Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Thinking together

I'm fascinated by how groups of people talk, listen and think together. So often the experience is dispiriting - something about the sum of the parts adding up to less than they should. So it always of interest to observe, and be part of, a group in which the quality of collective thinking outweighs what seems possible individually.

What makes the difference? William Isaacs ** reckons it is often down to the quality of dialogue and some apparently very simple, very teachable behaviours:
  • Listen - like a peer
  • Suspend - your certainties
  • Respect - others views
  • Speak - your true voice

Easy .. no not at all . We, by and large, don't 'get' the difference between debate and dialogue. We've all be trained in a 'debating' culture and have few really positive role models of group collaboration and skilled dialogue.  It takes time and patience to learn these apparently simple skills, and get the balance of advocacy and inquiry consistently right. 

Watch next time  you are in a group that's going round in circles - which of these behaviours is being overplayed and which undercooked? Always illuminating.

**Isaacs, W. (1999), Dialogue and the art of thinking together, New York: Doubleday.

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