Taking flight: Dialogue, collective thinking, and organizational learning

  • Isaacs W
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This article discusses theories concerning collective thinking, dialogues and organizational learning. The word dialogue comes from two Greek roots, dia and logos, suggesting meaning flowing through. This sense of the word stands in stark contrast to what we normally think of as dialogue, a mechanistic and unproductive debate between people seeking to defend their views against one another. In dialogue, as we use the term, people gradually learn to suspend their defensive exchanges and further to probe into the underlying reasons for why those exchanges exist. However, this probing into defenses is not the central purpose of a dialogue session: the central purpose is simply to establish a field of genuine meeting and inquiry, a setting in which people can allow a free flow of meaning and vigorous exploration of the collective background of their thought, their personal predispositions, the nature of their shared attention, and the rigid features of their individual and collective assumptions. As well, dialogue can be initially defined as a sustained reveals collediiv inquiiy into the processes, assumptions and id certainties that compose everyday experience. Yet this is experience of a special kind, the experience of the meaning embodied in a community of people such as organizations.

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  • William N. Isaacs

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