Leadership and the Lens: Reframing the Question to Unlock Insight and Impact


Breakthrough solutions start with assumption-challenging questions and it’s a leader’s obligation to surface them. This unique course uses photography as a powerful mode of learning the key skills required when asking and answering the right questions. Participants increase their capacity to frame new possibilities for their organizations, even as they learn to craft more compelling images.

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Leadership and the Lens: Reframing the Question to Unlock Insight and Impact
Certificate Track: Management and Leadership
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Tuition: $4,900 (excluding accommodations)
Program Days (for ACE Credit) 3

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A few days spent away is precious little time to make a difference in your leadership capability, but Leadership and the Lens makes the most of that time by immersing participants into a different world of dynamic possibilities. Co-taught by MIT’s Hal Gregersen (The Innovator’s DNA) and Sam Abell (The Life of a Photograph), this workshop uses a familiar tool—the camera—to explore how unseen opportunities reveal themselves—and how the most effective leaders spot them, before it’s too late.

Gregersen and Abell discovered for themselves the deep resonance of their work when they met at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. Expecting Abell’s mentorship to make him a better photographer, Gregersen was surprised to find it also enriched his own research on leadership. His interviews with 200+ senior executives of the world’s most innovative companies—people like Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff and Cirque du Soleil CEO Daniel Lamarre—had led him to see that groundbreaking solutions start with catalytic questions. Now he saw that his core advice on how to reimagine organizational strategies and cultures mapped directly onto what Abell has taught for decades about creating photographs worthy of National Geographic.

To frame better questions, most leaders need to check habits and beliefs they have gained over life-long careers—for example, that they must always be confidently right and quick to call others to action. Seeing new possibilities for an organization often demands the opposite: an eagerness to find what one is dead wrong about, a willingness to step back and quietly listen, and a patience to take in the dynamics of a situation, especially an uncomfortable one. By putting themselves in contexts that compel them to adopt these new attitudes, leaders raise their odds of surfacing questions that can unlock entirely new avenues of value creation. In the same way, the best photographers commit themselves to daily habits that develop deep seeing skills. They patiently “compose and wait” out in the field, where vulnerability often leads to inevitable, powerful images. They learn to study their settings as deeply as their subjects, and as they do, images (and life itself) light up.

Gregersen and Abell lead this workshop with all the enthusiasm that comes from their discovery of a novel, hybrid method of learning. Past participants have called it a transformative experience. To approach the world with eyes wide open and a camera in hand is to be inquisitive. It provokes questions like: What surprises will I encounter? How will I capture them? What message am I trying to share—and what will the images I produce say about me and my values as a leader? Spend these few days in Cambridge, and discover what new capabilities might develop in you.

This program is offered in association with Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, and is limited to 15 participants. Registered participants will be asked to submit 10-15 photographs they have taken, as valuable input to the instruction.

Please note: The program was formerly known as "Innovation and Images: Exploring the Intersections of Leadership and Photography."


Hal Gregersen on Leadership and the Lens

Breakthrough solutions start with assumption-challenging questions—and it’s a leader’s obligation to surface them. In this video, Hal Gregersen discusses how photography has impacted his work as a leader and the questions he asks and lives. The intersection between inquiry and images is the foundation of Leadership and the Lens: Learning at the Intersection of Innovation and Image-Making.

Examining leadership through a different lens—literally

“Leadership and the Lens was a great experience, an intimate class, a very diverse crowd, and a trusting environment in which you could express yourself,” says Ed Higgins. “Everyone brought something different to the table … and everyone felt heard. Hal and Sam were extremely flexible and took the class in the direction that we individually and as a group needed to go.”

Participant Testimonials

"A daring, engaging and intense workshop, taught by two world-class experts in their respective fields. Hal and Sam are both experts and great teachers. They worked together seamlessly to both challenge and encourage us, no matter our level of expertise in either discipline. Your passion for these two topics will be greatly rewarded.  Highly recommended!"
Stan Baginskis, Senior Director, Architecture and Growth Strategy, Chief Technology and Architecture Office at Cisco

“Innovative Leadership and Photography has been the most powerful and inspirational course I attended in my life, giving me the right tips for my job. Photography is used not just as a metaphor for leadership but as way to improve leadership: observing reality, thinking solutions, making decisions, having vision, stepping back to see and reflect, choosing the right moment, learning from mistakes, going deeper into the meaning of what we are doing. Thanks to two great masters the workshop has been every day both surprising and effective."
Enrico Rimoldi, Communication Director, YBP, Milan, Italy