Creating Space for Conversations that matter

Our Philosophy of Generative Dialogue

There is a huge difference between debate and dialogue, between discussion and conversation and between argument and persective. Debate, discussion, criticism and argument are part of an old paradigm, which is anchored in individualism and competition, where winning the argument and beating adversaries are valued, where it is thought listening to all the pros and cons then focussing on the best (normally the loudest!) argument works best – the problem with this being that it is based on Either-Or thinking, which easily excludes other perspectives, is divisive and thus makes it very difficult to work with in complexity. Our government (opposition), our legal system (adversarial) and most of corporate life is based on good arguments and debating, with a focus on the best argument, competitively (and often not without backstabbing), winning the day. Unfortunately our education system is still largely predicated on this type of thinking, so it appears to be the natural thing to do as adults.

We believe the 21st century will require a different kind of interaction between people, based on Dialogue or Conversation. Our VUCA world and especially complex systems, require that we become able to absorb different, sometimes opposing or contrary perspectives and integrate them into a more holistic view, one that incorporates these various perspectives and reconciles or transcends them into a new entity. This is the paradigm of ‘fuzzy’ Both-And Collaboration. For this to be possible requires that the diversity of perspectives be present in the dialogue, and be fully heard at face value, without prejudice in a contextualised and embodied fashion, and then for all the different perspectives to be coordinated and integrated into an emergent whole. Inclusivity is hence key, as well as rich interactivity, and this is the domain of dialogue and conversation, the new paradigm. Our approach, whether online or offline, is to teach, encourage and enable this kind of collaborative dialogue to happen and thrive.

Our work focusses, among other things, on VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity): we bring our experience of working with complexity into our online working style. One core principle is working with Both-And thinking and the contextualised integration of multiple perspectives holistically in reconciliatory decision-making and collaborative problem-solving. We were teaching this even before going online. In our online processes we not only use video conferencing tools more effectively in order to engage people, but also introduce people to better collaboration and VUCA skills in the process at the same time.

 Here is a video explaining why creating spaces for generative dialogue is important and how it can be done: