Learning to Dialogue LO10193

John Paul Fullerton (jpf@mail.myriad.net)
Fri, 27 Sep 1996 08:25:58 +0000

Replying to LO10166 --

Chau Nguyen said

> They may have observed some activities from other "ancient" places,
> but it's like looking in from outside, through the windows. You
> can see the furni- ture but you don't know what people are using
> the furniture for

What if we see them "through the windows" (maybe windows of the future)
using the furniture?

> What I wrote here, came from a place where dialogue is a part of
> nature, these people do not know Bohm or Senge from Moses. But
> they dialogue all the times, they just don't name it. The nature
> of the mind, IMO, is pure and intrinsic. The people in
> underdeveloped countries have that kind of mind. What comes,
> comes, what goes, goes. It's not that they don't think, they do.

> Because of that, I don't dissect the word dialogue. It is a whole,
> the string that ties everyone together. You don't cut the string
> into small parts and expect it to have the same effectiveness.

I would be quite surprised if William Isaac's version of dialogue has been
practiced in recent time by groups without a fairly high collective
intelligence. It involves saying "no" to many individualistic preferences,
for one thing. It would also be surprising if "empassioned" intellectuals
would respectfully listen beyond boredom to others with different views.

Now, whatever Job and the "men at the gate" talked about (seems to be
mentioned as a prior context in the book of Job) may have been more like
"tentative hearing" where one's comments and the success of those comments
in life and in conversation show their value. (I'm imagining this.)

The dialogue that Isaacs defines is purposed to hear everyone and
everything and if there are limits to the conversation, those limits might
be to keep members from hindering others. I can't think of family
conversations or any casual conversations that have incorporated the ideas
of "listening to my listening", the "ladder of inference", or slowing the
process of conversation. Do native peoples really do this? Who will allow
their glory to be undone? "I'm a very moderate person." "No you're not."
"YES, I AM MODERATE." "My religion is a very humble religion." "You're
very proud of that aren't you?" "You wouldn't know."

> You wrote "Of course, directional comments such as "what's being
> said has nothing to do with the focus of this meeting" does not
> sound like dialogue" and I heard you. I think here is where we
> differ in the meaning of dialogue. I am convinced that once you
> have a focus, biases already set in, you come into the gathering
> with an agenda, you will express your preferences in such ways that
> will yield the desired outcome which fits your agenda.

What if my focus and bias is that I want others to have a chance to
speak (and I want my heart to hear what is being said)? What if I am
uncomfortable with total agreement (with me)? Then I will put off
"committment to me" though such an "agenda" may not hurt the group or

What if I would like to learn and have observed that the comments of
another cannot help but bring light to my unobserving moments? The janitor
could tell Us if the menu system on the new software is "intuitive".
"Still using the file menu, aren't you?" :)

> You wrote "Also, dialogue allows the expert viewpoint to become
> knowledge held in common. For example, if a team were working on a
> programming project, and one or some of the team members had
> successful knowledge about object-oriented techniques, their
> knowledge could be shared with other members of the team, if there
> was a culture of hearing" to which I answer: The transfer of
> knowledge does not use dialogue as a medium. In my experience,
> John, as a software development manager, we have sessions that we
> either call "post mortem" to learn the rights and wrongs after we
> are done with a project, or we call it `transfer of knowledge'
> session, where we discuss what works, how it works, when to use it
> and so on.

My comments are not from an expert viewpoint (or an experienced viewpoint
either). I have seen some written information that seems not to be
commonly understood among programmers and can't help thinking that
programming culture tends to prompt the idea that the best I can hope for
in the near term is what I can put together (rather than thinking new
understanding can help).

If every member of a programming team were asked, "why do we inherit the
button from the window?" what would they say? If the team purpose is "to
reuse code and limit the amount of code, if possible" that's a very
different understanding than "because they logically relate to one another
as objects in the real world". Where would workers get this "team view"
and where would the team view get defined well enough that both expert
programmers and new members could accept the view as a guideline? That's
where my comment goes about the "sharing of knowledge". Maybe it means
sharing the knowledge that the expert has and also allowing others to
share in defining (or creating) the "team view" (the working outlook of
the team). Dr. Senge talks about these things (maybe in other words) and
in common practice I almost don't see how a successful company would tend
to have been listening to everyone otherwise. (That may be "a bit much" :)

> You wrote "Without insistence and with the ability to inquire into
> others thoughts (rather than only advocating my wants), it seems
> like dialogue could be used for business purposes (by a people with
> ability to do so)" IMO, we all have the ability to dialogue, we
> were born with it. In the business world you need a medium to
> gain, and that's discussing, advocating, evangalism or what ever
> but not dialogue.

The fact that a tree with dignity and without desperation outlasts most
businesses could be used to say businesses need to have their acts
together better. Trees don't fuss with or disregard other parts of them
own selves (nor of other trees in the forest, either). Businesses in
haste to gain, have not heard from the many different and probably smaller
roots that have passed out of sight and caused the tree to live when
circumstances were not positive. "How is this going to make us money or
outdo our competition?" Answer: "How is aggressiveness going to sit with
us when it comes time to rest at the close of the day?" "But You're just
the janitor!" Answer: "Yes, and I am content to be so."

> From time to time, I refrained from participating in threads,
> because my views are quite unconventional, and perhaps don't sit
> well with the group. Learning and dialogue are the exceptions, so
> thank you for the opportunity to express my views.

Your comments sit OK with me.

I think that I can sit either left or right of the view You shared :)

Have a nice day
John Paul Fullerton


"John Paul Fullerton" <jpf@mail.myriad.net>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>