The Humble Power of Non-Directive Communication

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The intentions for this DwD were to explore two contexts:

  • How do we avoid personal bias when facilitating authentic & emergent dialogue?
  • How do we create open spaces in communication for deep listening and sharing?

Stephen Sillett hosted our July 2015 inquiry into non-directive communication. Peter Jones presented a dialogue from Ed Schein’s Humble Inquiry, and Stephen held an experiential activity with David Grove’s Clean Language methods. We touched on open and shared conversation experiences of forming and asking questions, touching on how power relations, culture and personal assumptions influence how we ask questions.

Humble inquiry is an approach to creating better working relationships with people in interdependent situations. Schein simply calls this “the gentle art of asking rather than telling.” However, as with most of his work it goes well beyond good management, it’s an approach we can all learn from for better relationships and more effective team and partnership work.

Humble Inquiry is the skill and art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.

Schein notes three modes of humility – Basic humility, Optional humility, and Here and Now humility. We always have a choice to approach a situation as an inquiry, with questions that invite the other person to share, to ascend a bit. We allow the other to be the expert in their own experience. This is especially powerful when you as the questioner may already be in a more powerful status.

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Clean Language

Clean Language draws from techniques developed by David Grove, derived from counseling, and used  in organizational development and group facilitation. Several books and materials available on the Clean Language website provide pathways for interested participants to follow.

These activities can be very powerful, especially when exploring emotive, complex or confusing situations. It slows down our everyday way of communicating, which is often goal-directed and constrained by time, inhibiting our capacity for clear, clean communication.

This approach involves formulating questions that focus attention and develops a person’s understanding, without adding the questioners’ own needs and advice to the balance of conversation.

Experiencing the Process in Embodied Metaphors

The process of Clean Space was explored in the session by facilitating a person’s real incident in the past as a metaphor, drawing on the metaphor and “clean language” to enable the participant to build a tableau with others and explore the meaning in the metaphor.

As shown in the photograph, other participants played roles in the metaphor through an image theatre method.

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Voice Qualities

David Grove deliberately ‘marks out’ his use of Clean Language through changes to his normal way of speaking:

  • The speed of his delivery is slower than half normal pace
  • He uses a slightly deeper tonality than normal speaking
  • He often uses a distinctive sing-song rhythm
  • There is an implied sense of curiosity and wonder in his voice
  • The client’s idiosyncratic pronunciation, emphasis, sighs etc. are matched

Syntax: The syntax of Clean Language is peculiar and would sound very strange if used in normal conversation! It uses Pacing and Leading in a particular way. For example, all the questions begin with “and” and are orientated to the clients ‘perceptual present’. The generalised syntax, in its full form, comprises 4 components:

“And [pacing clients words]

+ And as/when

+ [question]

+ [refer to this particular experience]”

 

 

About the Host

ssillettStephen Sillett is co-executive director of Aiding Dramatic Change in Development(ADCID), and helps the organization research, facilitate and direct dialogue, drama and art processes for healing and community development. Through ADCID projects and in partnership with other social actors, he is exploring approaches that engage community members in conversations, consciously orientated to maturing visions of the future. Research interests include the facilitation of non-verbal and spatial meaning-making practices within group workshop and the creation of interactive performance. He directs InFusion Labs where theatre artists, therapists, scientists and social practitioners explore spatial approaches to exploration and discovery.

Innovative Learning in Canadian Higher Education

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April’s DwD was convened by an graduate student-led panel, organized by Strategic Innovation Lab and Strategic Foresight & Innovation, responding to the question:

What new ways of learning, particularly in higher education, will Canadians need to thrive in an evolving society and labour market?

The roundtable and dialogue was sponsored by Imagining Canada’s Future, the strategic development of next-generation social science for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) with the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS).

This question was one of their key Future Challenge Areas. The SFI team documented the session and prepared a report for CAGS and SSHRC. This report is now available to the public, linked here and titled Innovating Canada’s Higher Education.

Canada, like many other countries, is at a tipping point in the way its education system, especially higher education, is conceptualized, structured and delivered in light of the knowledge and skills required for the 21st century. The panel discussed and explored the following issues:

  • What knowledge, skills and delivery methods are required in order for the public education system to create an innovative, resilient and culturally rich society?
  • What aspirations and expectations will a diverse and global citizenry bring to the work environments, jobs and labour markets of the future?
  • What conditions are needed for new models of research—particularly, co‑creation of knowledge with the public, private and/or not‑for‑profit sectors—to flourish?
  • What roles will emerging and/or disruptive information and communication technologies play in learning for individuals, institutions and society?
  • What role should individuals, institutions and governments play in promoting and supporting the life cycle of knowledge—including creation, accessibility, retention and mobilization—across sectors, both domestically and internationally?
  • How can we harness Canada’s strength and innovation in the arts, digital media and cultural industries to build social, economic and cultural well‑being?

Panel and workshop photo-documented by SFI student George Wang.

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SFI graduate student panelists opening the first part of the event.

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Tables were convened by graduate student panelists for each of the main questions.

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Responses to each table’s question captured on standing boards.

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Graphical recordings by SFI students Maggie Greyson and Ana Matic during panel and in closing plenary.

The final report is now available here, and was delivered to very positive response by CAGS and SSHRC, especially for its vivid capture of the innovative process and the visual approach to communicating the results of the civic dialogue.

The convening team had suggested some related readings for members of the panel and public:

Joseph Wilson on learning: ‘People are envious of what we’re doing in education’ (or any of the Possible Canadas articles)

Democracy Hacks  was recommended as a relevant podcast.

The Governor General David Johnston has been advocating rethinking education, and this may be his legacy for Canada in 2017.

A pan-Canadian joint undergraduate degree is taking shape: Pan-Canadian University

Slow Learning, a site presenting critical visions for self-directed, community learning

 

HOSTED BY THE SFI DIALOGUE TEAM

Inessa Chapira
Christina Doyle
Maggie Greyson
Conor Holler
Goran Matic
Corey Norman
Adrienne Pacini
Sheldon Pereira
Patrick Robinson
Peter Scott
Jacqueline To
Ryan Voisin
George Wang
with faculty advisor Peter Jones

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Strategic Learning: Personal innovation in a fluid environment

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How might we enhance our experience of learning to accord with personal or professional strategy?

Can we strategically direct our learning individually and together to adapt and lead through a changing world?

June’s DwD was hosted by Donald Officer, delving into a shared inquiry and practices toward discovery of our personal lifetime learning potentials.  Strategic learning can be viewed as choosing what we specifically need to know and practice to reach goals and commitments, during a time when traditional practices of learning are themselves in the midst of change.

Learning practices have become diffused, breaking boundaries of media and form, and can be seen as chaotically disruptive. Universities have launched MOOCs of their top professor’s courses, diploma mills have gone online, and students become debt burdened in pursuit of formal educations that may be obsolete before program completion. Training, facilitating, coaching abound.

Each of us has the opportunity to remake ourselves in a serious powerful way while connecting with others to make massive significant change. To do this we have to realize something so obvious it’s as invisible as the air we breathe.

June.CIrcle

 

The session further developed ideas in small group exercises and open reflective dialogue:

  • Recrafting personal mission statements to build transformative learning
  • Learning for them versus learning for you – no, it isn’t self indulgent
  • Ways we learn that schools won’t acknowledge and what to do about it.
  • Just in time, just in case and just because we feel like it
  • Necessity not curriculum is the mother of invention
  • Learning to think strategically (and save yourself from the planners)
  • Powerful media (new and old) tools we all can access
  • How to curate your own learning space

 

 

 

Informal like strategic learning is by nature non-linear. During the June DwD workshop we made some important connections while many more remained implicit. Don provides further context:

Microlearning Experiential learning and neuroscience: The neuroscience lies in the way we both construct new associations on the neural framework of existing linkages and also on the way the brain becomes more fully engaged via novelty, especially confronting potential threats. A little danger is a learning thing. The inner game: Timothy Gallwey’s approach to learning as evidenced in his inner game books, is to bring the routine into focus as though it were novel, since we never intentionally change what we do not take note of. Meaningful deliberate change starts with reflection and then proceeds to the rallying of motivation.

Metalearning Building a self: we touched on this only lightly and indirectly in the workshop. The simple definition of metalearning is learning how to learn which, presumably, leads to a helpful form of self knowledge. See also learning curation. At greater length we discussed surfing and diving, a fairly intuitive double metaphor to, on the one hand, approach information or data that requires little analysis before it presents its meaning versus delving deep into interpretation which on the other hand, demands murky speculation before it offers up meaningful results.

Learning curation did not really get discussed. This concept comprises everything from scrapbooks to blogs, always implying significantly more. It includes live links, all manner of graphic representation, wikis, webinars, contact lists, notes in any form or whatever else keys into learning touchstones that might in the manner of a museum diorama grow into an entire expanse or long thick thread of knowledge.

Informal learning model (diagram and discussion)- During the session we briefly examined an experiential learning diagram of David Kolb’s 4 point Concrete Experience through Active Experimentation model. Kolb’s representation resonates with neuro-scientific research shown below as is Julia Sloan’s dynamic 3 step Strategic Thinking model (Preparation, Experience and Re-evaluation). In the full version, arrows and the rectangle connect by multiple feedback loops while a series of curved arrows represents turbulence and resolution within the Experience phase. Both depict change models alluding to cognitive and affective challenges as well as conflicting mindsets or paradigms , but to be precise, both operate more from a learning perspective than from a general psychological framework.

 

Triangulation to assess informal or strategic learning – was suggested as a form of disconfirming heuristic. The idea is that without the more familiar landmarks of formal knowledge the informal learner might test a particular learning against intuitive, perceptual and reasoned benchmarks. These modes are not infallible even in concert of course, but might very well keep the learner focussed and oriented on the bigger picture until the landscape better defines itself.

 

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Part 2 in DwD Series on New Learning: Paths to Discovery

An evolving bibliography and references

  • Postmodern Education: Politics, Culture, & Social Criticism by Stanley Aronowitz and Henry A. Giroux; University of Minnesota Press; Minneapolis, 1991.
  • Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways that Inspire Innovation and Performance by Jay Cross; Pfeiffer (John Wiley &Sons); San Francisco, 2007.
  • The Inner Game of Work: Focus, Learning, Pleasure and Mobility in the Workplace by W. Timothy Gallwey; Random House; New York, 2000.
  • Learning to Think Strategically: Second Edition by Julia Sloan; Routledge; London and New York, 2014.
  • Infed – The website on Informal Education (highly recommended)

 

About the Host

Donald R. Officer has been a writer, planner, communicator, management consultant and educator for over three decades. Persistently seeking better ways to approach the fuvaluesture and how to live there, he has become a strong advocate for a major rethinking about our ideas on innovation. Don’s recent career as life coach has launched a serious innovative rethinking of his own life and the meaning of learning and professional practice, insights which he shares with DwD in this session.

DonO

Don has written articles for newspapers, journals and magazines and edited policy papers, newsletters and on-line forums. He continues to review books and write articles on many social change topics, especially strategic thinking,for magazines and his blog, The Intention Coach.  Meanwhile he continues to toil away writing longer works on psychology and education. These are destined for wider publication.

Cultural Values & Social Change (Reflection)

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A Reflection on Values and Common Cause

By Don Officer

If we’re all committed to our own self-selected values, how will we ever agree on anything we might want to see changed? This was the underlying question we were asked to consider at the May 13, 2015 session of Design with Dialogue.

Experienced, adept sustainability facilitator Aryne Sheppard of Living Simply led about 40 attendees in open discussion, dyads and triads to probe and explore how we might choose our value preferences. Later we’d each be asked to identify and chart our own value preferences using whatever reasoning we could think of.

Discussion was deliberative yet wide ranging and never dull. It began to dawn on everyone in the room how complex the difficulties in appealing to a media saturated public, bombarded by messages from every compass point could be. True to form though, the votes we cast with sticky notes exposed consistent patterns. When an irregular spider web overlay showed just how clustered and closely associated personal value choices might prove to be, I suspect inner voices protested at how inclined to conform to the short list of values stereotypes we actually are.

In discussion we considered where these categories might come from. Are you among the self-directed, the universalists, the benevolent, the conformists, the traditionalists or the security minded? Perhaps you crave stimulation, seek hedonistic indulgence or strive for power unless achievement is your heart’s desire. Some choices straddled categories even if close to common dividing lines and a few reflected a more esoteric methodology, scattering stickies across the chart.

What was the point? Apart from prompting an energizing discussion, Aryne’s process surely showed us how hard it must be to attract support for any cause. Hence the term and the strategy: Common Cause. At first glance, that phrasing suggests a coalition of militants, but in the current social change framework it is a philosophy that seeks shared overlaps among a wider, often divided community as diverse in opinion as any other describable way.


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I don’t know whether or not any relentlessly inclusive approach to the tough issues of our time such as environment, social justice or resource distribution has any chance of succeeding. Are the clusters (or the quadrants they roll up into) fixed positions or stages in personal development? Not easily determined.

However, as a participant-based example of group learning, showing rather than describing, the cultural values exercise lays out some broad decision landscapes vividly and clearly.

Cultural Values & Social Change: The Common Cause Framework

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How do cultural values shape environmental and social movements?
How might deepening our understanding of cultural values and frames help us to co-create the solutions for a more equitable, sustainable and democratic society?
May’s DwD was hosted by Aryne Sheppard, who led an inquiry into the Common Cause framework as an instrument for understanding how we are shaped by our culture and the way in which we respond, both as individuals and collectively, to the most pressing problems that we face.

Environmental campaigns tend to fall into two categories:

1. Public engagement and behaviour change; and,
2. Institutional (corporate or government) engagement.

But there is a deeper level we must consider as we move towards a sustainable future: the realm of values. Cultural values influence our behaviours, attitudes and voting decisions. Culture is a key influence in shaping our view of the world and our sense of responsibilities within it. As social change leaders, it is critical to understand the role values play in individual lives and cultural norms. Working to understand and rebalance cultural values is a powerful tool if our goal is to build a more equitable, sustainable and democratic society.

Aryne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aryne discussed how power dynamics in society are seldom the subject of public scrutiny and debate. The dialogue explored how fostering intrinsic values—among them self-acceptance, care for others, and concern for the natural world—has real and lasting benefits.

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The Common Cause model, with a values mapping resulting from participants selection of supporting values (green) and negating values (red) with respect to societal betterment, based on our individual perspectives.

For more information explore The Common Cause Framework 

About the Host

As an adult educator and facilitator, Aryne Sheppard has worked in the areas of personal growth & wellness, leadership development and community capacity-building for over 12 years. She has have a track record of creating innovative, experientially-based programs in both the non-profit and public sectors.  She believes that valuing the inner life, as individuals and as a society, is one of the most important things we can do to create deep and lasting change. Aryne earned her professional designation as an educator from OISE / UofT, specializing in Transformative Learning, with a Master’s degree in Adult Education & Counseling Psychology (2004). Aryne currently works with the David Suzuki Foundation in Toronto and her consulting practice is called Living Simply.