A confidential and easy- to-participate array of (short) on-line surveys (conversation – starters) to address key topics. The questionnaires are diagnostics, but at another level respondents are exposed to statements that may well embed new words, metaphors and thinking that promote their seeing complex situations and systems from new perspectives.”It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question” – Eugène Ionesco. People are given time to reach a silence inside of themselves.
Selected from a menu of optional opinion pieces, reflections and exercises – participants are able to take a deep (but unpressured) dive into the topic/s. (An immersion process).
With this knowledge and preparation constructive, open and confidential group ‘conversations’ are conducted using anecdote circle technology as a safe container for sharing stories, listening, surfacing valuable information, sharing perspectives and feelings (beyond the ‘edges’ of what they would previously have explored) and collective wisdom. A safe space for being open and authentic. Change is already occurring: viewpoints, attitudes, connections, motivation. (This phase resonates with appreciative inquiry (and touches on the not-so-positive) as well as with aspects of humble inquiry. Eminent educational and cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner believed that “the richest learning comes from narrative …. It deals in human or human-like intention and action and the vicissitudes and consequences that mark their course”. This is where a “right brain” aspect is added to the process)
Specific norms and behaviours can then be addressed, and a focused culture change towards a new way of being has started ….The process allows for depth probing and thus deals with root causes and not merely symptoms. (Behavioural science is demonstrating the power of mindfulness, attentive listening, using the power of ‘AND’ rather than ‘EITHER/ OR’ to dissipate resistance, bring people to a shared perspective, guide decisions, apply new ways of nurturing change, and enter an emerging future together in a safe place and an atmosphere of trust and cooperation. The Conversations that Count process rests on these principles. It is a means of nudging people into making the cultural changes that count. The process is also compatible with David Rock’s principles of fairness, safety, equal-status, autonomy and certainty. And it draws on ancient wisdom – for example the sacred Native American Talking Circle focused on harmony and balance. Beneath the surface of these conversations good things happen with relationships. Participants learn things about themselves and their colleagues, begin to dream of a shared future and new possibilities, and become ready to work on that together. The process is about both being and doing).
In conversation circles where consciousness is raised, sometimes a deep to deep interpersonal connection and recognition of another’s presence occurs. The Sufi spiritual practice of story sharing in a sacred circle where there is absolute trust, respect, transparency and a meeting of the minds and hearts, is called Sohbet. Sohbet may be translated literally as “conversation”!
We find that the process trumps training. Take diversity training for example, where “ … many participants actually report more animosity toward other groups afterward”(David Rock and Heidi Grant). The Conversations That Count process allows autonomy and self- discovery, and leads to positive intent, co-operation, group ownership. Where there is trust, respect, transparency and understanding of other’s perspectives and feelings, and self-determination; then a natural willingness to work together and collaborate towards something new and better, comes about.