Notes from: Dialogue – A proposal By David Bohm, Donald Factor and Peter Garrett (http://www.david-bohm.net/dialogue/dialogue_proposal.html#1)
Dialogue is not discussion, a word that shares its root meaning with “percussion” and “concussion,” both of which involve breaking things up. Nor is it debate. These forms of conversation contain an implicit tendency to point toward a goal, to hammer out an agreement, to try to solve a problem or have one’s opinion prevail.
This reveals an aspect of Dialogue that Patrick de Mare has called koinonia, a word meaning “impersonal fellowship”, which was originally used to describe the early form of Athenian democracy in which all the free men of the city gathered to govern themselves.
As this fellowship is experience it begins to take precedence over the more overt content of the conversation (sic). It is an important stage in the Dialogue, a moment of increased coherence, where the group is able to move beyond its perceived blocks or limitations and into new territory,
Dialogue resembles a number of other forms of group activity and may at times include aspects of them but in fact it is something new to our culture. We believe that it is an activity that might well prove vital to the future health of our civilization.
Speaking is necessary, of course, for without it there would be little in the Dialogue to explore, But the actual process of exploration takes place during listening — not only to others but to oneself
if a group is able to suspend such feelings and give its attention to them then the overall process that flows from thought, to feeling, to acting-out within the group, can also slow down and reveal its deeper, more subtle meanings along with any of its implicit distortions, leading to what might be described as a new kind of coherent, collective intelligence.
A Dialogue works best with between twenty and forty people seated facing one another in a single circle.
Often the quieter participants will begin to speak up more as they become familiar with the Dialogue experience while the more dominant individuals will find themselves tending to speak less and listen more.
Any controlling authority, no matter how carefully or sensitively applied, will tend to hinder and inhibit the free play of thought and the often delicate and subtle feelings that would otherwise be shared.
Hierarchy has no place in Dialogue.
No content should be excluded.
its value may also be perceived by members of an organization as a way of increasing and enriching their own corporate creativity.
In this case the process of Dialogue will change considerably. Members of an existing organization will have already developed a number of different sorts of relationship between one another and with their organization as a whole. here may be a pre-existing hierarchy or a felt need to protect one’s colleagues, team or department. There may be a fear of expressing thoughts that might be seen as critical of those who are higher in the organization or of norms within the organizational culture. Careers or the social acceptance of individual members might appear to be threatened by participation in a process that emphasizes transparency, openness, honesty, spontaneity, and the sort of deep interest in others that can draw out areas of vulnerability that may long have been kept hidden.
In an existing organization the Dialogue will very probably have to begin with an exploration of all the doubts and fears that participation will certainly raise. Members may have to begin with a fairly specific agenda from which they eventually can be encouraged to diverge.
Most organizations have inherent, predetermined purposes and goals that are seldom questioned. At first this might also seem to be inconsistent with the free and open play of thought that is so intrinsic to the Dialogue process. However, this too can be overcome if the participants are helped from the very beginning to realize that considerations of such subjects can prove essential to the well-being of the organization and can in turn help to increase the participants self-esteem along with the regard in which he or she may be held by others.
The creative potential of Dialogue is great enough to allow a temporary suspension of any of the structures and relationships that go to make up an organization.
Many of the ideas suggested in this proposal are still the subjects of our own continuing exploration. We do not advise that they be taken as fixed but rather that they be inquired into as a part of your own Dialogue.
The spirit of Dialogue is one of free play, a sort of collective dance of the mind that, nevertheless, has immense power and reveals coherent purpose. Once begun it becomes continuing adventure that can open the way to significant and creative change.