Talking about the future direction an organization should take is a challenge at the best of times. Figuring out what to do tomorrow involves intelligent, caring people sharing their ideas, passions, and also their biases.
The challenge is to build common ground on which everyone can stand and see a clear path forward. It’s not necessarily an easy thing to do. We all know group think is needed. Typically, many minds are more knowledgeable and can see more possibilities than one mind.
All of us have experienced and valued the generation of ideas that evolve out of talking together, sharing perspectives, making suggestions, challenging one another, and so forth. No doubt this is the kind of experience we all desire when we talk together about important things.
It is also likely that all of us have experienced unsuccessful group sessions. There are a lot of reasons why that happens; some of them are:
• People become overly positional and end up arguing or debating more so than working together to craft the best solution or strategy.
• There is an inequity of participation, where a few people dominate the conversation.
• The group strays off track, becomes immersed in tangential conversations and at the end of the day fall short of accomplishing what they set out to do.
• People come unprepared to participate as per the agenda or wish to promote an entirely different agenda.
Think about your own experiences and what has happened in the past to make a meeting or a strategy session less successful than you thought it could have been.
SO WHAT IS STRATEGIC DIALOGUE?
The definition I use for dialogue is: “shared exploration towards greater understanding, connection, or possibility” (Co-Intelligence Institute). Suggested guidelines for dialogue sessions are:
• We talk about what’s really important to us.
• We really listen to each other. We are intentional about understanding one another’s views, ideas, and experience.
• We say what’s true for us without making each other wrong.
• We see what we can learn together by exploring things together.
• We avoid monopolizing the conversation. We make sure everyone has a chance to speak.
Imagine if we could all align ourselves to these five basic principles of dialogue. How rich the conversation and the ideas it generates could be.