Posts Tagged ‘generative dialogue’

L25 -12 Types of Learning, Part 2

September 7, 2009

Collaborative learning is a strong incentive towards inter-communication within a group. This is the incentive behind the rapid growth of inter-communication among:

  • Scientific researchers in numerous disciplines
  • R&D teams in innovative corporations
  • Professional associations
  • Guilds among craftsmen, artisans and artists.

Last Thursday in Bangkok, as part of a 3-day KM training program for UNISDR, UN ESCAP and various international and regional non-governmental organizations, I asked participants to “Estimate what percent of your total knowledge now came from your formal education/training?” The participants were international development professionals, and many of them have had KM experiences.

The average answer was only 15-20%. We observed that we learn from work and from life much more than we learn from school, yet we devote MUCH LESS resources, planning, tools/technologies and systems/institutions to get the 80-85% than we do to get the 15-20% from school! We are missing out on something important here. What is it?

For learning from work, we need tools and technologies of Organizational Learning.

I also asked the participants to write down their answers to the question “How Do I Learn?” The 84 answers were clustered. The two biggest clusters that emerged were: (1) learning from work or learning by doing or practice, with 21 answers, and (2) learning by interaction with others, with 18 answers. If so, the next question then is, what is the technology (and art?) of collaborative learning?

This is where Indigo Learning Practices come in.

In a previous blog post, I proposed a way to classify and clarify how we learn (see “12 Types of Learning”). The “12 Types of Learning” follow naturally from the simple KM framework developed in the earlier F Series of blogs, with the addition of Experience as a prior factor in the causal chain:

Experience -> Knowledge -> Action -> Results
E -> K -> A -> R

In short, learning happens when we individually or collaboratively examine and communicate what happens across these four elements.

12 ways we learn

Here is a short summary of the Twelve Types of Learning. The numbers refer to Person 1 and Person 2 who are engaged in communication for the common purpose of learning. The KM framework provides a way of seeing and understanding how knowledge flows between two people. Because Beliefs and Values also affect Action and are also affected by Experience, I place these two items with Knowledge. For similar reasons, I place Statements with Action. The causal chain then is: Experience -> Knowledge/Beliefs/Values -> Action/Statement -> Results.

  1. Type 1: Comparing notes to learn what works better (R1 and R2)
  2. Type 2: Communal validation and reframing is the type of learning powerfully demonstrated by the scientific method (R modifying K and E). It consists of a group of practitioners testing and revising knowledge and reframing beliefs against what works.
  3. Type 3: Reflective practice, where a practitioner does “conscious learning by doing” (individual study of K -> A -> R)
  4. Type 4: Presentation and discussions (S1, S2)
  5. Type 5: Criticism, praise or passing judgment on another (K1 or V1 applied to A2 or S2)
  6. Type 6: Debate is a two-way exchange of Types 4 and 5
  7. Type 7: Learning from exemplars, models, benchmarks or best practices (A1 or S1 leading to K2)
  8. Type 8: Learning through study of each other’s assumptions, mental models (mutual study of each other’s K, B or V)
  9. Type 9: Conscious living or study of one’s assumptions or beliefs in relation to one’s experiences (individual or group study of E -> K and new K reframing E)
  10. Type 10: Storytelling and story listening, or knowledge from others’ experiences (E1 leading to K2)
  11. Type 11: Insight or intuition (birth of new K through ill-understood internal processes)
  12. Type 12: Generative dialogue is productive communication that combines Types 8-11.

From my experience, Type 5 learning happens mostly if one person (the one exercising value judgments) has more power than the other person. Between equals, Type 5 easily leads to Type 6 but learning happens with difficulty in both cases.

Learning is more likely when members of a communicating group practice skills in Types 8-12. To me, the most powerful skills are story listening and generative dialogue. The set of Indigo Learning Practices is a contribution towards the systematization of technologies of collaborative learning.

“The shortest distance between a human being and truth is a story.” – Anthony de Mello



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Communication Intents behind Indigo Practices

August 17, 2009

The Indigo Quadrant is where —

This series of blogs is a contribution to the shaping of new “Indigo Practices” — the survival skills we inhabitants of Planet Earth need to learn if we are to “pull through” despite the global environmental, political and religious-civilizational crises we ourselves have unwittingly created.

The communication intents behind Indigo Learning Practices are simple but challenging: to be able to understand ourselves and each other so that we can learn and build together as a group, despite our cultural, political, religious and other differences.

Towards this end, we need new and different but more workable tools for —

Here is my first-pass mind map of skills and tools for Indigo Learning Practices. It is an evolving mind map: I change and improve it from feedback from colleagues like you and as my concurrent personal experiences guide me as the blog series gets written one post at a time.

Building together

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When Judgment Closes the Door to Productive Communication

July 23, 2009

What is your MBTI score? Are you and a “P” or a “J”? P-types are people who are good at observing, researching, analyzing, etc. J-types are people who are decisive, finishers, doers, etc. Actually, people are generally a mix of “P” and “J”. A person’s type can be measured along a P-J scale, where his mix is leaning either towards “P” or towards “J”.

An “extreme P” or an “extreme J” is both a curse and a blessing. An “extreme J” person is a very quick decision maker, but he tends to jump to conclusions/decisions based on bias, impressions or insufficient information. An “extreme P” is excellent in making studies, but his weakness is indecision and “analysis paralysis”. The balanced person is one who can be a “P” or a “J” depending on what is appropriate for a specific situation. He can suspend judgment in order to better sense what is going on, but he can also make a quick decision when a situation calls for it.

Ability to suspend judgment is an ingredient in organizational learning; it is a necessary ingredient in generative dialogue.

You wish to now your MBTI score? You can take a free online test (press “Ctrl” while clicking HERE). The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is based on Carl Jung’s observation about personality types. The fourth or last letter in your MBTI type is either P or J. Your score there will tell you how far you are from the midpoint or balance.

In problematic relationships or in situations of hostility between groups, productive communication can be killed by inability to suspend judgement on the part of both parties, which in turn can be the consequence of an inability to be aware of one’s judgments. If both parties entertain opposing or incompatible judgments, and both hold judgments based on what to each of them are fundamental values, absolute truth or even God’s will, then the door to productive communication or negotiation between them closes.

This can happen in international relations, between religious fundamentalists, between political parties holding extreme views, in marriages, in civil disputes, etc.

Take these two incompatible judgments:

Hamas suicide bomber: “I should give my life for my people and our just cause; if I die, God will reward me with paradise.”

Israeli soldier: “I should fight for Israel and for my people; God gave this land to us.”

The result is violence, a sign of failure of communication:


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Indigo Learning Practices (L Series)

June 2, 2009

Group learning is superior to individual, isolated learning. Most of us went through school using the individual, competitive and concept-based learning model. There are many reasons to believe that collaborative and practice-based learning will be the next learning model for production, innovation and conflict-prevention in the 21st century:

  • Group learning lies in the indigo quadrant (see lower left cell in the diagram below that clusters KM tools) and major world problems (e.g. global financial crisis and many on-going military conflicts) stem from our lack of knowledge in this quadrant. Read more about this in the blog post “Emerging Indigo Practices.” “Indigo quadrant” is the lower-left or tacit-group quadrant in the expanded KM model described in the blog post “Q27- Combining Megatrends #1 and #2: the Next Societal Innovations” and applied in many subsequent posts.


  • For effective group learning, group members need to learn how to value and nurture mutual trust. Trust is an indigo quality that is the fundamental value driver behind all forms of relationship capital. Trust underlies the worst fears and threats to our planetary society. Read more about this in blog post “A Value Driver behind Relationship Capital.”
  • Two long-term global megatrends converge towards the indigo quadrant. This means that major societal innovations are expected to emerge from the indigo quadrant (see “Q27- Combining Megatrends #1 and #2: the Next Societal Innovations”). Such innovations must steer clearly away from value-destruction and towards value-creation (see “Q25- Robin Hood versus the Sheriff of Nottingham” and “Value-Creating and Value-Destroying Social Innovations”)
  • Because corporate production is basically a group process, then it follows that corporate learning and knowledge conversion/transfer processes must be managed from a group perspective. Many organizational learning and intra-organizational knowledge conversion/transfer tools are available for this purpose (see “Knowledge pathways in a learning organization” and “Appreciating Nonaka’s SECI model”). However, the tools for group learning in the context of a network of equals or parties with different interests are few and less developed. The latter tools are needed for conflict-prevention and similar political processes.
  • Social networks have become very popular. They serve needs for socialization, business and professional purposes, advocacy and sometimes for group learning and group innovation.

This L Series will deal with tools and practices for group learning within a network of equals. We could label this as horizontal or network learning, but I chose the label “indigo learning practices” to emphasize the long-term importance of indigo processes and to remind us that group learning stems from solid personal learning practices. In turn, better personal learning arises from a foundation of mastery of Power of the Third Kind.

Below will be our tentative list of blog topics. If you believe that a topic should be included, please contribute a comment (click the “Comment” link below). Blog topics that had been posted appear as links (colored text) below; while pressing “Ctrl” click on the link to read the blog you want in a new browser tab.

1. Setting a Personal Learning Mode

    L11 Will to self-improve
    L12 Listening
    – Can we manage knowledge? (a practice in listening)
    – Listening (and building cross-cultural relationship capital)
    L13 Learning how to learn
    – The reflective knowledge worker
    – Personal learning history
    L14 Voicing
    – Ask high-value questions
    – The art of interviewing
    L15 Double-loop learning
    – A tool for learning to unlearn: internal “5 why’s”
    L16 Concepts can block learning
    – Your judgment can block your learning
    – Memories (or past experiences) can block (or unblock) learning
    – External attention can block your learning

2. Communicating

    L21- On Michael Jackson, or our mental models of people we know
    – How we form judgments of other people: female circumcision, lying, the jury system and the scientists’ “sacred p<.05"
    – When judgment closes the door to productive communication
    L22 200% listening
    – Internal listening and anger management
    – Listening where mental models of people conflict
    – Listening to life
    L23 What is your communication intent?
    – Tools for conscious shifting of communication ends and means
    – Personal intangible assets and intentions
    – Communication intents behind Indigo Practices
    L24 Announce your communication boundaries
    – Another communication boundary: how far can you self-disclose?
    – When your communication boundaries are breached
    L25 12 types of learning, part 2
    L26 Bohm’s dream: a revolution in how we communicate
    – John Lennon’s dream: a world free of mental boxes and mental fences
    – The dream of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: humankind’s discovery of the “second fire”

3. Setting a Common Space of Mutual Trust

    L31 Transparency in intentions
    L32 A free and open space for sensing each other’s meanings
    L33 Sensing one another’s internal drivers
    L34 Respect
    L35 Building energy from appreciative sensing
    L36 Sharing your most fulfilling moments
    L37 Process partnering

4. Together We See the Whole

    L41 Story listening: seeing how she sees
    L42 Seeing how we see
    L43 Seeing the forest, not just the trees
    L44 Connecting the cosmic dots: three “Big Bangs”
    L45 Problem-finding then problem-solving
    L46 Sensing the emergent
    L47 Indigo governance: consensual discernment

5. Co-Creating Shared Realities

    L51 “Big Bang #4”?: conscious co-evolution
    L52 From win-win to build-build
    L53 Senge’s “presencing”
    L54 Isaac’s “generative dialogue”
    L55 Co-ownership
    L56 Co-creation
    L57 Bridging leadership

Below is a tentative (and still evolving) mind map of how the above topics are organized.

Building together

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Q28- Recap of KM Virtues and Gaps, or Will KM Disappear?

May 30, 2009

This Q Series had been a successful one; 16,267 hits came in since it started. We end this blog series with this summarizing post. To better appreciate an item that strikes you, I suggest reading the blog which explains that point. The blogs are accessible from this post through embedded links (which appear as colored text). While pressing “Ctrl”, you can click on the colored text to create a new tab to read the previous blog post referred to.

Virtues of KM and OL (organizational learning):

Gaps in KM and OL practice:

What we need next, a new KM or the next discipline after KM:

Q28 cartoon

We will start the new L Series on “Indigo Learning Practices” in the next blog. Stay tuned in!

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12 Types of Learning

April 19, 2009

To prepare the ground for my next blog post (Q24- KM and power: constant bed fellows), we will use the KM framework introduced in F2 (Intangibles: More Essential for Value Creation) and F5 (A Proposed KM Framework) to look at different ways that we learn.

I have illustrated 10 different ways to apply the KM framework in 10 past blog posts:

Delineating the 12 types of learning (see diagram below) will be the 11th illustration of using the KM framework. I am using the same color codings (yellow for knowledge, crimson for action and green for results) as in the above 10 illustrations. This typology refers to the channels or modalities of learning and does not presume whether and how far in fact the knowledge receiver learned (thanks to Bill Kaplan of Washington, D.C. for pointing this out).

12 ways we learn

Person A and Person B are co-equal in power, authority and influence. Interactions between people with unequal power are discussed in the next blog post on “KM and Power”. In the diagram, we start with Type 1 at the extreme right and proceed towards the left for Type 2 and the rest.

Type 1 is simply studying What Works Better, where A and B compare results of their actions; the two learn when they discover which action produces better results.

Type 2 or Communal Validation is similar to Type 1 but it involves a community and its protocols for knowledge validation. For example, the scientific community learns and generates new knowledge through scientific protocols on observation of results of actions/experiments up to analysis and interpretation of data. In a community of practitioners (CoP), identification, documentation and transfer of best practice follow similar protocols: results of many similar actions are compared and a “best” practice is identified, documented and shared with the rest of the community. Ken Wilber calls the steps in Type 2 learning as “three strands of valid knowing”; see his books “The Marriage of Sense and Soul” or “A Sociable God”. (Thanks to Mark Wolfe for pointing out that the feedback does reach back to enculturation and training.)

While Communal Validation is a feedback from observed results to mental models (=knowledge, beliefs, paradigms), when we rework our mental models or re-organize what we know (thanks to Katherine Bertolucci for pointing this out) we Reframe how we view the world. This learning process is the feedforward back to observation of results.

Type 3 is similar to Type 1 and 2 but Reflective Practice can involve only one person. Types 1-3 involve feedback or observation of results to improve knowledge and practice. A common variant of Type 3 is Learning from Doing, which happens largely semi-consciously. If you wish to learn more about Type 3, start by reading the book “The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action” by Donald A. Schon.

Type 4 is Presentation where A or B talks and the other listens, such as watching YouTube, listening to a lecture or reading a book. This type of learning is suited for learning concepts but not skills. Discussion occurs when participants take turns in presentation and then proceed to a mix of Type 1 and 2 learning, and oftentimes with Type 5 and 6 thrown in.

Type 5 is Criticism, Praise or Judgment where B — using his own knowledge, beliefs, interests or values — judges a statement or action of A. If A and B do not share the same knowledge, beliefs, interests or values, then A will defend himself based on his own knowledge, beliefs, interests or values. If A and B are co-equal in power, and neither will give up their own knowledge, beliefs, interests or values, or they are unable to shift their discourse towards Type 1-2 or Type 8-12, then the result is —

Type 6 is Debate. Learning can still happen through Type 5 and 6, but this learning is least likely to happen compared to other types. Unfortunately, when one or both of A and B strongly believes he is right, or avoids being proven wrong, or is unable to shift to Types 1-2 or 8-12, then each tries to convince/criticize the other but the other then digs in and defends himself, and the process can degenerate to an ugly downward spiral (I have seen this many times in one of the KM discussion lists). In a debate, the objective is no longer learning but winning, or proving the other person is wrong, or pushing for one’s pet theory or belief. In the end, people hardly learn or change their beliefs as a result of debate; and goodwill is often the casualty. It is unfortunate that many people allow themselves to be drawn into this inutile form of communication. This is common among people holding on to different religious and political beliefs, but I also see it among intelligent people holding on to different academic schools of thought. I wrote about Debate versus Discussion versus Dialogue in a previous blog post. If you want to learn more about the difference between debate, discussion and dialogue, start by reading the book “Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together” by William Isaacs.

Type 7 or Exemplar is when A through his actions and speech models, manifests, demonstrates or acts as exemplar of a knowledge, belief, interest or value such that B learns through observing A. This is the process that occurs during mentoring when the apprentice watches the mentor perform, and when a child watches her parents and teachers. The mentor initiates the learning process not through trying to convince but through demonstrating how certain actions produce desired results.

Type 8 is when A and B consciously and jointly review or revise their Mental Models, underlying assumptions or frameworks that sponsored or led to specific actions or statements. This is one of the five disciplines of a learning organization according to Peter Senge. Learning or changing one’s beliefs is more likely to happen by making our assumptions explicit and examining them together than by trying to convince, argue or attack another person (Types 5 and 6). If you have not read the landmark book “The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization” by Peter M. Senge then I suggest you do. John Naisbitt’s “Mind Set! Reset Your Thinking and See the Future” is entertaining to read. A prevalent variant of Type 8 is the unplanned or semi-conscious process whereby two or more people through conversations Reconstruct their shared view of social reality.

Type 9 is Conscious Living, where a person studies why he does what he keeps doing, reflects on his own assumptions and beliefs, and consciously manages how he thinks, perceives, interprets, values and makes daily life decisions. My NGO — the Center for Conscious Living Foundation — has been developing, practicing and teaching tools under this type of learning since 1999. Check our website for more information.

Type 10 is Storytelling and Story Listening, where B shares his experiences with A. If A is able to truly listen, or to listen while suspending his judgments and beliefs, he may understand or appreciate why B thinks and believes the way he does. Then A can discover new ways of looking at the same thing they are both looking at. Check out the book by KM gurus John Seely Brown, Stephen Denning, Katalina Groh, and Laurence Prusak: “Storytelling in Organizations: Why Storytelling Is Transforming 21st Century Organizations and Management.”

Type 11 is Insight or Intuition, when new ideas or thoughts emerge in one’s consciousness — through processes the thinker himself is not clear about — that can provide the basis for better action.

Type 12 or Generative Dialogue is the process where a group of people have reached a level of trust and skill in performing Types 8-11 such that they are able as a group to reflect and explore how and why they think, see and interact the way they do, consciously discover their limiting assumptions and biases, reframe a problem or issue, revise or improve their mental models, and generate new options or solutions. Learning is more likely in Types 8-12 than in Types 5-6 which are hampered by inability or unwillingness to reflect and to suspend judgment. I have written about Generative Dialog in a previous blog post. Besides Isaacs’ book mentioned above, check out also Adam Kahane’s “Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening and Creating New Realities.”

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Generative Dialogue: Let’s Get Practical (#7)

February 1, 2009

The last blog post (Q12- Clash of Civilizations or Dialogue among Civilizations?) is too “Cloud 9,” right? So, let’s get practical or down-to-earth.

Below are four sample personal practices you can try starting today to apply the principles behind generative dialogue. Please feedback us about your experiences on them using the Comments link below.

  • Discovering your blindfolds. If you read or hear about anything that seems “crazy,” “stupid,” “weird” or “useless” to you, and the next action you are about to do is to to laugh or ignore it, hold your horses! Notice your reaction or judgment. Now is precisely an opportunity for you to discover one of your mental boxes or blindfolds. What made you judge or label it as “crazy” or “stupid;” what was your assumption? Examine it. Is the assumption still valid? If yes, then retain it; if not, then revise it. Now that you are aware of your assumption, you have the power of choice over it. Most often our choices are unconsciously driven by our blindfolds and assumptions. Awareness can reverse this situation: we consciously manage our mindset, instead of our mindset unconsciously managing our choices.
  • Listening. Do you notice that there are times when a person is talking to you, and while he or she is still talking you were busy mentally preparing what you will say next? You were only listening 50%! Do you notice that when a person you like very much or hate very much is talking, the words you hear are instantly screened by your internal judge? Your liking or hating the one talking is preventing you from 100% listening! Or did you notice your disappointment when you expected a person to say something and in fact the person said something else? Your expectation then made you ignore, oppose, rechannel, resist or in other ways NOT listen to what he or she just said?
  • Inner labels. Have you experienced a person lying to you once (or twice, or three times, etc.) and so you said to yourself “this person is a liar.” Your mind had attached the label “liar” to this person (your “mental model” of the person). The next time you have a conversation with the person where he may in fact be telling a truth, the label you adopted automatically prejudges all his statements as untrue. Or, you no longer want to ever talk to the person again.
  • Automatic defensive reactions. Have you experienced a situation where a colleague is criticizing you, and while he or she is still talking, you start to feel really bad. Instead of trying to understand what he is saying at that moment, your mind then instantly whirred into action preparing counter-arguments, explanations, rationalizations or counter-criticisms. Have you also experienced that because you really felt angry, you cut him off before he was finished talking and you actually said what your mind prepared: counter-arguments, explanations, rationalizations or counter-criticisms. There was an automaticity to all these processes. You were more aware of them only through recall and reflection afterwards. Had we been more aware of our internal mental processes — at the time they were happening — we could have held back from automatically defending and heard the other person more. It may even happen that the other person may only be appearing to us as criticizing; in other words the criticism was only our own interpretation. His motive may have been completely different — but our anger and the automaticities it triggers within us would then have prevented us from knowing this.

Have you experienced any of these or something quite similar? Please share your story.

Mahatma Gandhi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

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Q12- Clash of Civilizations or Dialogue among Civilizations?

January 31, 2009

In front of me are two books.

The first book is Samuel P. Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” (1996). He said that the end of the Cold War and its ideological conflict is paving the way to global clashes between major cultures: Western vs. Chinese, Western vs. Islamic, Hindu vs. Islamic, Hindu vs. Chinese, etc.

The second book tells a story (Adam Kahane’s “Solving Tough Problems”: an Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities, 2004) of how leaders of warring political groups in apartheid South Africa met and talked together at Mont Fleur Conference Center — a fateful meeting where they mustered the courage and goodwill to clarify together the stark choices and futures South Africa faces, and which eventually paved the way towards the end of apartheid and the rise of Nelson Mandela.

As I read these two books, I feel both fear and hope. I am afraid of a nuclear holocaust started by trigger-happy leaders. What will Israel do once Iran develops a nuclear weapons capability? What will a fundamentalist Islamic group do if they are able to steal Pakistani nuclear weapons? Would desperation push North Korea to send a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile to their Korean cousins in the south?

We may yet save humankind from mutual assured destruction of a nuclear holocaust if we, especially our leaders, learn how to truly talk together.

Harvard Professor David Bohm and Mark Edwards, in their book “Changing Consciousness: Exploring the Hidden Source of the Social, Political, and Environmental Crises Facing Our World,” said

    “Suppose we were able to share meanings freely without a compulsive urge to impose our view or to conform to those of others and without distortion and self deception. Would this not constitute a real revolution in culture?”

I feel guardedly hopeful because I could see the solution, or at least the direction where humankind can find a solution, namely, generative dialogue (see “D19- Debate versus Discussion versus Dialogue”). This is what happened in 1991 at Mont Fleur. I said “guardedly” because there are people who think it is wrong for their leaders to compromise and who will use violence to stop their leaders. The 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat after he dialogued with Israel in 1978-79 leading to the Camp David Accords is an example. The 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin after the Oslo Accords of 1993 — the first official dialogue between the Israel government and the Palestinian Liberation Organization — is another example.

We all engage in conversations many times a day. It is so common, many tend to think they know how to engage in a productive conversation.

“Managing Conversations” is an entire chapter in the book, “Enabling Knowledge Creation: How to Unlock the Mystery of Tacit Knowledge and Release the Power of Innovation,” by von Krogh, Ichijo and Nonaka. According to them

    “…good conversations are the cradle of social knowledge in any organization…(which) allows for the first and most essential step of knowledge creation: sharing tacit knowledge within a microcommunity.”

Referring to the events after September 11, former President Khatami of Iran — who wrote the book “Dialogue Among Civilizations: a Paradigm for Peace” (2006) — said

    “Two superficially opposing voices are heard in America and Afghanistan, which in fact are the two sides of the same coin… One says whoever is not with America is a terrorist and the other says whoever does not accept this behavior is an opponent of Islam and a proponent of America… Such false and arrogant judgments are the root cause of violence and terror as well as war.”

William Isaacs, who studied under learning organization guru Peter Senge and double-loop learning proponent Chris Argyris, wrote about how generative dialogue can be achieved (“Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together”, 1999).

Civilizational divides are threatening the security and stability of the planet and all of us, we need to learn how to truly talk to each other. If we can practice dialogue towards learning organizations, perhaps we can next practice it towards learning nations.

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Practical KM Hints (#6)

January 22, 2009

Deliberate or conscious paradigm shifting (see Q8- Wanted: Workable Tools for Voluntary Paradigm Shifting”) is a KM skill. Here are some examples where this KM skill comes in:

  • Conscious paradigm shifting can be an outcome in generative dialogue (see “D19- Debate versus Discussion versus Dialogue”). Practical Hints for Learning Facilitators (#3) lists some guidelines for facilitators to help workshop participants reach the Stage 4 of generative dialogue.
  • When company executives are revising their business model or innovating new business models, they are actually changing their fundamental business assumptions — another example of conscious paradigm shifting. I gave an actual example in my presentation to the 10th Asia Pacific KM Conference in Hong Kong last December 2008 (see Slides 42-44 in “Service Innovation: some Philippine Trends and Experiences”). Green Spot Strategic Planning© is an example of strategic KM (see “D9- Strategic KM versus Operational KM”)
  • Conscious paradigm shifting requires one to “get out of one’s mental box” which depends on the skill of discovering one’s hidden assumptions. This is the same as the ability to work on/with your mental models, one of the five disciplines of a learning organization according to Peter Senge. CCLFI uses a simple group workshop exercise called “Get the Guava!” to help people do the latter. If you are interested in this exercise for non-commercial purposes, email me and I will send you a copy.
  • It is likely that you yourself have experienced a personal paradigm shift, but you did not label it as such. CCLFI has group workshop exercises such as “My Peak Life Experience” to identify, recover and study these important episodes in one’s learning journey through life.

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D19- Debate versus Discussion versus Dialogue

December 31, 2008

In a debate the purposes are usually:

  • To win (“win-lose” thinking between two sides)
  • To defend your idea as best as you can (ego investment: “your idea”)
  • To look for your opponent’s weaknesses and use them to defeat him
  • To know who is right and who is wrong, or who can argue better
  • To settle an issue
  • (To learn is usually NOT a purpose of debate)

Discussion involves:

  • Presenting and talking about two or more ideas, solutions or options (many “sides”)
  • Analyzing and evaluating different proposals to make a rational choice on the best one
  • Listening and comparing different views to look for common ground for agreement or “win-win” combinations
  • Looking for the best choice or solution, usually based on “either/or” thinking
  • Not only rationality but also exercise of power, influence or peer pressure
  • Making a final choice.

Dialogue requires the following:

  • Ability to be aware of your thinking processes (metacognition or Peter Senge’s “left-hand column”)
  • Ability to recognize and suspend your own assumptions and judgments
  • Willingness to admit your own mistakes or limitations
  • Ability to listen to different viewpoints or interpretations
  • Willingness to admit that you have only a few pieces of the entire jigsaw puzzle
  • Ability to see the strength and value of a different idea; ability to see an idea from many perspectives
  • Ability to make explicit one’s “ladder of inference” (according to Peter Senge, your sequence of thinking between what you see and what you conclude)
  • Ability to see that there are many ways of framing a question, and there can be many right answers to a question (there are no “sides” or you don’t “take sides”)
  • Ability to think “out of the box”
  • Ability to put several different views into a more encompassing view
  • Ability to sense what is emergent.

Dialogue can lead to:

  • Generating many new ways of looking at the same thing
  • Generating novel frameworks
  • Understanding, appreciating, combining and sharing meanings; evolving and generating new meanings
  • Generating innovations and new learnings
  • Broadening choices.

Here are the four stages to Generative Dialogue adapted from William Isaacs’ book “Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together”:


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