Dialogue: The Art Of Thinking Together Hardcover – Sep 14 1999
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Modern conversation is a lot like nuclear physics, argues William Isaacs. Lots of atoms zoom around, many of which just rush past each other. But others collide, creating friction. Even if our atomic conversations don't turn contentious, they often just serve to establish each participant's place in the cosmos. One guy shares a statistic he's privy to, another shares another fact, and on and on. Each person fires off a tidbit, pauses to reload while someone else talks, then fires off another. In Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together, Isaacs explains how we can do better than that.
Isaacs, who is Director of the Dialogue Project at MIT and a consultant to major corporations, including AT&T and Intel, believes that corporate, political, and personal communication can be a process of thinking together--as opposed to thinking alone, and then trying to convince others of our positions by refusing to consider other opinions, withholding information, and ultimately getting angry and defensive. This is not pie-in-the-sky, let's-all-hold-hands-and-sing stuff. He offers concrete ideas for both listening and speaking; for avoiding the forces that undermine meaningful conversation; for changing the physical setting of the dialogue to change its quality. The outcome, he says, can be quite different from the traditional winner-loser structure of arguments and debates. Businesses can make more reasoned decisions, and thus earn more money. Governments can create peaceful resolutions to seemingly intractable problems. (For example, Isaacs cites secret conversations between Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk in South Africa, which occurred over a number of years, while Mandela was still under arrest and led to a new framework for their country.) And, although this is a book primarily geared toward managers, even married couples can learn a few new ways to communicate. --Lou Schuler
Isaacs is a colleague of organizational learning guru Peter Senge and one of the founders of MIT's Organizational Learning Center. He also directs MIT's Dialogue Project, on which this book is based. Isaacs argues that organizational learning cannot take place without successful dialogue. Dialogue is conversation that encourages collective observation and thought, enabling groups to think beyond their members' individual limitations. Isaacs posits an "ecology of thought," which is typically constrained by habits that are known and felt but never discussed. Those habits can be revealed only through dialogue that permits inquiry, confrontation, and clarification. Only then can habits be changed and new possibilities explored. Isaacs examines the processes that constitute dialogue and shows what encourages and what discourages dialogue, what happens when dialogue is introduced into difficult settings, and how to manage the changes within oneself that are necessary to become an effective participant in dialogue. David RouseSee all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Isaacsï¿½ describes the four ï¿½pathologiesï¿½ of thought as abstraction, idolatry, certainty, and violence. When we engage in abstraction we separate the parts from the whole and treat them as if they are separate when, in fact, wholeness (interconnectivity and interrelatedness) is a condition of the parts. Idolatry is a problem ï¿½of memoryï¿½. It is the acceptance of ï¿½the false gods or images that we unquestionable accept to guide us in the way we operate, and which blind us to other possibilitiesï¿½. (p.59) Our certainties limit our capacity to think and reflect. We canï¿½t learn when we are certain. Violence refers to our tendency to assert and defend our certainties, our views of the world, at the expense of the thoughts of others. ï¿½Thought that imposes or defends is violent. It applies forces to try to make someone different.ï¿½ (p.Read more ›
"Respect also means honoring people's boundries to the point of protecting them. If you respect someone, you do not intrude. At the same time, if you respect someone, you do not withhold yourself or distance yourself from them. I have heard many people claim they were respecting someone by leaving them alone, when in fact they were simpley distancing themselves from something they did not want to deal with. When we respect someone, we accept that they have thinks to teach us."..."Treat the person next to you as a teacher. What is it that they have to teach you that you do not now know? Listening to them in this way, you discover things that might surprise you."..."Respect is, in this sense, looking for what is highest and best in a person and treating them as a mystery that you can never fully comprehend. They are a part of the whole, and, in a very particular sense, a part of us." - PP 114-117
"Every conversation has its own acoustics.Read more ›
According to the subtitle, Isaacs provides "a pioneering approach to communicating in business and in life." This he does with insight and eloquence. There is a great need for what this book provides, especially now as organizations are (finally) beginning to appreciate the importance of supporting (indeed nourishing) the personal as well as the professional development of their "human capital" The word "dialogue" denotes conversation between two or more persons. Moreover, the original meaning of the word "conversation" is to turn around, to transform; later, the word's meaning evolved to "living, dwelling, and associating with others." Today, most of us think of conversation as "talk." Some of us think of it as a "lost art." Isaacs obviously has both words clearly in mind as he introduces his "pioneering approach." His purpose is to explain HOW effective dialogue, dialogue which is "about a shared inquiry, a way of thinking and reflecting together", can increase and enhance human dignity and understanding. How important is face-to-face communication? My own opinion is that it is more important now than ever before. However, again my opinion, the quality of face-to-face communication has rapidly deteriorated in this age of high-speed electronic "connectivity."
Isaacs' book is organized into five "Parts": What Is Dialogue; Building Capacity for New Behavior (ie listening, respecting, suspending, and voicing); Predictive Intuition; Architecture of the Invisible; and Widening the Circle. several For me, one of the most important of Isaacs' themes is so obvious, so simple: Show your respect for others by listening carefully to what they say. Dialogue worthy of the name is based on mutual respect. Hence the importance of attitude.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Sometimes the corporate environment is not tranquil. Managers hate workers, workers hate managers and nobody seems to understand or talk to anybody else. Read morePublished on Oct. 11 2001 by Rolf Dobelli
I gave up on this book about 50 pages from the end. It seemed like the more I read, the more tedious it became until it felt like masochism to continue. Read morePublished on July 9 2001 by Dennis Muzza
A great read to help you understand what Socrates did on a continuous basis-true communication leading to indepth understanding. Read morePublished on Feb. 3 2001
This is the most powerful book that I've read in years. The depth of understanding on how to create powerful, meaningful conversations at work, home and in all relationships is... Read morePublished on Oct. 25 2000 by J. Groen
A wonderful, challenging read -- made especially challenging for the lack of editing.
The man can think, knows his stuff, and presents important ideas. Read more
When this book arrived on my doorstep, I tore into it as I usually do with nonfiction books of great interest: I read the first and last chapters, dove by intuition into various... Read morePublished on Oct. 21 1999
As long as organizations are primarily run by cold-war management style with modernized command and control via antiquated measurement systems faking empowerment, the entire... Read morePublished on Oct. 8 1999 by Zenplexity
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