Innovative Leadership Seminar

13 Jul

How do you decide whether a conference was worthwhile? Many people I know say things like, “If I can just take away one useful piece of information, new tool, or practice, the experience was worth it.” This seems like a pretty low bar to me. Granted, I’ve said the same thing and been happy leaving with that one thing before. But attending conferences is an investment of time and money and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect more..

So, what if you had the opposite experience? What if attending a conference left you with too much information? What if, days weeks later, you’re having a hard time deciding what you want to try out? What if that experience changed the lens through which you view your school, colleagues, and students? What if you connected with a bunch of amazing people? What if you left feeling energized despite it being the end of the school year?


Much of the seminar was at the lovely Hakone Gardens.

Yep, I had that experience at the Innovative Leadership Seminar hosted by the Santa Fe Leadership Center and Hillbrook School in Los Gatos, CA. Here are just a few of the many things worth sharing.

Signature Presence

So much of what we covered at #innolead resonated with me because it was rooted in authenticity. We kept coming back to the idea of your Signature Presence. It’s the notion that we are at our most effective, and innovative, when we embrace our own strengths and weaknesses openly while staying attuned to those of the others we work with.

Practicing Innovation

It’s easy to think only some people are innovative. Sure, some people are natural risk-takers or naturally creative problem solvers. But according to our facilitators, innovation is a personal skill that can be practiced. Careful observation, making connections between your own work and what’s happening elsewhere, thoughtful questioning, networking your ideas with others’, and experimenting are concrete skills we can all adopt and practice. Doing so will help new ideas emerge.

Need Finding and Empathy

Again, authenticity. Make a real effort to find the needs of your organization and those you serve. Doing so requires us to empathize with others, going beyond walking in their shoes to explore the implicit needs that may not be easily expressed, or even known.


Look for stories. Tell stories. Our lives are stories. Instead of distilling and presenting information, tell the story around why that information is important. This is infinitely more useful for everyone. Here’s one area I need to work on.


The world of education is abuzz with Design Thinking and how to incorporate it into the classroom. One of the primary steps in the design process is to iterate your work. Stop shooting for the perfect solution or product. Start small, observe and test, make small changes, rinse and repeat. If you are someone with perfectionist tendencies, as I am sometimes, this presents quite the challenge. Nonetheless, it’s resonated with me and I’m adopting it fully!

Visual Communication

I’m a very visual person so this was pretty cool for me. The seminar included a presentation from The Grove Consultants International founder David Sibbet. He shared many visual tools with us that can be used to collect, process, and elicit ideas in group settings. David was one of the first to promote the use of the visual note taking like the popular RSA Animate videos. This type of drawing on the fly can help audiences understand the presenter’s material while also helping the presenter understand what’s coming across.

I could go on for a long time praising the Santa Fe Leadership Center and the amazing job they did with the Innovative Leadership seminar. Thanks to our facilitators Carla Silver, Greg Bamford, Ryan Burke, Richard Kassissieh and Mark Silver. And thank you to all the new friends I made!


Posted by on July 13, 2013 in Reflections


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4 responses to “Innovative Leadership Seminar

  1. lparren (@lparren)

    July 13, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Thanks for this. I posted something similar in my blog ( about attending ISTE, and what one should expect from conferences, but haven’t yet drawn conclusions the way you did. Thanks for summarizing your learning. I’ll share this with my admins.

    • Matt Arguello

      July 17, 2013 at 9:01 pm

      Thanks for the feedback and sharing your blog, Lauren.

  2. Tim

    July 17, 2013 at 6:59 am

    Great overview/reflection Matt. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Matt Arguello

      July 17, 2013 at 9:02 pm

      Thanks for visiting my blog and for the feedback, Tim.


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