Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together, Essay Example

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Essay

In this paper I will very briefly touch upon the first two chapters of Isaacs’ guidebook on organizational learning. He starts by defining dialogue as conversation with a center, not sides (Isaacs 17). Dialogue, he asserts, is not about advocacy between opposing stakeholders, but rather about finding a new common ground from which both sides can move forward.

Chapter 1 begins with a quote from Thomas Jefferson, leading to a surveying of the reasons why its point is still true: people think together, but in ways that block mutual understanding. So the stage is set for Isaacs to propose an overarching solution in the form of three broad levels of action, presented as text and accompanied by a Venn diagram. This in turn leads to a chart of the conversational progress that leads from defending a position to suspension of that defense, to a position of de-identifying with a held viewpoint. Successfully transiting this rhetorical map leads participants to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s high freedom of great conversation.

Chapter 2 announces that thinking alone is part of the problem and begins its proposed group solution with a hypothetical meeting in which a typical competition is held among disputants. From this defining scenario and in conjunction with insights from physicist David Bohm, Isaacs posits a theory of thought based broadly on the limitations of tacit knowledge; and four pathologies of thought: abstraction, idolatry, certainty, and violence. Those are matched by four principles for dialogue: participation, unfolding, awareness, and coherence. These are discussed in the contexts of some real-life examples known or encountered by Isaacs himself.

Works Cited

Isaacs, William. Dialogue: The Art Of Thinking Together. 1st ed. New York: Crown Business, 1999. 17. Print.

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