In the early afternoon of the first day of WorldBlu live — a remarkable global gathering of people who share a commitment to organizational democracy — Menlo Innovations CEO Rich Sheridan shared the moment when he knew he was in trouble. “It was Take Your Daughter to Work Day,” he began, “and over dinner, I asked my daughter Sarah what she thought of the experience.
“You must be really important, Dad.”
“Why do you say that, Sarah?”
“Because no one can make a decision without you first giving the OK.”
For Sheridan, his daughter’s candor helped him realize two essential, uncomfortable truths: First, he had created a team that could only move as fast as he could. And second, although he was doing important work, he was also robbing his colleagues of something essential.
Sheridan’s (and Menlo’s) story since then is characteristic of the people and companies that make the annual trek to participate in WorldBlu Live. And at this year’s conference, which is being held at the posh St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco, a sold-out crowd of the most eclectic community you could imagine — from cable company executives to college administrators to online retailers to students and software developers — is actively plotting the biggest and most audacious of goals: seeding a global movement that results in one billion people working in freedom.
WorldBlu founder and CEO Traci Fenton explains: “The shift we are witnessing worldwide is a shift from the Industrial and Information Ages to the Democratic Age. To get there, we must put into practice a fundamental assumption of democracy — that each person has inherent worth and dignity. Currently, most people live and work in environments that are still bound to the command-and-control model, that still govern by fear, and that still deny us the space to be our most creative and fulfilled selves. But we who are here know something powerful: that when we, consciously and deliberately, choose to design our workplaces based on the design principles of freedom — and not fear — we help people and organizations develop the collective capacity to change the world.”
Imagine, then, a two-day program designed to equip people with the skills they need to bring about such shifts in their own communities and organizations. Imagine a mixture of storytelling, breakout sessions, and unstructured time for conversations. And imagine a ballroom filled with people who don’t just believe a vision like Traci’s is possible — but that it’s already underway.
There are many inspiring and illustrative examples worth sharing (and a number of others can be found via the conference Twitter feed — check the #worldblu hashtag). I want to share one with you here: the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, an internationally-renowned group of musicians that has been, for more than 40 years, making beautiful music — and doing it all without a conductor.
“Traditionally,” explains Executive Director Ayden Adler, “classical music has maintained a near militaristic attention to order and hierarchy. Back in 1972 Orpheus decided to accept the challenge of creating its order and beauty out of the multiplicity of voices and ideas that make up the group. We believe that process is directly responsible for the richness and the passion of our performances.”
See below to see for yourself. Stay tuned for further updates, Tweets, and blog posts about this remarkable group of people. And ask yourself, when thinking about your own profession or workspace, what would YOU do tomorrow if you were not afraid?