The most important business strategy, dialogue, has withstood the test of time. The ancient Greeks knew that dialogos was the key to creating shared meaning. Management theorists from Senge to Ulrich understood that dialogue transforms corporate vision to shared-vision. And savvy executives understand the role that dialogue plays in cultivating organizational achievement.
Engaging people in dialogue leads to clarity, trust, and commitment. Organizational cultures are nourished through dialogue. Because, as Peter Drucker said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
But if dialogue is so important to human achievement, why is it so difficult?
There are many reasons, but let’s explore a few. Dialogue stems from the Greek words dia and logos, which roughly translate into “shared meaning flowing through a group.” Discussion’s Latin roots stem from terms and phrases like “strike asunder, break up,” and “quash.” We talk past each other. We talk over each other. We don’t listen.
Gifted speakers win arguments within organizations, even when there are better ideas. Introverts struggle to contribute in group settings. Emotions and gut-instincts may even win against facts and data. Consider America’s newfound fascination with alternative facts.
With phones buzzing and people’s faces buried in their laptop screens during meetings, it’s amazing that any dialogue is productive. And that is a big reason why 70% of strategic initiatives fall short of their goals.
In organizations, dialogue is hard because it requires everyone to pay close attention, to listen and think deeply, and to evolve and iterate in real-time to get to the best outcome, which can be to chart a new way forward, to solve a complex problem, or to generate innovative ideas to improve the business. It consumes time and attention in a business world starved of both.
Conventional wisdom suggests that increased use of technology means decreased opportunity for interpersonal connections—and only exacerbates the management challenge. But the convergence of mega trends from mobile to AI and predictive analytics has fueled the development of a new category of technology designed to equip individual leaders with the tools to deploy and manage strategy implementation—while facilitating dialogue to create shared meaning throughout an organization.
Imagine the power of embedding dialogue as a central component of strategy. Imagine entire teams engaged in problem solving, idea generation, and knowledge sharing around the most important issues facing your company. Imagine the potential for technology to enable a virtuous feedback loop that arms executives with a real time understanding of sentiment. Imagine virtual idea tournaments. Imagine the potential for artificial intelligence to surface hidden patterns and themes that enable managers to make better decisions, faster. After 2,000 years, dialogue is being reinvented.