I spent the end of last week at a leadership training program that I help run-- and as usual I learned more than I imparted.

The theme of the two days was innovation. The group spent half a day working on improv techniques with an expert from Chapel Hill who has his own improv company, and an adjunct appointment at the Kenan-Flagler Business School. The session is all about learning to take risks, listening to the clues that your teammates are giving you and running with them.

The take-away for me was that most people are ready to be much more creative, much more risk-taking, much more committed-- much more entrepreneurial-- than they show on a typical day at work. John Gardner in On Leadership says that this is the most basic function of leadership in organizations: unlock human potential. He argues that organizations get only a tiny fraction of the potential out of their workers.

The other take-away was to not use the term "take-away" any more. Far better is the term "epiphanami." I love this word! A participant came up with it as a way to describe the feeling of learning something, realizing something, really important for a whole group within an organization. I imagine getting a series of epiphanies at a leadership session-- or being in a group of people that all get related, reinforcing epiphanies-- such that the whole group is picked up on the wave and flung at the shore with astounding force.

An epiphanami (epiphunami?), I think, is an epiphany with the power and the breadth of a tsunami, an epiphany with the potential to bring real change. That's the link back to innovation: the point of being an entrepreneur within a government or non-profit organization is to chase your BHAG, your big hairy audacious goal, in a new way, instead of responding to another RFP (and chase somebody else's goal).

--Steve Orton