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Dream Thieme

Richard Thieme might have left the ministry years ago, but he hasn't given up preaching.

Today, rather than illuminate Scripture, the author and speaker on all things Internet spotlights old ways of thinking – and challenges his listeners to forsake them.

"The first requirement is to be willing to become conscious and truly aware of ... what are those things about our culture that prevent us from encouraging, supporting, and sustaining innovative and creative thinking – and then doing all the kinds of things politically, economically and socially that are required to make it work," Thieme said at the Wisconsin Entreprenuer Conference held this week in Milwaukee.

Doing that requires people let the need for change get visceral, much like the September 11 disaster made terrorism and preventing it visceral. Post-9/11, all kinds of things – including torture of suspected terrorists – move from unthinkable to subjects of serious debate, Thieme pointed out.

It also requires thinking differently about power and contributing within a network of people rather than trying to crawl over them up the food chain.
"Leadership is not exercised by power that merely dominates and controls," Thieme said. "We used to think power was something you did in a hierarchical structure. You dominated and controlled others, and it was the exercise and the ability to tell others what to do, and they did it, and that made you powerful. But we learned in the online world that power is something else.

"Because everyone has power, now the attributes of leadership are required ... of every person in a business context who wants to make a difference," he added. "You have to exercise the attributes that used to be reserved for people in leadership positions."

So what are leaders called to do? With his fondness for keen illustration, Thieme explained that it's like whitewater kayaking – look at the rocks, you hit the rocks. But look at where the water goes, you go where the water goes. Leaders do that and then explain clearly to others how to do the same.

"It's seeing what's happening on the edges, seeing what's coming and saying it so clearly and persuasively that others just kind of get it," he said.

Seeing that way through the rapids before others do is especially critical for entrepreneurs who live in an age in which "the gap between vision and reality is getting smaller and smaller," Thieme said.

In addition, those things that eventually become what Thieme called "consensus reality" often at first seem like science fiction or even heresy, he noted.

"That's why the challenge to our culture is to build in an openness to heresy, an openness to those heretical notions and ways of behaving that in fact are life-giving if we can only change the point of view and see the bigger picture and the larger context," Thieme said.


Lincoln Brunner is a Stevens Point, Wisconsin-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to the Wisconsin Technology Network. He can be reached at

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