Spirited Debate on LO LO6577

Thu, 4 Apr 1996 08:14:06 -0500

[Host's Note: Dear Readers -- This is to launch a thread about how to
create the most effective dialogue in a community. The specific question
is about dialogue here on the LO list, but I hope the results will be
applicable elsewhere.

Here's how this arose... Recently one of the msgs here caught Hal's
attention and he composed an energetic reply that began, "I dispair" (at
talk like this)...

I declined to distribute Hal's msg. (I do decline a few msgs from
subscribers, not many).

Hal then wrote to me with the msg below which raises important issues
about effective conduct of dialogue here and in general. I'm delighted to
distribute Hal's msg, with his support, as the start of a thread. Just to
be clear, this is NOT an argument between Hal and I about my actions in
this or any other specific case. I am *very* interested in how dialogue
can be most effective.

Thanks, Hal, for launching this thread. ...Rick]

But Rick...

Look, I hope you know that there is absolutely nothing personal in any of
my posts. And I know you know that I disagree with how you interpret and
apply the guidelines.

Let's, then, engage this topic privately as I my beliefs are strong,
heart felt, and, I believe, well founded in logic and nature.

Let me try this:

If a statement made by a person posting here is, in fact, arrogant -
hypothetically - how is it incorrect to tell them?

How will the person EVER know that the have said something arrogant? Let
us presume, now that it merely sounds arrogant, again, hypothetically. How
can they EVER improve their communication skills?

Rick, how is a sword made sharp? Is it not through conflict with the
stone? Theology aside, how does evolution work - is it not through
conflict? How is learning achieved? Some of the best learning is IMHO
through mistakes. Other of the best learning, IMHO, is through the
conflict of ideas. Debate, discussion, etc.

A personal experience as well:
I was the youngest General Manager ever appointed at a Fortune 10 firm at
the age of 29. I spent every third weekend either at Harvard or at our
management institute for the year before this. The learning was
exceptional and quite intense. Sadly, many people were eliminated along
the way - but with no adverse impact to their previous (non-General
Manager) career path.

The last learning experience was this: you are a memeber of a Board of
Directors with classmates you've met and other's you've not met. You have
a long agenda on which you MUST achieve concurrence before you are allowed
to leave the room. One wall of the room is a one-way mirror with "graders"
and video cameras. Unbeknownst to you, one of your group is a General
Manager or VP there on one mission - do not allow concurrence. It is a
long and difficult road.

In the end the "plant" relents" and off to bed for a very few hours sleep.
The next morning you face a review. The reviewers are: a VP, a Professor,
and a Psychiatrist! They speak briefly on your good points and spend at
least two hours on your mistakes, replete with video! Grown men cry,

But, Rick, it is a most profound learning experience which any of us would
recommend to anyone. And it is the internal reward that makes it worth it
as I am close to people who made it and who did not. There is NO - ZERO
difference between their attitudes toward the experience!

No, my point in both the anecdote and the arguments above is pretty clear
I think:

Conflict, in fact HEATED conflict, is a most powerful and arguably the
most important method of learning known in the writings of mankind.
Certainly Aristotle professed this, Socrates did, even your Senge teaches
that what he calls "Initiatory Crises" are an important elements in "Team

Finally, your guideline states that we do not speak in a derogatory manner
about people. Look at my posts. I literally never break that guideline.
I speak (directly and truthfully) about the facts, the presentation, the
formal logic of the statement ... I say again, the STATEMENT.

Rick, has it occurred to you that by blunting conflict you may be dulling
minds that come here for sharpening? Are we not involved here to learn?
Is not conflict, sometimes sharp conflict, a key to learning? Is it
possible that it is you, rather than your constituents, do not want
conflict? (I say that with all respect, Rick - it is a legitimate

Please ponder these things. I think the list would be better if we moved
at least somewhat in this direction. As you know the list is often
criticized by unsubscribing members as being "soft on logic and long on
mysticism" and I don't think they refer to Tao.

Thanks for your hard work here.

Hal Popplewell



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