Real learning is a part of the work, not apart from it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Conversation for Innovation

Innovation is the engine to advance organizations today and although conversation is key to spurring creative thinking and innovative action, it is naive to think that just having more conversations where information is shared and people collaborate is enough. These conversations, often spontaneous, can be unconsciously valuable but we should strive for dialog if we want to see growth. 
"[Dialog is] a conversation in which the intention is to generate something in the conversation itself that did not exist in any one of the participants before the conversation began."
- Michael McMaster, The Intelligence Advantage
Dialog is not debate or discussion and its not brainstorming. Dialog calls for strong discipline to refrain from judging, and reacting. It's having the ability to hold fast to a position of listening and for raising more questions that add to the conversation rather than trying to end it with answers.

Dialog is the stream that carries knowledge. And like knowledge itself, it too is ever expansive and ever flowing. 
Knowledge doesn't exist with in us but rather it exists between us in our [conscious] conversations [dialog].
The barrier to more dialog is innately a human condition; we are competitive. Our business hierarchies only serve to reinforce this by rewarding those with quick wit, quicker ideas, and for being the loudest voice in the room. Social Media however is a great equalizer, it can support dialog; a conversation for innovation. Social Media provides an important buffer to this human condition, one of time and space. This buffer allows for (but can't guarantee) reflection; a pause.  In social tools I can write my response immediately but I don't have to hit submit immediately. I can sit idle and wait for those societal reinforced and rewarded behaviors to pass and use my response to seek clarity rather than try to provide it.

As always, the technology can only support the practice of dialog. This behavior, like most, is best learned through experience, practice, and reflection. Yet it must also be modeled and supported by leadership; those that hold innovation so dear... and where better for them to do it than in the tools that make the practice most visible.
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