during sessions we worked together in small groups to co-create and slowly owning the new strategy. We all felt so powerful after words. Incredible.

    How different from another session I was invited too… the whole day was filled with speakers and after the third one – which was not bad after all – you saw people dozing off and thinking about the work that was left behind at the office. People were not at all engaged and nothing had sunk in after the 2 days. It was a complete waste of money to have such expensive audience and not using any of their abilities, intelligence and ideas.

    Have a good week further on.


    Ps. I liked the iPad gift though .

    • Didier Marlier

      Thank you Ivo, well for all of you still victims of under-developed ways of thinking, simply download “Hide my IP” which is great in fooling IP providers and you should be able to choose as an adult what you want and do not want to see… This being said I understand the anger of Muslim countries after youtube and other facebook accepted to publish this rather idiotic call for hatred tat were the “make a drawing of Mohamed”… Not really the smartest way to build bridges with the muslim world…
      Thank you for your other comments, take care

  3. Ivo Knottnerus

    Thanks a lot Didier for your tip to “hide my IP” :-). I will look into it right away, have a great week ahead :-).


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