An ongoing learning dialogue
an experiential model in progress
Consultant, Resources For Change, Shoreview, Minnesota, USA
The philosopher Martin Buber used the term “dialogue” in 1914 to describe 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.
From the Greek words dia logos, “dialogue” is the process of discovering the
meaning moving through a group of people. Dialogue can help a group achieve
a state of community by providing a set of community skills and guidelines.
This helps the group pass through various stages of community building more
consciously. Although it is not designed for problem solving, it can create an
understanding where actions and solutions will occur naturally. Dialogue
proposes to explore current beliefs and thinking, to discover new ground and
perhaps to create common meaning in a community.
Because many of the organizations that we as consultants deal with are
changing very rapidly, they need to shift paradigms. Dialogue is mutual
inquiry, which is different from discussion whose root is the same as percussion
and concussion. We believe that dialogue can be a method for discovering
paradigm assumptions in understanding the collective wisdom, thus the shift
Dialogue is uncovering the group mind, discovering shared meaning, rather
than problem solving which moves toward an outcome or solution. From our
learnings we are using dialogue in our practice for dialogue learning, conflict
resolution, inclusion of diversity, planning and visualizing whole systems, and
creating cultures of continuous learning.
How we came to explore dialogue more deeply
In organizational development circles, the practice of dialogue has been around
for some time. In the race to explore newer “fads”, some might suggest that
dialogue is leading in importance. But we disagree. It remains very difficult to
get beyond the typical interaction and decision patterns in our organizations
and in our complicated, rapid-fire lives. Having a place where we know our deep
thoughts and emotions can be spoken, where we feel accepted as unfinished
persons, is alluring. It may even take us to another plane in development. At our
first dialogue in the series we initiated our time together with a Vietnamese Tea
Ceremony greeting one another in silent presence as we offered each other a cup
of tea. As we met with intent through eye contact, we drew the circle together
and began as a grouping united to create together.
Empowerment in Organizations,
Vol. 6 No. 4, 1998, pp. 119-123.
© MCB University Press, 0265-671X