Speaking Truth to Power in Organisations

This project explores a topic of vital importance to leaders in the 21st century: how to encourage open and honest conversation in their organisations in order to inspire innovation, adaptability and meaning, and protect against ill-informed decisions and practices that threaten survival.

Staying in touch with the collective wisdom of an organisation is a difficult discipline for a senior management team, especially in a successful organisation. Repetitive and usually rushed conversations with the same people simply harden into patterns that replay current knowledge and understanding; they allow little space for genuine insight. With the extraordinary pace and challenges presented to us in the 21st century, accessing insight, and then learning from that insight, is one of the most important sources of organisational competitive advantage.

Organisational learning and sharing is, of course, always mediated through the local power culture - and it is with a focus on what it takes to encourage 'truth to speak to power' that we anticipate identifying novel insights and practical approaches, that make it possible for senior people to hear what they  might be predisposed and encultured to miss.

Key questions being investigated by this research:

Some key questions include:

  • How, as a leader, can you make it safe enough for people to speak truth to power?
  • How can you encourage people to speak intelligently in the face of difficult issues and powerful others?
  • How can you personally develop an inquiry based discipline of listening, and suspend hard earned rules of thumb?
  • How do you recognise an organisation's conversational (and meaning making) patterns, disrupt the unproductive ones and amplify the useful?
  • How do you facilitate honest conversation, to mitigate the risks associated with dangerous malpractice?

How can I find out more?

We would be very pleased to hear from anyone interested in this area. Please contact Dr. Megan Reitz or John Higgins for more information.