Dialogue – Fostering a climate of connectivity

In the new technological age, the ability to communicate often at great distances is becoming more and more important.  Often, we have to maintain relationships without even meeting the person whom we are working with, face to face.  Hence the ability to share information and understand each other in order to deliver the same goals is a vital source of competitive advantage and organizational effectiveness.

At the same time, given the diversity of needs and the nature and impact of current and future problems to be resolved, thinking alone at whatever level of leadership is no longer an option.  The truth is that problems are becoming too complex, the interdependencies too fragile and the consequences of thinking in isolation and fragmentation too devastating that unless we come together to develop our capacity to think together, to allow meaning to flow through the community to increase collaboration, partnership, inclusion and coordinated actions, we may find ourselves left behind as we slip into oblivion.  The ability to harness collective intelligence is an indispensable skill of the leader.  Enters dialogue.

Dialogue is the process of allowing meaning to flow in and through members of the same community that enriches their interaction.  It moves beyond any one individual’s understanding, to make explicit the implicit and build collective meaning and community.  Dialogue is concerned with the experiences that the community encounters or the experience of the meaning embodied in a community of people.  It gives thought to the shared and living assumptions that provide the basis for their embodied meaning and these shared and living assumptions tend to be unstable, fragmented and incoherent.  As we learn to inquire, understand and allow new meanings and other assumptions to take shape, we may discover a whole new field of possibilities with new levels of insight to shape and forge positive changes in our behaviours.  When this happens community-based culture of cooperation and shared leadership has evolved.

In dialogue, the team embarks on a series of inquiry and advocacy. The former seeks to understand in order to gain a deeper meaning while the latter seeks to be understood.  The following is a model based on David Kantor’s dialogue model on how dialogue is played out.  In inquiry, we seek to understand. We inquire into what we do not know and discover other points of view. The main activities are listening and suspending.  In advocacy, we seek to be understood by inviting others to understand our points of view. The main activities are voicing and respecting.  Both advocacy and inquiry require humility and a posture of accepting correction.

The team that is able to move in and out of the four actions: move, follow, oppose and bystand while maintaining the key qualities of listening, respecting, suspending and voicing, will deepen the quality of their dialogue and consequently address many potential problems that challenge the quality of their decisions.

Four main actions that correspond with each player are held in tension.  For those who move, there should be genuine voice.  Those who follow should do so with intent listening.  Still those who oppose should do so with utmost respect and finally those who bystand do so with suspension.

DISCAsiaPlus has integrated Kantor’s Four Players model of dialogue in its report and has developed a course on “winning through dialogue”.  The report summarises the style of how participants move, follow, oppose and bystand with suggestions on how they should incorporate the key qualities of voicing, listening, respecting and suspending.  For additional information you can access via these links:

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