In the Detail

The Wisdom Lab draws from the broad curriculum developed in the Humanities project which includes this list of topics and concepts.

Adult Cognitive Learning

Adult Cognitive Learning is the learning process necessary for people to consciously change their minds. Learning ‘What’ as in knowledge or learning ‘How’ as in tasks or ‘Experiential’ learning all achieve some secondary changing of minds. Leaders need to understand how they can deliberately change their own minds and how to create the conditions necessary for others to change theirs. (Ref: Daniel Kahneman)

Strategic Influencing

Strategic influencing provides understanding and tools to help people achieve their goals when dealing with others. Strategic influencing provokes a paradox that if everyone is strategic nothing can be achieved until the influencing is mutually strategic. Strategic influencing is neither negotiation nor coercion. Not only do people need to understand what it is like to be in the other person’s shoes but they need to be able to explain a bit of what it is like in yours. Ultimately intentional mutual behaviour becomes collaboration.

Complex Adaptive Systems

Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) is a combination of Complexity Science and Systems Theory specifically about the unique complexity of social systems. Human systems are unique, constantly adapt in ways that are visible or invisible to the humans inside the system who are also not rational individuals about their own social systems. This circular sentence explains why a special approach is needed in any leader’s toolbox. (Ref: Ralph Stacey)

Authentic Leadership

Authentic Leadership is a generic model of leadership drawing attention to a leader needing to be mindful of the consequences of their roles and their actions. Grounded in the Harm Principle, the model provides leaders a framework to see their dual roles of accomplishing outcomes but with the least collateral consequences. The model highlights the balancing role courage plays for a leader to be mindful and achieve results.

Power and Politics

Power and Politics explores the types of power and how power is created, used, manipulated and diffused. Power is universal and exists in every human interaction as a result of humans being intent on maximising the chances of survival of their own ‘in-group’ and if necessary at the expense of the others ‘out-group’. Civilisation has been the negotiating of rules and not the removal of intentions.

Collaboration and Energy

Collaboration and Physical Wellness is an activity based theme through the Lab grounded in both capturing and creating energy for high performance and in using activities to build collaborative mindsets. Games and sport instil a powerful competitive mindset that is valuable in organisations when taking on competitors but rather unhelpful when working with colleagues. The goal is to develop two different game mindsets – one for colleagues and one for competitors.

Our organisational lives require substantial energy for concentration, participation and reflection and things like exercise, nutrition, hydration, rest, play, sleep etc. either play a role in capturing energy or creating energy. High performing workers need to be well educated in physical wellbeing.

Presence and Gravitas

Presence and Gravitas addresses what everyone sees and experiences about the person at work. For leaders in open plan offices, this idea has never been more important to their influence and leadership. Generally it is estimated that more than 50% of communication amongst people is non-verbal. When it comes to generating influence and authority the percentage is higher.

The workshop develops the participants’ ability to access their own authentic confidence and to use this to generate authentic behaviours they can sustain in the long term with no effort. Assertiveness, confidence and executive presence are found internally and shaped by external experience and feedback. The workshop uses mentoring and filming in the group environment to help participants to find and shape their preferred styles and presence.


Resilience is defined not by any protection from adversity but the “speed at which a person can recover from adversity”. This idea provokes the question then of how to hasten a recovery and one way is to make sense of what just happened? Being able to relatively quickly make sense of adversity is true resilience because this understanding provides some confidence that the same situation may be avoided in future or at least will have a lesser effect.


Empathy is a prime component in our humanity. A definition of “empathy” is the capacity to imagine another person’s state or state of mind. The absence of empathy limits individuals to be mindful of the fuller consequences of their decisions and actions. This topic explores how people develop empathy and how toxic cultures suppress the empathy of people in those environments. A working understanding of empathy is essential in a leader’s toolkit. (Ref: Simon Baron-Cohen)

Group Social Identity

Group Social Identity is the qualities of a group that defines it and if the identity is desirable, this identity feeds the desire to have the group work well so members feel valuable. A desirable identity comes from the display of shared desirable social values and actions. In the workshop participants are shown a model of describing different group conversations and micro relational skills that a group can use to find out what is desirable for them in particular. (Reference: William Isaacs)


Ethnography is the primary tool used by social anthropologists to study human tribes. It is a narrative qualitative assessment tool that stimulates and disturbs social environments as a means to assessing these environments. Ethnography has already entered marketing and this topic provides an introduction to the value it can offer senior leaders to deeply understand culture.

Anxiety of Learning

Anxiety of Learning is the anxiety experienced by someone when an existing idea that they previously fought hard to have is now challenged by another idea. This is an eternal cycle for anyone willing to change their minds and it is the cycle that stops for anyone not willing to change their minds. Edgar Schein’s famous model explains what is needed to change minds i.e. learn.

Disorderly Behaviour

Disorderly Behaviour is a play on words to create the safety to discuss low levels of Behaviour (Personality) Disorders found everywhere in society. Low levels of all behaviour disorders equip people with valuable personal qualities. When these personality qualities are out of balance or some become excessive, increases in social disorder occurs. A key learning is that no diagnosis or judgement is needed to effectively understand and manage disorderly behaviour.


Ethnography presents the century old tool social anthropologists developed to study human social interaction. Originally developed to study tribes across the world, the tool has entered the organisational arena already mainly in marketing to study buyer behaviour. Recently several international business schools are including ethnography in their MBA programs.

This topic offers an introduction to ethnography and its unique approach to qualitative analysis and demonstrates the value ethnography can offer leaders.

Adult Development Scales

Adult Development Scales are a group of tools that all attempt to assess the capacity of adults to make sense of complexity and ambiguity. These tools roughly measure the way adults see the world. For example some adults see the world as clear and certain while others see the world as complex and uncertain. If leadership is about interpreting complexity to the next level, leaders must therefore understand more about complexity than their direct reports. (Ref: Robert Kegan)

Social Constructivism

Social Constructivism is a concept school of philosophy dealing with how people create and change their identities and how collectively people create and change ‘social truth’. It is an advanced adult development topic essential for senior leaders who have the responsibility for changing and managing social truths.

Moral Hazard

Moral Hazard is a concept borrowed from Behavioural Economics to illustrate the hazardous circumstances and potential for harm that occur in organisations mainly though power and avoidant leadership. Managing moral hazard might be called the “the OH&S of social systems”. Like OH&S where certain behaviours cause a physical hazard to others, reckless or avoidance behaviour can cause a danger to others.

Avoidant leaders can cause more harm than toxic leaders not because they make bad decisions but they fail to make the good decisions that protect people. Avoidant leaders do not experience the harm of their actions and therefore do not register the consequences. Avoidant leaders are therefore morally hazardous.

Mindfulness and Reflective Practices

Mindfulness and Reflective Practices provides an introduction and aims to have participants understand the value these ideas can provide anyone wishing to capture energy and time and build resilience and well being at work. The workshop covers the different schools of mindfulness and meditation and describes broad practices of being present or in the moment and the benefits of how these practices rest and replenish the mind.

The concept of a Reflective Practice is the practice of becoming more familiar with the mind in particular the non-intellectual, more primitive parts of the mind such as the Amygdala. Brain imaging shows that the primitive parts at the centre and frontal cortex remain in a constant dialogue with each other and we presume argue about things like risk and shame and the flight and fight responses. Kant said “I see a tiger, I feel afraid, I run”. With no tigers left in organisations, a leader’s dialogue with their primitive mind must improve. Ironically an Amygdala Hijack can be more dangerous than a tiger.

Mental Health

Mental Health is an overview of the broad mental health industry describing different therapies, approaches, arguments, benefits, pitfalls and misconceptions. The objective is to provide a rough road map of the complexity from an organisational perspective.

The outcomes are to create confidence in a participant to seek advice or support and to understand the basic types of advice and support available. The dialogue encourages participants to reverse the ideas of the 20th century from mental illness to achieving mental wellness and to normalise ideas about emotional distress.

Life Long Learning (LLL)

LLL introduces the concepts of 2nd and 3rd careers and disposes of the construct of retirement. The topic proposes the idea that retirement was associated only with the 20th century promise of being looked after from the cradle to the grave and it cannot exist in the modern world. Prescribed Contributions in superannuation funds coupled with much longer lives makes lifelong learning essential. The topic develops ideas of career pathways that open opportunities to different careers navigating the organisation’s short term goals for the participants own long term needs.


Philosophy borrows the philosopher’s favourite tool called the “Thought Experiment”. It is best described to a business leader as a bigger “what if” using stories. Parts of a complex circumstance are ring-fenced by assumptions and then thought about critically. Then different parts are put ‘inside the fence’ and other parts taken out; slowly investigating the whole complex circumstance. The philosopher “experiments” with different parts to get the best clarity.

The topic demonstrates how to create thought experiments in any complex dilemma with stories. Showing how experimenting with changing the story around exposes new perspectives.