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The Art of Focused Conversation: 100 Ways to Access Group Wisdom in the Workplace (ICA series)
 
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The Art of Focused Conversation: 100 Ways to Access Group Wisdom in the Workplace (ICA series) [Kindle Edition]

R. Brian Stanfield
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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This book is absolutely fabulous...I love this book. -- Margaret Runchey, Editor, IAF Facilitator's News, Palm Springs, Florida

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This book has served me so well in my new job. I can't tell you how many times I have pulled the book off the shelf to get some direction in creating my own questions. It has been a great asset in helping me have meaningful and directed conversations at a critical time in my new job. And it has saved me precious time. - Great book!?Marlene Lockwood, Group Leader, St. Helen's Hospital, Deer Park, California

Communication within many organizations has been reduced to email, electronic file transfer, and hasty sound bytes at hurried meetings. More and more, people appear to have forgotten the value of wisdom gained by ordinary conversations.

But, at different times in history, conversation has been regarded as an art form - a crucial component of human relations. Conversation has the power to solve a problem, heal a wound, generate commitment, bond a team, generate new options, or build a vision. Conversations can shift working patterns, build friendships, create focus and energy, cement resolve.

The Art of Focused Conversation convincingly restores this most human of attributes to prime place within businesses and organizations, and demonstrates what can be accomplished through the medium of focused conversation. The first Part describes the theory and background of the conversation method, which has been effectively used for group consensus making in: 1) problem solving; 2) troubleshooting; 3) coaching; 4) research and 5) interpretation of data. It also discusses how to prepare a conversation, how to lead a conversation, and what the common mistakes are. Part two then provides 100 sample conversations designed for use in many different situations, including: 1) reviewing and evaluating; 2) preparation and planning; 3) coaching, and mentoring; 4) data and media interpretation; 5) decision making; 6) managing and supervising; and 7) personal reflection and group celebrations.

Developed, tested, and extensively used by professionals in the field of organizational development, The Art of Focused Conversation is an invaluable resource for all those working to improve communications in firms and organizations.

"This book is absolutely fabulous. I started it last night, used a whole bunch of stuff


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Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple and Powerful Concept Dec 4 2000
Format:Paperback
Brian Stanfield and colleagues have written a meaningful book that provides a profound, yet simple method to help groups effectively grapple and address any kind of issue.
In the book, they say, "For whole systems to operate effectively, information must flow in every direction, up, down, sideways, and diagonally." They go on to describe leaders as askers of questions and state that "the participatory principle requires the art of asking questions."
Canada's Institute of Cultural Affairs developed the focused conversation method as part of its Technology of Participation, which leads people through certain phases of reflection, enabling them to process their experiences as a group. A leader/facilitator asks a series of questions to elicit responses that take a group from the "surface of a topic to a topic to its depth implications for their life and work."
The focused conversation uses questions at four levels:
1. The Objective Level- questions about facts and external reality. 2. The Reflective Level - questions to call forth immediate personal reaction to the data, an internal response, sometimes emotions or feelings, hidden images and associations with the facts, when we encounter an external reality (data/objective) we experience an internal response. 3. The Interpretive Level - questions to draw out meaning, values, significance, and implications. 4. The Decisional Level - questions to elicit resolution, bring the conversation to close, and enable the group to resolve about the future.
The first third portion of the book provides an understanding of the concept of focused conversation and is followed by 100 meeting topics with specific examples of questions at the four levels that would be appropriate.
The book has helped me to re-think the types and the order of questions that I address to a group.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Solid Model Oct. 4 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Ultimately conversations are the working process of most leadership. This book expands upon the conversation techniques presented in "Winning Through Participation". The model is simple and useful. When distilled down, a focused conversation proceeds through four stages:
- objective / data
- reactional / feeling
- interpretive / meaning and
- decisional / action.
The model takes about 50 pages to explain and is followed by about 150 pages of examples of its application. Many will find that the 10 pages in "Winning Through Participation" had enough information to get going.
Was this review helpful to you?
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple and Powerful Concept Dec 4 2000
By David H. Wilkinson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Brian Stanfield and colleagues have written a meaningful book that provides a profound, yet simple method to help groups effectively grapple and address any kind of issue.
In the book, they say, "For whole systems to operate effectively, information must flow in every direction, up, down, sideways, and diagonally." They go on to describe leaders as askers of questions and state that "the participatory principle requires the art of asking questions."
Canada's Institute of Cultural Affairs developed the focused conversation method as part of its Technology of Participation, which leads people through certain phases of reflection, enabling them to process their experiences as a group. A leader/facilitator asks a series of questions to elicit responses that take a group from the "surface of a topic to a topic to its depth implications for their life and work."
The focused conversation uses questions at four levels:
1. The Objective Level- questions about facts and external reality. 2. The Reflective Level - questions to call forth immediate personal reaction to the data, an internal response, sometimes emotions or feelings, hidden images and associations with the facts, when we encounter an external reality (data/objective) we experience an internal response. 3. The Interpretive Level - questions to draw out meaning, values, significance, and implications. 4. The Decisional Level - questions to elicit resolution, bring the conversation to close, and enable the group to resolve about the future.
The first third portion of the book provides an understanding of the concept of focused conversation and is followed by 100 meeting topics with specific examples of questions at the four levels that would be appropriate.
The book has helped me to re-think the types and the order of questions that I address to a group.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Resource for Productive Conversations Nov. 23 2004
By Les Lauber - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I like books that are practical and have real-world application. This book does that. You get 48 pages of enough explanation that you can learn how to use the Focused Conversation model. Then, you get the skeleton of 100 conversations that you can adapt and use. If you want to know more, read on.

In the 21st century, those workplaces that share information to create value for themselves and their customers have a competitive advantage. On page 14 Stanfield writes "These days most people are tired of blaiming and demanding; they want to solve problems. They want to go beyond input to push an innovation through and take responsibility for making the desired change." The focused conversation model is a technique for capturing the wisdom of a group and helping it become accountable for doing more than complaining or "giving input."

The model's four parts consist of asking and answering questions. The questions at the "objective" level begin to uncover facts about the topic being discussed. The "reflective" questions uncover how the group is relating to the facts discussed in the objective level. The "interpretive" level allows the groups to discuss implications and options. The "decisional" level then creates action based on the discussion. This book also contains hints and guidelines for leading focused conversations: what to do when someone gives a long answer, or when people start arguing, or when someone dominates teh conversation...and more.

I've used several dozen of the 100 conversations in various work settings. I have gotten especially good value from the conversations on evaluating a seminar, planning a study group, coaching a colleague, mediating a difficult situation, reflecting on a choatic meeting...well, you get the idea.

If you're interested in moving toward gathering, processing, and taking advantage of group wisdom, this book provides excellent tools. Its straight-forward, gentle manner and high practical value earn it five stars.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Solid Model Oct. 4 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Ultimately conversations are the working process of most leadership. This book expands upon the conversation techniques presented in "Winning Through Participation". The model is simple and useful. When distilled down, a focused conversation proceeds through four stages:
- objective / data
- reactional / feeling
- interpretive / meaning and
- decisional / action.
The model takes about 50 pages to explain and is followed by about 150 pages of examples of its application. Many will find that the 10 pages in "Winning Through Participation" had enough information to get going.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical inspiration Sept. 27 2012
By Joyce - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book explores the use of a particular conversation format in the workplace, but it is adaptable to any group. If you are interested in community or involved in any groups, no process is more valuable than this one. This book tells the history of the creation of this method, explains its purpose and its parts, tells how to lead such a conversation, and offers 100 sample conversations for specific situations. The purpose of such a conversation is to allow a group of people to process their experience (to experience their experience, so to speak) by asking a series of questions in four different levels: the objective, the reflective, the interpretive and the decisional. This conversation gives form to a natural process which 1) grounds us first in the reality of life, 2) acknowledges the reality of our feelings, 3) looks at meaning based on the first two steps, not on some abstract idea, and 4) moves us into the future from the wisdom just discovered. This is a book of practical inspiration.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A practical resource with 100 detailed examples. March 24 2011
By Tess - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bought this book because I had previously attended a course on focused conversation and wanted to know a bit more about the theory behind it and find some more examples of appropriate focus questions. The technique leads a group intuitively through four levels of questions designed to lead to a group decision/action about an issue. (It can be used with individuals as well)
Part 1 covers theory and practise and Part 2: 100 Examples covering conversations for :Evaluating and reviewing, Preparation and Planning, Coaching and Mentoring, Interpreting information, Decision-making, Managing and Supervising as well as Personal and celebrative. Each example, outlines the process, provides the focus questions, and includes Hints, Other applications, and points to remember for each example. I have used this method and it works. I would recommend attending an ICA course in participatory methods to practise the technique in a "safe" environment before doing this on your own, especially if you are new to facilitation.
The strength of this method is a structured approach that doesn't skip over feelings/emotions in the room. Once these are dealt with, I have found the rest runs smoothly. Some practical considerations; It takes longer to do than a 'normal' meeting so plan ahead, try to get everyone there who has a stake in the conversation or will be asked to implement its outcomes, and make it clear to the group what will happen with the information once they leave the room so that expectations are realistic.
Highly Recommended.
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