I’m really struggling to communicate my value proposition. I’m one who has undergone a paradigm shift
a) so that it now seems the most obvious thing in the world to see all work in terms of human-human and human-artefact interactions,
b) and then to see those as certainly not less than metaphorical conversations (“Can you get that printer to talk to my PC, please”),
c) but more usually, (and especially with knowledge workers, mostly), as literal conversations.
So It’s the natural way I see the world. But not so for most others, who struggle to differentiate what I am saying from the images they have of “”Oh, yes, it’s very important to talk to your staff”, or “we’ve found posters in the toilets work well for communications”, or “So, its like mediation, then?”, or “you get involved in conflicts a lot, I suppose.”
So talking to my partner this morning led to another attempt at laying a path others might be able to follow me on. Let me know which bits work for you.
It goes like this:
1. As we work with more and more complex situations, we talk more and more. If I went to a manufacturing company and offered to design their human conversational interactions, they would not consider all the staff who drive forklifts, assemble parts or mix concoctions. But if I head into an organisation that is trying to create change I the social sector, there are almost not enterprise activities that are not conversation based. The work of sense making, naming, exploring what we don’t know, aligning our aspirations, and agreeing on our want, are all “products” that can only be “made” by talking.
2. In these contexts, talking is in fact the right intervention. Like a pest expert saying, “you need Rogor, it’s the only thing that will knock those bugs out”, or a PC sales person saying “you need a 500 MHz processor or above, it’s the only thing that will run those games”, talking is the right prescription for complexity. In technical terms, human conversation is the only process that has the requisite variety to manage complex human activity.
3. For complexity to be managed/negotiated/manoeuvred/channelled, we need multiple people (more than one voice) in more than one kind of interaction. Talking is the mechanism by which humans share their minds and motives, revise and renovate their knowledge and aspirations, and agreed to coordinate their behaviours. Progress along the knowledge development pathways in complex environments requires more than one conversational form.
4. People are not necessarily able to
· craft the conversation they should be in, or
· recognise the shortcomings, the non-fitness-for-purpose, of the conversations they are in.
It takes learned skill to see what is inefficient or ineffective in such a tacit practice as “talking together”.
5. People are not necessarily skilled to be in/execute the conversation forums that they need to happen. We know that chaplains to visit palliative care units have skills in talking about fear, death and faith that we have little or no skill in. Similarly, most people skilled in a technical expertise have little fluency with how to proceed in the ambiguity of design, nor the disposition for sustained openness in emergent contexts.
Changing the ways people talk to get work done.
New work? New conversation! Change Conversation.