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View life from Outside of your Cave

The Seven stages of the Dialogue and critical thinking for a total group transformation

The practice of skilfully facilitated conversation and deep Dialogue in any group offers the opportunity to increase our awareness of our own assumptions and perspectives and participate more consciously and carefully in the way we interact with the world. We are no longer help captive by one “privileged” worldview.  Our practice of Dialogue disrupts our worldviews and aids our ability to hold multiple perspectives at once; this true is wisdom.  Peter Senge coined the term creative tension to indicate how a group feels when it experiences the gap between where it is and where it wants to go.  When in deep Dialogue, we are constantly experiencing this creative tension which underpins all change work. Without the gap “there would be no need for any action to move toward a vision. Indeed, the gap is the source of creative energy.

The Art of Dialogue program teaches and supports groups to move through seven distinct stages of transformation that are universally experienced when engaged in the deep Dialogic processes.  These are not a random back and forth, but there is actually an awakening that occurs through a specific and disciplined process. The participatory leadership skills of hosting conversation and dialogue is the combination of art and science. The Art of Dialogue workshops teach leaders the disciplines and ground rules but it is the practice of hosting conversation that ultimately supports the artistic element of great participatory leadership.

Stage one- A radical encountering of difference in world-views

 This first encounter comes with a certain shock, with a realization of an Other, a different way of life, a different worldview, an alien Other that resists, interrupts, disrupts my settled patterns of interpreta­tion. With this encounter, there is a new realization that my habits of mind cannot make sense of this Other.

 Stage two- crossing over, letting go and entering the world of the other

 I face a person who has a worldview alien from mine.” We are now encountering a subject who has a view of us, which we hadn’t really thought of before. We always thought we had a view of every-thing else and we incorporated everything else into our worldview.

After the initial shock and realization that I now face alien worldviews very different from my own, I feel challenged to inquire, investigate, engage and enter this new world, to engage in critical-thinking. As I open my Self to this Other I realize that I must learn new habits and ways of interpretation to make sense of this different world.

Stage three-  Inhabiting and experiencing the world of the Other

 I begin to feel a new and deep empathy for my new habitat; I want to let myself go, experiment, learn and grow in this new way of being, to embrace critical-thinking. I hold on to my prior views as much as I can, but also experience the worldview of the Other. I have a new profound realization of an alternative reality. But in the end, I realize this is not my home.  I experience a deep shift in perspective and feel the start of a transformation.  We feel our thinking has been expanded and enriched by taking aboard other worldview. Something profound starts to happen.

Stage four –  Crossing back with expanded vision and knowledge

I cross back, return to my own world with expanded knowledge of how to think and act critically and may adopt the new worldviews into my own world as a result of this encounter. I now realize that there are other ways of understanding reality. I am therefore open to rethinking how I see myself, others and the world. There is no return to my former self of seeing the world from the confines of my own small worldview

 Stage five – the dialogic/ critical awakening: a radical mind-shift

self inwardly transformed

 As a result of this new encounter with other worldviews, I cross back and begin to experience a profound shift in all aspects of my world; in my inner experience, in my encounter with others, in my relating to the world. I begin to realize that my encounter with the Other has shaken the foundation of my former worldview, my former identity. I can no longer return to my former and now begin to realize that there are many other worlds, other forms of life, other perspectives that surround me.  This stage is almost like a spiritual awakening or a classic transformation and the blossoming of wisdom.

 Stage six- the group awakening- the paradigm shift matures

In my transformed Dialogical/Critical Awakening I discover a deeper common ground between the multiple worldviews and perspectives that surround me. I have a new sense that myself and others are inseparably connected in an inter-relational web. I realize that multiplicity and diversity enriches my Self and my World.

As my new inner dialogue and critical-thinking evolves I find myself in a new and transformed relation with others. This new phase of relations with my peers can be disorienting and disconcerting, for as I now dramatically grow in my new identity I find myself in an estranged distance from many of my old relationship. I am learning how to live from a new world view which requires a new language.  As in all transformations this period can often be challenging and confronting.

Stage seven – personal transformation maturing

As this paradigm-shift in my life matures I realize that there is a deep change in all aspects of my life, a new moral consciousness and a new practice. As my new dialogical/critical consciousness becomes a habit of life I find that my behaviour and my disposition to others has blossomed. I feel a new sense of communion. I have a deeper sense of belonging to my world, to my community, and with this a boundless sense of responsibility in all of my conduct. I now realize that I am transformed in the deepest habits of mind and behaviour. I find a deeper sense of Self-realization and fulfilment and meaning in my life and my relations with others and the world around me.

 

 

The Art of Dialogue – Awakening Awareness

Over the next few blogs I will be discussing skills and practices one needs to develop as an effective Dialogue facilitator or host. Hosting dialogue is an art form and not a method that can simply be learnt and followed. It takes a well-developed evolved leader to skilfully host great Dialogues. And as with any art forms one requires a solid framework of skills to work with but most importantly, requires practice and well-honed self-awareness skills to manage and skilfully harvest the subtleties and energies that emerge from good group Dialogue. These skills are the foundations for any extraordinary transformative leader who want to get the very best out of people and generate a creative harmonious, innovative learning culture.

To be an extraordinary leader in the world of constant change requires an understanding that your community or organisation and knowledge, are living things that constantly shifts moment by moment in line with the ever constant unfolding of the Universe. This unfolding and our ever shifting ways of knowing takes place through the coming together of (different) things in a communion that does not deny the voice or inner character of any individual. This is how life in all its forms is born.

It takes great courage and awareness for any individual leader to comprehend that we are part of something greater. Skilfully hosted Dialogue encourages groups and individuals to effectively participate in the unfolding of meaning – a creative interaction that allows new insights and unexpected ideas to emerge from the encounter. When we put our own ego aside we are more likely to experience the world in a state of flow and ride the magic of synchronicity that emerges with this state.

Dialogue can be described as a practice that awakens the desire for, and provides the means to, expand consciousness of each other and access untapped wisdom beyond our own worldview or paradigms. The mere presence of the other in Dialogue helps us to break up our own bias and narrowness and offers deep self-understanding.

Mindfulness in action

To support your skills in hosting dialogues there is a very simple but incredibly powerful exercise I recommend that helps develop your awareness skills; essential for any extraordinary leader and Dialogue host. I find this practice rewilds and reawakens my awareness to the world as  living and constantly changing, enabling me see things as they are, not limited by my conditioned lens of perspectives.

Our natural state is to move into a mechanistic deadened patterned way of thinking when walking in the same areas more that a few times. We almost walk with all our senses closed down assuming that things remain the same. To shifting our patterned perspective and participate in the living world around us take yourself out for a walk at lunch. in town, or in park or around your neighbourhood and just be aware of all the things that happen moment by moment that you never planned for.

This practice asks you to become aware of everything that happens that you did not expect or intend. As you become more experienced you will start noticing the minute experience such as a line of ants crossing your path that you would not have noticed before. Just be aware of them. Notice a bird flying across your path or hear the sound of a bird that you could not have planned for. Be aware of each noise or person bumping past you. A siren screeching by, a gust of wind, a person chatting, or anything at all that crosses your path that you could never have planned or expected to see or smell or feel. Your world starts to come truly alive and awakened again as you begin to experience things from a very different perspective. Your ego takes a back seat as you are practicing being in the world without trying to dictate or predict future events.

When you become a little more experienced with this practice you can then play with it throughout the whole day. This is mindfulness in action. Start asking yourself “What did I just experience that I wasn’t expecting?” When I bring awareness to this we realize how much of what we experienced was actually not expected. To really appreciate those few moments when something new and unexpected appears, and then to vividly re-picture those experiences helps cultivate sensitivity to the unexpected. This in turn helps develop the sensitivities to be a good host of conversations and group Dialogues. When I practice creating this field of openness. I can begin to experience another person, a landscape, or a social problem as a living thing with openness and fresh eyes.

 

 

 

The importance of mindful conversations

The knowledge of early philosophers ranged far and wide, covering fields from biology to ethics, from politics to physics. With increasing production of knowledge, facilitated by the web, technology and a greater educated class and increasing cultural exchanges, it became harder to know everything under the sun. Over time it became clear that individuals could not keep abreast of all knowledge and we gradually learnt to specialize in one or more areas. With our specialization our thinking has become more fragmented and our ability to think wholly has been made more difficult.

At work we are more likely to be specialists in our field making it harder and harder to link different fragments of knowledge that lies scattered across sub disciplines within any organisation. Simplistic tools may be honoured as a way of addressing these problems, but often at the expense of complexity that require context and connection. It is much easier to attempt to incorporate procedures or tools rather than exploring the real complexities of these issue in a transdisciplinarian way.

A skilfully hosted group Dialogue or Council is one powerful transdiscilpinary approach of dealing with complexity within organisations, recognising the lived experience and subjectivity of each person in context, in a network of relationships, in an ecology. A Transdiscilpinary approach is meta-paradigmatic- opening many perspectives at once. This enables us to understand not only the content of various approaches to issues, but their underlying assumptions or paradigms, and how those paradigms shape the inquiry. A trans disciplinary approach offers opportunities to questions ones own assumptions. It is in the exchange with different perspectives that our own perspectives become most clearly elucidated and articulated.

Renowned Systems thinker, Social scientist and anthropologist Gregory Bateson believed great creativity emerges out of this interaction of multiple perspectives. The creative process has been defined as seeing “a single idea in two habitually incompatible frames of reference”. The existence of a multiplicity of perspectives, at times mutually opposed, can therefore be transformed into an opportunity for creativity, if we accept the possibility of multiple ways of knowing, that there is more than one perspective that has something to offer and no one perspective has the monopoly, and recognise the possibility that the perspectives can co-exist and also be brought together to develop creative integrations.

Skilfully hosted Dialogue encourages groups and individuals to effectively participate in the unfolding of meaning – a creative interaction that allows new insights and unexpected ideas to emerge from the encounter. Quantum physicist David Bohm believed that through persistent dialogue a radically new state of mind could emerge, “a concrete alteration that penetrates the core of a person’s experience and has the potential to communicate itself directly”

In Dialogue there is a shedding of agendas that allows for a co-creative flowing interaction, in which it is possible for something new to emerge. Dialogue can be described as a practice that awakens the desire for, and provides the means to, expand consciousness of each other and access untapped wisdom beyond our own worldview or paradigms. The mere presence of the other in Dialogue helps us to break up our own bias and narrowness and offers deep self-understanding. Openness is naturally initiated, bringing our prejudgments to the surface. The process often highlights the limitation of one’s own framework of thinking which then allows one to go beyond one’s own previous possibilities.

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