In a beautiful retreat forty minutes drive from Boston, two dozen members of the Generative Dialogue Project community (http://www.generativedialogue.org/) came together. I was extremely privileged to join the group and, over the course of three days, engage in dialoguing about dialogue.
From the outset we were charged with the following: “Listen to one another with your full attention. Think about what is said, how it is said and the intent behind this. How does it make you feel – physically, intellectually and emotionally – as a participant in this dialogue process? How does it make others feel?” The purpose of this was advancing our understanding of generative dialogue by experiencing it as well as talking about it and examining case examples.
A heightened level of awareness was brought to the discussion by balancing theory with practice in the ‘here and now’. This experiential dimension – the learning by doing approach – set the stage for a wonderful interplay between exploring academic discourse, sharing experiences, and at the same time reflecting throughout on our own dialogue process.
This was a truly inspiring exercise! Joining change and dialogue process experts in this, I was party to a rare space in which professionals listen and inquire with a resolve and integrity too often reserved for outside the professional environment. These were conversations that mattered; conversations in which relationships changed – including my relationship with the ‘art’ of dialogue, the way I will approach dialogue processes, will listen, will inquire and will learn.
There is still much to explore and emerge about the role of dialogue in change processes. Along the way, how can we replicate such experiential approaches in our own institutions for collective learning about the important role of dialogue in change?