Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Meta-Design of Dialogues as Inquiring Systems

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About 30 participants attended the first DwD of 2012 (Jan 11). This educational session explored the relationship of systems inquiry to dialogue. Small groups facilitated their own learning to identify knowledge profiles and to design dialogic inquiries that would best address a selected area of concern.

There’s a multitude of ways to conduct dialogues.  Which approach will be most appropriate for attaining desired outcomes among different groups?  This DwD engaged systems thinking for some foundations, with an overview of C. West Churchman’s design of inquiring systems.  With these foundations, participants (dialogue designers) sharpened their appreciation of alternative modes and techniques.  More open dialogic approaches might (or might not) be preferred over more bounded and structured approaches, under different conditions.  Theory was translated into reflective practice through group exercises. The session started by generating a range of concerns and ideas for inquiry. These were selected by groups for further

About the Convener

David Ing is president (2011-2012) of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, an organization with members with interests crossing disciplinary boundaries (e.g. social systems, technological systems, biological systems, ecological systems).  In that role, he is designing the program for the ISSS annual meeting (in San Jose, CA in July 2012), and working with the Systems Science Working Group of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE).  Over the past year, he developed new courses in systems thinking for the Master’s in Creative Sustainability at Aalto University in Finland.  He is a visiting fellow with University of Hull (UK), an itinerant scholar with the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and previously a cofounder of the Canadian Centre for Marketing Information Technologies (C2MIT) at the University of Toronto.  David has had a continuous 27-year career with IBM, with home base in Toronto.  He can be found on the Internet at

DwD Reflection & 2012 Shared Vision

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Every end of year we retreat and reflect on what we learned over the year’s events and who we are becoming in DwD community and practice. Fifteen people attended to co-create the vision for 2012 priorities, sessions, and direction. An Appreciative Inquiry guided the exploration and reflection, leading to harvests for each phase, as illustrated:


Discovery explores the best in our experience, sharing and learning from our past and bringing forward the positive values to be honored in the inquiry. Paired shares led to whole-group expressions of valued experiences and impressions from Design with Dialogue in the 2011 season.

Visual reflection of DwD 2012 by Patricia Kambitsch.


Dream envisions what might be, and generates a multiplicity of possibilities for the group to reflect and decide. Individuals generated their ideas, shared in triads to review and add more, and posted and clustered in a harvest sheet. We organized and labeled clusters in a following session, resulting in a document shared with participants. The original harvest appeared as follows (not the full image):

Design and Destiny

In concluding the review and vision, people expressed their own hopes and encouragement for the 2012 season. People added their personal commitments to their proposals, which all ensures a rich, diverse, and heartfelt community in 2012.

  • Have continuity between sessions, with blogging and conversational support.
  • Have workshops to explore the nature of inquiring systems (of which AI, DwD are representative)
  • Evaluate the impact of learning from dialogue. Observe and evaluate the forms and outcomes of design. Relate the learning and observations to academic impact.
  • Inquiry into experiential modeling and experiential learning. What contributes to enhanced perception in dialogue?
  • “Listening sessions”  How to best share what we are learning in listening?
  • Continue with “sessions on what’s going on right now.” Capturing relevance as its emerging.
  • Holding new types of experiential dialogue sessions (e.g., Joanna Macy’s The Work that Reconnects)
  • Continue to connect with conferences and academic groups
  • Consider interim DwDs that provide continuity – Hold special interest groups for hot topics
  • Develop the practice and “rituals” of dialogue:
    Save 30 min at Pre or Post for continuing topics
    Provide coaching / video in basic facilitation and process skills
    Start Web conferences or online sessions