We work with several core concepts that give focus to our work. Dialogue, Collaboration, Unity and synergy in diversity, and Transformative Change are the main ones.
Dialogue is a way to rediscover and nurture connections with others. It is a form of communication that differs from normal conversation, debate, or discussion. Dialogue is the interchange of ideas in an open and honest manner with the goal of achieving mutual understanding. This facilitates our interpersonal relationships fostering a safe environment within which we can listen to each other, inquire, and openly share our thoughts and feelings.
Skill Building Blocks and Guidelines for Dialogue
The building blocks and behavioral guidelines outlined below form a framework for Dialogue. Like a scaffolding used in construction to aid in the initial stages of building, they are meant to provide an environment that facilitates effective communication.
Rather than a set of rules, you might think of them as reminders of the level of attention which lies at the core of Dialogue. Attention to our thinking, our feelings, our communication, assumptions and judgments. Attention to the unfolding meaning of the group, the spirit of inquiry and the pauses for reflection that lead to learning and understanding.
Held lightly, these guidelines and building blocks will help you enter into Dialogue. Held too firmly, they will trap you in just one more structure and limiting system. Dialogue is a living process and requires the willingness of all participants to be open to letting go of the known in order to discover new perspectives and understanding. As one writer so eloquently put it, "We must be prepared in each moment to give up (our ideas of) who we are to discover all we may become. "
So, by all means use these guidelines to help you begin your exploration of Dialogue, and in each moment, be prepared to release them and let your attention guide you to the next level of learning.
A cycle of conversation that permits change. A discovery process that allows for new ways of understanding and making sense. It can lead to higher-quality collective thinking and real transformation. Dialogue comes from the Greek roots dia meaning across or through, and logos meaning word or study. The picture or image that this derivation suggests is a stream of meaning flowing among, through, and between us.
When we engage in Dialogue we let meaning rise from the group. You can learn to reflect and talk together, even in the heat of challenging moments. You look for the hidden meanings, assumptions, values, traps, voices, and forces of the interactions.
When you are in dialogue, you engage your whole being in an active living relationship with others that is full of possibilities for newness, meaning-making, and understanding. Dialogue requires a commitment to speaking and listening more deliberately. This allows for deeper understanding to emerge and encourages a sense of shared meaning.
How do you listen? What does it mean to really hear someone? In Dialogue we should listen to hear meaning emerge both from individuals and from the group. We listen for common assumptions and for the voices that question those assumptions. We let meaning unfold in the conversation as a whole. We try to hear the shared meaning that can evolve only if many individual meanings are heard.
The Chinese character for listen contains the sub characters one heart, eye and ear- all of which we must use to truly listen. Listening is the first step for making dialogue effective.
Honesty and sincerity
In dialogue one must speak the truth, be sincere and assume that the other person is also sincere and telling the truth. This develops trust, which lets you engage in dialogue with confidence.
The capacity to see the living processes that underlie all things, and to be aware of ourselves and the impact we have--right in the moment of their occurrence. It includes letting go, or "suspending" our certainty, to see things from another point of view. With awareness we can entertain multiple points of view at once, even if they are opposed or in contradiction with one another.
Means that we neither suppress what we think nor advocate it. In the words of Bohm (1996), “you neither carry them [thoughts] out nor suppress them. You don’t believe them, nor do you disbelieve them; you don’t judge them as good or bad.”
Isaacs says you “change directions, stop, step back, see things with new eyes.” We allow our differences to be present – not moving immediately to agreement or debate, but developing the skill for bridging across the diversity of our opinions, assumptions, backgrounds and ideas.
The word suspend comes from the Latin root suspendere, which means "to hang below." It has to do with drawing out, or stretching. It refers to displaying our thinking in a way that lets us and others see and understand.
When we practice suspending our judgments we learn to hold our opinions lightly. We consciously open ourselves to hearing and understanding each person's point of view. We create a space between our judgments and our reactions so that we can hear the other person in a new way. This is a key to building a climate of trust and safety in the group.
Inquiry and Reflection
When we are unclear about what someone means, we ask a question. In Dialogue the intent of questions is twofold. One purpose is to draw the other out in a safe and supportive way. Questions should never belittle or criticize. More importantly, questions allow us to dig deeply into ideas and perspectives that are novel to us. Questions can give us room for reflection and develop the understanding of the entire group.
Our assumptions play a large part in how we view the world and how we behave towards others, yet they are often invisible to us. They are so habituated that we "know" that the world agrees with them.
Learning to identify our assumptions allows us to see the world in a new light. By identifying our assumptions we learn to build common ground and consensus. We learn to respect others and their contributions, regardless of the fact that these contributions may contradict things we have long held to be true.
A Safe Space
We can’t change human behavior by command, resolve, or even good intentions. But we can create a safe, holding environment for a group of people. When feeling safe, people are more aware of their thinking, their conversations, their interrelationships, and their potential for better action. This is what Isaacs calls The "container."
In dialogue, there is a mutual search for understanding. Each regards the other as a partner in a shared inquiry, someone whose point of view is valued, someone with whom to explore the familiar and develop the new. Both are open to the possibility that the meanings of one may cause those of the other to be revised and/or changed. The conversation develops together, even though everyone is responsible individually for whatever they feel is needed and relevant.
Growth through crisis
As we address difficult issues, the crises that break out are essential parts of our development. We learn from them and build with them. We stay with the dialogue until a new level of understanding develops.
The magic of dialogue occurs when a group wanders into territory - discovers new meaning - that can only be discovered by the entire group. This is meaning that no individual formed him or herself - rather it flows from the group as a whole. For the group, this can be a powerful experience because it is the creation of shared meaning. Creating shared meaning is a step toward creating community and working collaboratively.
Selected Quotes about Dialogue
Fragmentation is like a virus that has infected every field of human endeavor. Dialogue’s purpose is to create a setting where conscious collective mindfulness can be maintained. -David Bohm
Dialogue is a process in which one can experience the connectedness and wholeness that is always present, yet is mostly invisible. -Sarita Chawla
Dialogue is a mode of exchange among human beings in which there is a true turning to one another, and a full appreciation of another not as an object in a social function, but as a genuine being. -Martin Buber
Through dialogue we learn how to engage our hearts. Dialogue provides a means by which we can learn to maintain our equilibrium, cultivating a mature range of perception and sensibility. It let us reconnect and revitalize our emotional capacity because it compels us to suspend our habitual reactions and frozen thoughts. Dialogue requires that we take responsibility for thinking, not merely reacting, lifting us into a more conscious state. -William Isaacs
Dialogue is a shared inquiry, a process of forming, saying, and expanding the unsaid and the yet-to-be-said--the development of new meanings, themes, narratives, and histories--from which new descriptions may arise. -Harlene Anderson
Collaboration refers to cooperation, to working together. We become conversational partners in mutual inquiry, discovery, and interpretation that permit the emergence of new meanings and new possibilities. Collaboration is equality, or walking together. It is not knowing, or “not being an expert,” and therefore not giving answers or advice. It includes discovering together, especially through curiosity and asking questions. When you collaborate, you respect each others needs, agendas, timing, values, choices, and uniqueness, by deep listening and keeping the focus on the positives.
Unity and synergy in diversity
Logos Noesis honors Diversity. We see diversity as an advantage that, well utilized, bring richness and wisdom to organizations. We believe that leadership development needs to include an awareness of culture that develops into a global spirit that honors all peoples of the Earth. A culture that fosters respect for and appreciation of differences among people undoubtedly helps teamwork, productivity, and morale.
In order to accept and embrace diversity, we need to discover our underlying human commonalities, at the same time that we become more able to be influenced by another's perspective. At the same time we need to retain our solid core and maintain our own sense of self. This is not easily done. It requires the development and refinement of social skills, and a gentler way of communicating with those who are different from us.
Transformative change is major in scope, requiring new ways of thinking and behaving. It is needed when the existing set of ideas and actions that create order and stability no longer work. It involves taking risks and surrendering control.
Transformative change is bold and compelling - not simply a more or better version of "busines-as-usual." It is audacious, calling for a new level of fearlessness, innovation and collaboration.
It is useful to think of transformative change as profound, fundamental and irreversible. It is a metamorphosis, a radical change from one form to another.
Robert Gass enumerates some key principles that seem to be included in transformative change.
- Transformative change is holistic. It is a systems approach. It is powerful because it attends equally to hearts & minds, human behavior, and the social systems and structures in which they exist. It tends to be multi-disciplinary, integrating several approaches and methodologies. By dealing holistically with all elements of human systems, transformative change aims to be irreversible and enduring.
- Transformative change involves breakthroughs. Albert Einstein said that “problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” Transformative change requires radical breakthroughs in paradigms, beliefs and behavior. What was seen as obstacles may become opportunities. Apparently irreconcilable opposites could be seen as creative tension. The change that seemed improbable may quickly come into being.
- Transformation requires "doing what you preach." The process of transformative change must always mirror what it seeks to create. While honoring the lessons of the past and planning for the future, it has a strong focus on what’s happening right now. If you intend to create an organizational culture with greater ownership by stakeholders, you must start right now by initiating an inclusive process of change.
- Transformative change focus on the positive. While not ignoring what’s wrong, what’s not working, and in need of change, transformative change is based in the power of a positive vision of what we want to create. It balances critique with the power generated by appreciating and honoring what is already good and useful. It generates hope inspired by focusing on what’s possible.
- Transformative change balances planning with flexibility. In transformative change a powerful vision is created. Yet, you also have to be humble and flexible in the face of the unexpected. It is less an attempt to dominate life, and more like a dance of dynamic interaction with life around us. You have to learn to temper control with letting go of what we cannot control. While cultivating the discipline of good planning, you also understand change as generative. You need to attend to what is, and also work in harmony with what is alive and moving around you.
- Transformative change relies on collaboration. Because of its systemic and interdisciplinary nature, transformational work requires a high level of commitment and skill in collaboration. We can do nothing alone. Transformative change is all about appreciating interdependence and working in partnership—with other people and organizations, with social trends, and unseen forces which many call Spiritual.
- Transformational change engages the heart. While embracing the importance of intellect, transformative change equally engages the heart: our deepest aspirations, what we care most deeply about, what we love. It activates not only the power of collective purpose, but also helps lower the barriers that keep us separate from each other, inviting us to greater compassion, trust and care for each other.
- Transformative change happens at all levels. It is not only the work of the CEO, or the upper management. For transformation to happen, we need to collectively engage and apply the principles and practices of transformative change at all levels.
Transformative change involves emergence, discovery, invention. For it to work we need to engage in collective dialogues and together understand what is the meaning of "transformation” for the leader, the department, the team, the individual, and ultimately, the organization.