The Agora is a meeting point for dialogue, a place where different people, opinions, facts and approaches are brought together, and where collaborative thinking happens. It is a place where the new is found and a place where transformation and change might happen. In the Agora, the future of organizations is co-constructed in interaction and dialogue.
The Agora can be a fruitful catalyst for change when following principles are applied:
- Empty yourself and be open to hear: Listen what others want to say.
- Inquiry: ask constructive and open questions to understand more. Find out about the purpose of others (what is important for them right now?).
- Don't judge too easily: Strong opinions might close the dialogue. Suspend your assumptions.
- Co-Construct: While others talk, try to connect.
- There is no right or wrong: Every member of the dialogue has his reason to act.
- Positivity brings energy: Encourage other to participate.
Dialogue, as it turns out, is a very old idea revered by the ancient Greeks and practiced by many "primitive" societies such as the American Indians. Yet, it is all but lost to the modern world. All of us have had some taste of dialogue--in special conversations that begin to have a "life of their own," taking us in directions we could never have imagined nor planned in advance.
Peter Senge uses David Bohm's work to define and examine such concepts as quantum theory, systems perspective, mental models, incoherent thought, and synergy as they are related to dialogue. Bohm's thinking and writing saturate Senge's discussion of dialogue. For example, Senge quotes Bohm in identifying the three basic conditions necessary for dialogue:
1. All participants must "suspend" their assumptions, literally to hold them "as if suspended before us";
2. All participants must regard one another as colleagues;
3. There must be a 'facilitator' who 'holds the context' of dialogue.
A unique relationship develops among team members who enter into dialogue regularly. They develop a deep trust that cannot help but carry over to discussions. They develop a richer understanding of the uniqueness of each person's point of view. They experience how larger understandings emerge by holding one's own point of view "gently."... Part of the vision of dialogue is the assumption of a "larger pool of meaning" accessible only to a group. This idea, while it may appear radical at first, has deep intuitive appeal to managers who have long cultivated the subtle aspects of collective inquiry.
There are many practices that have been developed over the last years that help groups to enter into a dialogue.
Questions for Deeper Exploration
- How do we ensure that enough space for dialogue is created?
- What are our deep patterns of collaboration and communication?
- What should be our change model?
- What practices can we develop to dive deeper and see the future as it unfolds?