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The lost art of conversation

I was listening to a webinar yesterday where executives from across the world had come together to discuss their approaches to pandemic response and what that meant for their businesses. All of them felt that one of the major losses has been the casual conversations in the lift, standing in the lunch queue, or just generally bumping in to people while walking the office floor. This was considered both a loss in terms of the building of relationships that create safe, intimate human connection and as a loss to the natural spread of organisational information.

This got me thinking about the art of conversation in society and how it’s an important soft tool to help us process information and critique each other kindly and constructively. 

Dialogue is an important philosophical construct to be able to challenge each other and think through ideas. Socrates was known for his walk and talks, speaking out his thoughts and being questioned by his followers. It not only helped his thoughts, it also helped develop the curious minds around him, leading to new thoughts and theories that became their own philosophies.


I often say I like to ‘think out loud’. To externally process. It’s a loop I need to create. Talk, think, question, review…. Talk, think, question, review…  It’s a dialogue I need to have with myself to help me critically appraise my thinking, but it’s made even better when I find someone who is willing to also help by throwing in some of their own questions. This is the kind of dialogue that really gets me excited and it’s so much more fun than sitting in a room alone with my thoughts.

I love finding people who are willing to explore complex ideas through conversation and love it even more when those conversations pivot my thinking in new directions. Calling out my cognitive biases or pushing me to think about alternative views on things.

I believe to spark creativity, innovative thinking or breakthrough ideas, you need to create safe space where ideas can be talked through without judgement or fear of being considered ‘wrong’.  Binary constructs of right and wrong need to be removed. You need to have people willing to explore and question rather than be there to persuade or manipulate to get their own way. 

When I consider the skills and thinking required to solve the complex problems of our time I think about all the information that needs to be consumed in order to be able to start solving problems. This is obviously easier when you have people with great depths of knowledge at their disposal already, rather than having to do it alone, but there aren't many spaces or opportunities to bring those people together.

Loops of learning is all about this safe space for conversation. My dream is that I can bring groups of diverse thinkers together (virtually or physically) and get good, kind, conversation happening that is challenging and affirming. The vision is to build some action from these conversations that will help us find better ways.

We need good conversation to encourage us to continuously improve. We should be always looking for better ways to be and see.

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