The use of dialogue and dialectic thinking can help managers and organizations to foster genuine "thinking together" and come up with new solutions and innovations in situations often perceived as dead ends. In addition to objectifying the situation, approaches based on dialogue and dialectic thinking bring people closer together and establish respect and a sense of humanity. They provide people with a shared social space to listen to all standpoints, adopt different perspectives and work on their issues in a structured manner.
Dialogue is Helpful in the Decision Preparation Phase
Dialogue is particularly helpful in the decision preparation phase, where it serves as a suitable, robust design to work out the differences in complex topics and create the choices and options needed for the decision-making process.
Dialogue Complements Systemic Organizational Consulting
Systemic organizational consulting is grounded in dialectic thinking and in identifying different dimensions and their effectiveness. Dialogue is a means of making these different dimensions more tangible. Complex situations like company mergers or infrastructure projects benefit from the use of dialogue elements to differentiate between various dimensions like time, content and social aspects. This is also true for complex projects on a sociopolitical level. During the Stuttgart 21 arbitration process, participants from the various interest groups used a "Check In/Check Out" dialogue tool at public meetings. This provided the public with more information, greater context and a better understanding of the situation—and can thus be seen as a contributory element in creating the setting and conditions for "shared meaning".
Clearly, an approach to communication based on dialogue and dialectic thinking has great potential, and the lessons learned from the examples in this article also ring true for other conflicts, tensions and contradictory situations in management and organizations. However, dialogue is far from being a "one size fits all" recipe, even if the examples show that it can be used in different types of organizations—from global conglomerates to small and medium sized enterprises. Successful use of a dialogue-dialectic approach would appear to be intrinsically linked to organizational culture: an open, lively culture in which employees are well integrated into decision processes will better foster the use of dialogue and dialectic thinking than a hierarchical, top-down culture. It is also dependent on how it relates to and is linked with other concepts in the actual organizational setting, with the good news being that it complements commonly used procedures. Likewise, the social and environmental context in which an organization operates can be seen as an amplifier for applying dialogue-based dialectic elements.
Dialogue Assumes a Bridging Function in Organizational Consulting Projects
Creating awareness for changes in perspectives is a fundamental aspect in systemic organizational consulting. Integrating dialogue with the systemic approach creates a setting in which people can identify differences and base their decisions on clear choices and options. Dialogue should thus not be seen as a separate intervention, but as a highly valuable integrative process that bridges the time, contextual and social dimensions of the given situation.
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