The blog post was provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center. 

According to the conclusions of a recent study carried out by the University of California and the universities of St. Andrews and Liverpool in the United Kingdom, the world’s first conversations took place in Africa more than 2.5 million years ago. This first colloquium or dialogue dealt with the manufacture of hunting tools. Although these conversations took place long ago, they have nevertheless been the subject of study by important figures such as Socrates and Plato. Even now, the conversations taking place within organizations represent one of their biggest challenges.

Organizational cultures are often the result of the conversations from within the organization. When we identify rigid organizations with little adaptive capacity, they are often those that provide limited opportunities to challenge or participate in the conversations. They are situations where monologues dominated by managers and supervisors prevail. These kinds of organizations can develop cultures with little flexibility and adaptability. The Harvard Business Review, in its February edition of 2018, pointed out that cultures where order and security prevail are characterized by little flexibility and interpersonal relationships.

What type of dialogues is needed to create an agile, collaborative and innovative organization? It is often one that is characterized by reflection, curiosity, learning and a call to action. This kind of dialogue promotes inclusion, contribution, diversity, responsibility, and distributed knowledge. In Latin American cultures, power distance complicates this type of interaction. How can we then develop organizations in which dialogue is more prevalent? The following are some ideas that could be promoted by leaders:

  1. COWORKING

Create open spaces or “coworking” that allow for greater integration of the employees. Physical proximity increases the chances of generating conversations and a fluid communication.

  1. INFORMAL SPACES

Developing informal spaces such as having lunch together, celebrating special occasions or fostering wellness activities can generate trust and synergy among teams and improve connection among employees.

  1. POWERFUL QUESTIONS

Ask challenging questions to make meetings more productive. For example: How do you think we can benefit from each other’s talent?  How would you have done it differently? What do you agree with and what don’t you agree with about this presentation? These kinds of questions can help to empower the employees.

  1. CHANGE OF ROLES

Encouraging role playing during meetings and providing an opportunity for other employees to lead can generate greater empowerment.

  1. ACTIVE LISTENING

Promote listening by letting others participate and being the last to intervene. Also try to interpret the emotions of those at the meeting and use this to improve the conversation. “I noticed that there were doubts regarding the point that was made. Tell me, what needs further clarification?”

  1. DIGNIFY THE ERROR

Develop a benevolent approach about an error and speak not of punishment, but of learning from what has not gone well and what could have been done better. What can we do to avoid falling into the same error again?

  1. STORYSHARING

Generate context in dialogue spaces to share stories that connect us around values and common situations. By sharing our stories, we can improve dialogue and free ourselves from hierarchies and formalities. We can open ourselves to a greater understanding of others.

“Dialogic organizations” that are open to higher levels of listening, participation and integrating spaces, should be welcomed. Through this openness, organizations are humanized and return to the origins of civilization through seeking greater understanding, tolerance and evolution.

Silvia Carrillo is a strategic thinker in culture, communication and change management. She is the CEO of Eco Consultores and Director of the 4C Observatory in Culture, Communication, Change and Organizational Climate in Lima, Perú.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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