Wednesday, 10 July 2013


“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life - think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.” - Swami Vivekananda

I am away from work for work for two days, taking part in a Leadership School. This is a series of professional development seminars that our People and Culture department organise in order to cultivate the talent of leaders within our organisation. Thirty of our staff of 400 have been chosen in order to take part in this development program and it provides a forum for discussions, activities and a think tank so that we can advance the strategies and goals of our organisation in an efficient way. External facilitators are in charge of the meeting and the mix of staff from different departments and at different levels in the hierarchy make for an interesting experience.

Frank discussions are had and people are encouraged to actively participate and state their ideas, views and opinions about things that are good or not so good within the work environment. We work together to acquire new skills and develop existing ones. Facilitators provide an environment conducive to creative thinking and an honest tackling of identified issues and problems within our work environments. We work under the Chatham House Rule, and this is something that fosters that feeling of safety and frankness when expressing one’s views.

The Chatham House Rule is a core principle that governs the confidentiality of the source of information received at a meeting. The rule originated in June 1927 at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, also known as Chatham House ( The rule (not “rules” as is often misquoted) was reviewed and refined in 2002, states:

“When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

This allows people to speak as individuals and to express views that may not be those of their organisations, and therefore, encourages independent discussion, not hampered by allegiances or “towing the party line”. Speakers are free to voice their own opinions, without concern for their personal reputation or their official duties and professional ties. The Chatham House Rule resolves a boundary problem faced by many communities of practice, in that it permits acknowledgment of the community or conversation, while protecting the freedom of interaction that is necessary for the community to carry out its conversations.

When a group meets, using the rule guarantees anonymity to those speaking within the context of the meeting so that better insights and free debate may be encouraged. The rule is often used internationally as an aid to free discussion. The original rule was refined in October 1992 and again, in 2002. Chatham House has translated the rule into Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian.

Meetings, or parts of meetings, either may be held on the record, or, under the Chatham House Rule. In the latter case, all participants are understood to have agreed that it would be conducive to free discussion that they should be subject to the rule for the relevant part of the meeting. The success of the rule may depend upon it being considered morally binding, particularly in circumstances where a failure to comply with the rule may not result in sanction.

Care needs to be taken not to invoke the Chatham House Rule where what is intended is that the views discussed be kept confidential. The Chatham House Rule is intended to promote public discussion of the views expressed at a meeting, but without attributing those views to any individual or organisation.


  1. More information on the teachings of Swami Vivekananda

  2. Well, I was one of the people that always said "rules". Thanks for putting me right.