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#11 Be. Leadership August 2013 - Wisdom, Creativity and Courage

By Alison Fitzpatrick

The topic for our 2 day Be. Leadership session in August was "Entrepreneurship and Innovation".

We began the weekend with inspirational quotes from Dr Seuss and Richard Buckminster Fuller – two incredibly innovative thinkers. This set the scene for the speakers who followed.

Our first guest was Gael Surgenor, a social entrepreneur who is currently the manager of Community Development and Safety for the Auckland Council. Prior to this role she had successfully led a number of high profile campaigns for the Ministry of Social Development.

Gael talked about social intrepreneurship – this is when a person behaves like a social entrepreneur while working in a large organisation. She talked about creating the space in an organisation from which one can innovate and create change. She discussed the paradoxes that emerge when issues are viewed through a lens of complexity: tight and loose, light and dark, growth and decay. Holding these apparent contradictions has helped Gael become the innovator she is today. It is all about being comfortable with the tension of opposites. I think Gael would make a good mathematician – an algebraist, no less!

Next, we were privileged to hear from the lovely Qiujing Wong, a social entrepreneur who is the co-founder and chief executive of Borderless Productions, a social change agency working in the rich medium of film.

Q spoke with verve and vigour. She introduced (many of) us to a concept called "anti-fragility", where setbacks, shocks or volatility can be beneficial to a person or project. She advised us to be comfortable with vulnerability and embrace anti-fragility. I think Q would make an outstanding physicist: she would make "anti-matter" matter.

Q's backstory is fascinating. Her courage, work ethic and social conscience are an inspiration. I loved her definition of leadership – that it is all about connecting in with other people’s motivation.

Our third speaker was Elisabeth Vaneveld, the Executive Director of The Big Idea – Te Aria Nui. Elisabeth is an innovator and strategist who also has a fascinating backstory. She spoke about serendipity – a concept very close to my heart and something that came into all of the speakers' stories. Elisabeth gave us a good definition of innovation – that it is applied creativity which adds value in and above itself. By workshopping ideas, she got us to decide whether we as individuals were innovators, entrepreneurs, or both. She advised us to be comfortable thinking in an empty space. Start from nothing then create that big idea, that big compound, just like a chemist. Elisabeth’s facilitation style was constructive and almost playful.

Huge thanks go to our three speakers for their generosity of time and spirit. They demonstrated wisdom, creativity and courage and showed that it is possible to innovate and create, regardless of the constraints that exist all around us.