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Reading”Dialogue, the art of thinking together” by
William Isaacs was an assignment that I did not give much importance to in the
beginning and that proved to be a true revelation regarding what this noun I
use a lot means and made me a lot more conscious about how much of the
conversations I have are actually discussions and not dialogues.

Structurally, the book has 5 parts: “What is
Dialogue?”, “Building capacity for new behavior”, “Predictive intuition”,
“Architecture of the invisible”, “Widening the circle”, every one of them
describing different ways of enriching dialogue and how other people
successfully used it.

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The first part introduces the reader to the four principles of a
fruitful dialogue: unfolding-speaking your own truth, participation-actively
connecting with the others, coherence-sticking to a subject and building on it
and awareness-listening to others before introducing your ideas. This part also
describes the definition of dialogue, in Greek, and it is „flow of meaning”
which created a shift in my mind and made me reconsider the ratio of the
moments when I actually say something meaningful and the ones when I simply
speak my mind.

The second part presents the concepts of respect, voicing, suspension
and listening through new perspectives. That being said, respect is about
always treating the ones around as if there is something to learn from them and
is categorized as being an active process. The etymology of the word links it
to Greek and means “to look again, to observe” and encourages the reader to
repeat this process until he finds value in the person he is dialoguing with. One
other very interesting concept that I was not aware of until reading this book
was suspension that means suspending your pre-judgments. We all judge, all the
time, but what we have to keep in mind is that none of us is smarter that all
the other ones in the room and that is why you have to be open to what others
are speaking. Listening is best emphasized in the following quote”People don’t
listen, they just reload” and the author encourages the reader to listen
differently because he will start to also see differently.

The
third section of the book characterizes predictive intuition and
displays Kantor’s three system paradigms: open, closed and random and what are
the downsides of every one of them. In the open system it is the tyranny of the
process because it can take more time to take into consideration everyone’s
opinion, for the closed system is the blindness to emergent change since this
system values tradition and history, and the random one has the drawback named
“the tyranny of anarchy” because it has no stability. This part also outlines
the importance of balance between advocacy, speaking what you think, and
inquiry, looking into what you do not know yet, since this is the key to a
genuine dialogue.

The fourth part brings into attention another notion, the one of the
container that is created at every interaction with one or more people, as well
as the field that describes the state of the process. Therefore, the four
stages a dialogue has are instability of the field, instability in the field,
inquiry in the field and creativity in the field. Our team is now juggling back
and forth between the first two stages and will be able to pass to the third
one only by starting to listen differently. Another theory that caught my
attention was the “Ecology of thought” and how it is linked to “the true, the
good and the beautiful”, three filters for what we are constantly thinking.

The last part connects more with the business world, but also with
the team dynamics. Thus, one notion presented here that is applicable to our
team is the comparison between having an agenda and using the free flow, both
being useful if used together. Moreover, during the course I found out that
there are boards of advisors that meet up without having an agenda and these
sessions usually have very interesting outcomes. One specific question from this
section remained in my mind, possibly because I am also looking for an answer
to it: “What are we missing that we simply don’t want to hear?”.

In conclusion, “Dialogue, the art of thinking
together” is a book that needs to be read and re-read a few times in our
lifetime because, if read with attention and predisposition to change, it can
generate a very fruitful transformation to your life. Personally, what I take
with me after the course and the lecture of the book is one fact that I have
never considered before, that in order to have a genuine dialogue, my meaning
has to be connected to the others and that I have to build on what is already
in the container. Finally, I am used to finish every essay with a quote that is
important to me, but this time I am going to end it with a phrase mentioned
during the course that is more valuable for the team and for me since I became
the inquiry responsible: “The more questions you ask, the faster the consensus
is.”

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