Intellectual Heritage

Logos Noesis draws upon the growing body of theory and practice that has developed during the past 50 years as different disciplines have researched and studied dialogue, collaboration, change, and the nature and impact they have in leadership and organizations. The most relevant ones for our work are: Systems-related theory and methodology, Dialogic Consultation, Dialogue, and The Five Disciplines of the Learning Organization.

Organizations as Living Systems

The work of Logos Noesis incorporates several different threads of systems-related theory and methodology:

System Dynamics is a body of knowledge about systems modeling and intervention, developed originally by Jay Forrester at MIT. [1]

Structural Dynamics is an outgrowth of family systems theory applied to organizational contexts. [2]

Dialogic Systems Theory: is a set of insights about group interrelationships, derived in part from the work of Martin Buber (I and Thou), Harlene Anderson’s ideas about “conversation, language, and possibilities” (1997), the “dialogue” theories of David Bohm, and expanded to organizational and leadership contexts by William Isaacs (Isaacs, 1999).

Central to all of these threads of work is the concept of all human groups (including formal organizations and corporations) as “living systems:” as adaptive and unpredictable as the people who comprise them. The work that Logos Noesis does succeeds because it takes into account (and embodies in its change initiatives) the primary characteristics of living organizations:

Participation: Everyone in a group of people both influences and reflects the thinking and interaction of the whole. Powerful patterns of influence resonate throughout the organization, not merely up and down the hierarchy. For this reason, we endeavor to “get all the voices in the room:” to make sure people know that their perspective is heard, and that all perspectives are comprehended by the decision-makers.

Context: Living systems evolve to meet the challenges and constraints in their environment. Thus, in organizations, there is always a reason why some situation has evolved the way it did. We strive to come to a clear-sighted understanding of why things look and work as they do. It also sets the stage to enable us to work with reality: circumstances as they are, not illusions we might project about how things should or could be.

Unfolding Potential: Living systems grow and mature. Living organizations have a distinct potential form and purpose that continues to evolve as the organization grows. Applying this principles entails discerning not only what is possible, given the current reality, but the deep potential carried in the situation, even if it is not fully yet grasped or realizable by people in the system.

Awareness: Living systems are characterized by awareness of their environments and themselves. A system’s capacity to be aware of what it is doing as it is doing it is a very high-leverage change avenue. This principle suggests that the most effective way to intervene in organizations is to increase their capacity to detect and correct errors, as well as to detect and utilize strengths. The quality of reflection that a system has about itself directly influences its capacity for taking generative action.

Dialogic Consultation

Our work draws on several threads: a) action learning that stretches back to John Dewey through the work of Kurt Lewin, Chris Argyris, and Edgar Schein [3] ; b) transformative learning as developed by Mezirow (Mezirow, 2000), and going back to Kuhn 1962), Freire (1970), Habermas (1971), Gould (1978), Bowers (1984), Candy (1989), and Vygotsky (1962, 1978); c) collaboration; and dialogue. The dialogic approach we use apply the following principles:

  • Interventions are jointly designed with participants (who are no longer kept apart as “objects” of the intervention);
  • Time for joint reflection with participants is built in, both for evaluation and to develop their capabilities to make use of the actions so far;
  • We take part in joint theory-building with participants, helping them to derive a meaningful model (in mind) of the situation.

Logos Noesis promotes a collaborative learning space in which participants explore practical issues in a reflective space where they can learn by observing their own actions or those of others, and then, through dialog, build shared models of how to maximize the positive impact of those actions.

Dialogue: Collective Thought

The work of Logos Noesis is based on keen awareness of the nature of reflective thought [4]. We design and facilitate generative conversations that fosters awareness and capability. In this sort of facilitation we pay close attention to the quality of the “container:” the conversational environment.

We foster an environment where dangerous perceptions and non-discussable topics can be raised productively, without making people vulnerable. Four qualities are significant in the design of dialogue. These can be simply stated as:

Voice: Creating a place for all relevant perspectives and attitudes to be spoken so that they may be heard.

Listening: Attention to the spoken and unspoken nature of the conversation and the “acoustics” of the space in the room.

Respect: Acknowledgement of the value of differences and participants’ identities.

Suspension: Willingness to raise and consider assumptions and perceptions without being bound by them.

The Five Disciplines of the Learning Organization

Our work also draws upon the five organizational learning disciplines. Popularized by Peter Senge, the five “learning disciplines” have formed the basis of a growing practice for individual, team and organizational development. [5] The underlying premise is that “real-world” results are more effectively achieved, especially when flexibility is needed, by galvanizing authentic human commitment. Senge suggests five forms of ongoing practice:

Personal Mastery: Articulating individual aspiration while fostering keener awareness of existing challenges;

Mental Models: Uncovering the “theories in use,” assumptions, and mindsets that govern behavior;

Shared Vision: Designing processes that elicit the common aspirations that can spark extraordinary behavior;

Team Learning: Learning to transcend barriers and reach beyond agreement to genuine alignment and effectiveness in teams; and

Systems Thinking: Learning to see recurring interrelationships in complex environments and thus intervene more effectively, drawing on intellectual traditions such as those of system dynamics.

[1] Forrester, 1960-1971; Richardson, 1999; Kleiner, 1996. [2] Kantor, 1994 and 1999. [3] Kleiner, 1996; Kolb, 1984; Argyris, 1985, Schein, 1965. [4] Isaacs, 1999; Isaacs, 1993; Isaacs, 1994a-b. [5] Senge, 1990 and Senge, et al, 1994, 1999 and 2000


• Anderson, Harlene, 1997: Conversation, Language, and Possibilities: A postmodern approach to therapy (BasicBooks).

• Argyris, Chris, 1993: Knowledge for Action (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass).

• Bohm, David, 1992: Thought as a System (London: Routledge).

• Bohm, David, 1996: Wholeness and the Implicate Order (London: Routledge).

• Forrester, Jay, 1961, Industrial Dynamics (MIT Press, Productivity Press).

• Forrester, Jay, 1969, Urban Dynamics (MIT Press, Productivity Press).

• Forrester, Jay, 1971, "The Counterintuitive Behavior of Social Systems,"; Technology Review, January 1971, p. 52-68.

• Hanig, Robert, Andreas Priestland, Dominic Emery, and Art Kleiner, 2002: "First Level Leaders: Engagement and Design Story" (Cambridge, MA: Dialogos Working Paper and London: BP Report).

• Isaacs, William, 1993: "Taking Flight: Dialogue, Collective Thinking, and Organizational Learning," Organizational Dynamic us, vol. 22, 1993, p. 24-39.

• Isaacs, William, 1994a: "Dialogue" and "Designing a Dialogue Session" in Peter Senge, et al., The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook (New York: Doubleday).

• Isaacs, William, 1994b: "Dialogue: The Power of Collective Thinking," Reflections on Creating Learning Organizations, ed. by Kellie T. Wardman (1994, Pegasus Communications).

• Isaacs, William, 1999: Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together (New York: Doubleday).

• Kantor, David and Nancy Heaton Lonstein, 1994, "Reframing Team Relationships," in Senge et al, The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook (New York, Doubleday), p. 407.

• Kantor, David and Steven Ober, 1999, "Heroic Modes," in Senge et al, The Dance of Change (New York, Doubleday), p. 263.

• Kleiner, Art, 1996: The Age of Heretics (New York: Doubleday).

• Kleiner, Art, 2003: Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege, and Success (New York: Doubleday).

• Kolb, David, 1984: Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall).

• Richardson, George P., 1999: Feedback Thought in Social Science and Systems Theory(Cambridge, MA: Pegasus Communications).

• Schein, Edgar, 1998: Process Consultation, Volume II (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley).

• Schein, Edgar, 1965: Process Consultation: Lessons for Managers and Consultants, Vol. II(Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley).

• Senge, Peter, 1990: The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (New York: Doubleday).

• Senge, Peter, and Art Kleiner, Charlotte Roberts, Rick Ross, Bryan Smith, and George Roth, 1999: The Dance of Change: The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations (New York: Doubleday).

• Senge, Peter, and Charlotte Roberts, Rick Ross, Bryan Smith, and Art Kleiner, 1994:The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building A Learning Organization(New York: Doubleday).

• Senge, Peter, and Nelda Cambron-McCabe, Tim Lucas, Bryan Smith, Art Kleiner, and Janis Dutton, 2000: Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education (New York: Doubleday).