convening power

what i’ve called the practice of invitation, harvard business school’s rosabeth moss kanter highlights here as “convening power.”

The best CEOs do it. Effective entrepreneurs do it. Middle managers who become change agents do it. Individuals with passion do it. Weak leaders are too timid to do it. On September 20-22 former President Bill Clinton is doing it.

Hold those scurrilous thoughts. “It” is convening large groups to tackle big issues and commit to action.

The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) models the use of a widely-accessible but still-underutilized power in any sector or company: convening power. As leadership shifts away from hierarchical decisions-at-the-top-slowly-cascading-downward, to social networks and self-organizing, knowing how to use convening power becomes critical.

…On a small scale, that’s what meet-ups do. They are self-organized vehicles for finding out who has the interest and capabilities and then getting something moving. Women’s networks have started in many companies just because someone decided to host a breakfast and identify areas for problem-solving.

On a bigger scale, this model is used by courageous CEOs to morph the 15-person management committee into a 1500-person leadership cadre that comes together in one place, in fluid subgroups, to define issues and commit to solutions — like John Chamber’s strategy meetings at Cisco. In another case, a company in trouble convened 35 top people for a leadership conference; post-turnaround, they convened 350. With 350, much more work was done on the spot, including policy changes and action commitments fully embraced by those who would implement them.

Sounds an awful lot like Open Space and Inviting Leadership to me.