How DO we communicate with each other? Queenslander Ian Plowman – psychologist, social researcher and facilitator – says it is not part of our formal education for people to be taught how to listen to one another.
Our communication ‘skills’ are gained around the family dining table or in the school yard and these skills are commonly poor. People who have ever left a community meeting frustrated will agree here!
Contrary to what you might expect, it IS possible to generate high quality community dialogue by going with some simple, ‘micro’ processes known as ‘Cooperative Conversations’ (CC), that blend very well with other community dialogue processes such as:
Ian believes that each of these widely used processes would at least double in their effectiveness, time efficiency, and participant satisfaction if coupled with the CC processes.
Similar to the Community-Wide Study Circle approach to solving community issues people really love this process because it is so respectful of all participants. The process works equally well for any number of people from 4 to hundreds.
People pick it up very rapidly and the learning is experiential. For example:
“This will help us talk with each other back in our communities without having fights’.
CCs evolved from Ian’s doctoral research that examined the unconscious psychological factors that inhibit innovation within social systems. CC is designed to circumvent those unconscious inhibitors in a very simple, experiential, and non-intellectual way.
It includes an understanding – in a non-intellectual way – of single and double loop learning. Back in 1978 Chris Argyris and Donald Schon investigated organisational learning as the detection and correction of error.
Single-loop learning is like a thermostat that learns when it is too hot or too cold and turns the heat on or off. The thermostat can perform this task because it can receive information (the temperature of the room) and take corrective action.
“Where something goes wrong, it is suggested, an initial port of call for many people is to look for another strategy that will address and work within the governing variables. In other words, given or chosen goals, values, plans and rules are operationalized rather than questioned.”
Double-loop learning occurs when error is detected and corrected in ways that involve the modification of an organization’s underlying norms, policies and objectives.
“An alternative response is to question to governing variables themselves, to subject them to critical scrutiny. Such learning may then lead to an alteration in the governing variables and, thus, a shift in the way in which strategies and consequences are framed.”
The CC process has evolved into its present form through application with a wide array of participants which include:
1. There was no clear agenda or where people did not stick to it,
2. People waffled or got off track,
3. Where one or two people dominated while quieter people said nothing,
4. Where decisions did not get made, or were made without considering all information,
5. Where you really wondered if you wanted to attend the next meeting, given that you had better
things to do with your time?
For more detail on CCs and how to hear and say more while talking less – go to Meetings Without Discussion