"... when we allow voices to be silenced, lives are at stake."
- Ray Jorgensen Ph. D.
"For the first time it struck me that when we allow voices to be silenced, lives are at stake," said Ray Jorgensen, Ph.D., the founder of Jorgensen Learning Center and author of Oracle of the Obvious: Secrets of Common Sense Leadership (co-authored by Dena Hurst).
"I wondered instantly when I had done the same thing and thought of all the professions that impact our safety and security ... professionals who impact our well-being, teachers and coaches ... elected officials who manage the business of our communities ... conversation matters."
In the years that followed the Challenger tragedy, Ray immersed himself in studying organizations and organizational change. He parlayed his research and knowledge into the concept of Conversational Leadership. The insightful, theory-based discipline of dialogue creates an environment of psychological safety, leading to more effective human interactions that draw out the collective wisdom of a group, higher-quality relationships and higher-quality results.
The Conversational Leadership
Theory of Success
Conversational Leadership involves the use of a structured, yet flexible framework for disciplined dialogue during formal and informal meetings.
The result is higher-quality relationships that generate higher-quality conversations, which enable all involved to engage in higher-quality thinking and decision making to achieve higher-quality results.
Conversational Leadership: Our story
The seeds of Conversational Leadership were planted in the days and months following the Jan. 28, 1986, explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Seven crew members lost their lives in the tragedy, including high-school teacher Christa McAuliffe.
Testimony during the investigation revealed that the culture at NASA impeded Challenger engineers from voicing their fears or concerns about the launch, much less question decisions made by those in authority.
The 5 Guidelines for Learning Conversations
The 5 Guidelines for Learning Conversations are an integral component of Conversational Leadership.
When all involved in a conversation agree to use the Learning Conversation framework, it creates an environment of psychologically safe space that enables relationship building and group engagement in open, honest conversation.
The 5 Guidelines were developed by Sue Miller Hurst, a member of the Dialogue Project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Listen Deeply for Understanding. Listen openly, receiving what others say from a place of learning rather than from a place of knowing or confirming your own position.
Speak from the Heart. Speak honestly from your experience. Speak into the stream of developing common understanding, not to fill silence or have your position heard.
Suspend Certainty. Hold at bay your certainties and assumptions. Suspend any need to be right or have the correct answer and any certainty that you are right.
Hold Space for Difference. Respect and embrace different points of view as learning opportunities. Encourage contributions from those who have remained silent.
Slow Down the Conversation. Provide silent time to digest what has just been said. Allow further conversation to flow naturally, develop and deepen.
Others who influenced the design of the Jorgensen Conversational Leadership model include Bill Isaacs, the author of Dialogue: The Art Of Thinking Together; physicist David Bohm and his Bohm Dialogue theory; genealogist and writer Paula Underwood, an award-winning author who wrote several works designed for educational use that are based on Native-American oral traditions; and Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, founders of The World Cafe Community.
Our methods and protocols are also deeply rooted in the work of Peter Senge, Ph.D., the author of The Fifth Discipline (The 5 Disciplines of Learning Organizations); Malcolm Knowles’ adult-learning models; the Total Quality work of W. Edwards Deming; Edward Schein’s ideas of process consulting and Robert Greenleaf’s servant-leadership philosophy.
The 5 Disciplines of Learning Organizations
Personal mastery. This is "a discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively."
Mental models. These are "deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures of images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action."
Shared vision. This is "a practice of unearthing shared pictures of the future that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance."
Team learning. This "starts with dialogue, the capacity of members of a team to suspend assumptions and enter into genuine thinking together."
Systems thinking. This is the fifth discipline that integrates the other four.
"Human conversation has always been the crucible for social invention ― the birthing place of new ideas, new ways of being and new ways of doing."
― Juanita Brown "The World Café: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter", co-authored with David Isaacs.
“The intention of dialogue is to reach new understanding and, in doing so, to form a totally new basis from which to think and act.”
― William Isaacs, Dialogue: The Art Of Thinking Together
"Learning organizations are organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together."
― Peter Senge, Ph.D., The Fifth Discipline