Arpan Yagnik: Mountains to climb

A Creative Leadership Impact Story

Arpan Yagnik


Arpan Yagnik

Among many other things, Professor Arpan Yagnik is an expert on creativity. So perhaps it is no surprise that he signed up for the Creative Leadership 2021 conference, which was part of last summer’s Caux Forum. Little did he know that he would find himself helping to run one of the IofC Hubs, an online forum for people active with Initiatives of Change in different parts of the world.

Arpan, who is Associate Professor of Advertising at Penn State University in the US, first encountered IofC in 2005 in his country of birth, India. Two of his cousins invited him to join them at a youth conference at Asia Plateau, the Initiatives of Change centre in the mountains of Maharashtra. ‘I thought it was going to be a mountaineering camp,’ he says. ‘I did end up climbing mountains, but they were of a very different nature.’

I did end up climbing mountains, but they were of a very different nature.

Climbing internal mountains – and enabling others to do so – is what interests Arpan. What he learnt at Asia Plateau chimed in with his upbringing. ‘The practice of inner listening and living by high moral values was not a huge shift, but it deepened my foundations,’ he says. ‘I stay very strictly to those basics. I know I have to answer to my conscience.’

Since then, Arpan – whose great-uncle, Bharat Dixit, has had a long connection with IofC – has been involved with IofC’s Let’s Make A Difference (LMAD) programme in India. But he had had no contact with the IofC conference centre at Caux until he joined Creative Leadership online, and still hasn’t been there in person.


Arpan Yagnik
Arpan speaking at Let's make a Difference in India


At the time of the Creative Leadership conference, Arpan was completing a chapter on ‘creativity and leadership’ for a book on creative intelligence. ‘I felt this conference might provide me with something that I had missed. So I cleared my week. I didn’t go in as someone who has written and given a TEDx talk on creativity, and this enabled me to learn and collaborate openly and humbly.’

Arpan found the experience ‘beautiful’. ‘The sessions were finely curated and the speakers aptly selected. I picked up on the cheerfulness and hope of the young participants and organizers

He decided he had a contribution to make to IofC’s global network and, after taking part in a number of meetings in 2021, offered his skills to this year’s Hub, which is focusing on building trust between IofC’s different generations. 'I am not one to sit on the sidelines,’ he says. ‘If I see a problem or an issue, I act to fix it. I am a charged electron ready to jump into new orbits, and the Creative Leadership conference made me even more charged.’  

Arpan’s latest book is on fear. ‘There is no liberation when there is fear,’ he says. ‘If you can defeat fear in the moment, then your decisions won’t be dictated by it.’

One key, he says, is to have faith in yourself and your abilities. ‘If a problem has been presented to you, it’s because you have the innate ability to solve it.’


​ Arpan Yagnik
In India


For instance, when he arrived at Penn State University in 2015, he wanted to teach creativity, but no such course existed. ‘Penn State is a mammoth organization. Things take so much time to get approval. I was afraid. I was new to the system. I didn’t have tenure. But I kept telling myself, you had this thought and you cannot let it go. This came to you because you can manage it.’ The course has now been running for three years.

Frank Buchman
Frank Buchman

It was at Penn State – then Penn State College – over 100 years ago that Frank Buchman developed and tested the ideas and practices which became Initiatives of Change.

‘Penn State is where it all started,’ says Arpan. ‘But now Frank Buchman and his legacy live in the library, and not in people’s daily lives. I want to revive that.’

The possibilities are endless, he says, among them an IofC centre at the university and a club where students could meet for quiet times. It’s important, he believes, to set up institutional mechanisms, so continuation does not depend on his, or anyone else’s, presence.

Before moving to academia in 2015, Arpan worked with Sony in India. ‘I left the corporate world because I value time more than money,’ he says. ‘I moved into an area of work where I would have time for what matters to me. I protect my time vigorously, so that I can give it generously.’

He encourages people not to hold back from walking the path they believe they have been called to. ‘It’s not that everybody will be there for you – if that happens, it’s a bonus. Many times people try to take an initiative and they hope that an organization will stand behind them, providing funds, manpower, resources. If that doesn’t happen, they take it personally and move away.

‘That expectation-driven thing is not the way. You have decided that the change begins with you, so whether someone is there with you or not should not matter. If I am given that thought in my time of silence and contemplation, I am going to do it.’

If a problem has been presented to you, it’s because you have the innate ability to solve it.


Creative Leadership will be back this summer with a new conference! Interested to join this year's event on "Living Your Possibilities - From Healing to Action" (23 - 29 July 2022)?





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