Friday, 17 October 2008

Word of the day - functional and dysfunctional dialogue

Today we began our second year on the Craighead Institute's management course by looking at how dialogue works in functional and dysfunctional organisational systems.
I found it particularly helpful, for once, to define something by what it is not, so dialogue is not debate or discussion but rather "sustained collective inquiry" with the purpose of opening new ground - Peter Senge. I also found the physicist David Bohm's revisiting of the etymological roots of dialogue very helpful - dia does not mean two as we might guess but rather through or inter; a way of words. Bohm calls dialogue a stream of meaning, flowing among, through and between us. Daniel Yankelovich says that the purpose of dialogue is to arrive at mutual understanding, but it was also underlined that this does not at all mean that dialogue is about harmony.
Thinking about this on my way back to the flat this evening it struck my that we often use the word dialogue very loosely; sometimes within the church we try to dialogue but don't set up the ground rules properly; we refer to alot of what is actually debate or discussion as dialogue and that can undermine true dialogue.
Anyway thinking today of dialogue as a management tool was actually very helpful and helped me to name many of the strategies that we used while I was on the Eglise Réformée de France's Commission des Ministères. I'm enjoying the psychodynamic approach to thinking about functional and dysfunctional organisations, it's quite energising. I can see that this systemic approach also builds on many of the people skills members of our study group have and encourages us to make the links and see these as key management skills.