Dialogue Associates

Our 30 Year Story

We are the original pioneers of Dialogue, which we began in 1983... 

                  …that is 30 years of Professional Dialogue practice, practice and practice

During the 1980s, through dozens of private symposia, we experimented with Dialogue to understand the nature of thought as a system…

                  …and that established our ontology and theory that fragmentation in society is pervasive and cannot be addressed without Professional Dialogue

We convened dozens of philosophical and ontological enquiries into the state of society, through private 3 day symposia and seminars in England, Israel, Sweden, Switzerland and Ireland, many of them with David Bohm, author of Wholeness and the Implicate Order.  We cultivated a mode of talking and thinking together that we called Dialogue, ‘where people are not primarily in opposition, nor can they be said to be interacting - rather they are participating in this pool of common meaning which is capable of constant development and change.  Participants engage in a new dynamic relationship which opens the possibility of transforming not only the relationship between people, but even more, the very nature of consciousness in which these relationships arise.’  This work led to our publications: ‘Unfolding Meaning – A Weekend of Dialogue with David Bohm’ (1985) and ‘Dialogue – A Proposal’ (Bohm, Factor & Garrett, 1990).

In the 1990s we were developing Dialogue as a Practice rather than a set of one-off events…

                   …that led us to develop and test a coherent set of practical and easily transferable Dialogue skills

We wanted to learn practical ways to establish Professional Dialogue in any social or organisational context. This eventually took the form of a set of skills to address how people engage, communicate and relate to each other (Dialogic Modes and Actions), and a further set of skills to transform the consciousness within which these relationships arise (Dialogic Practices, Leading Energies, Container Development and Dialogic Principles).  These skills were developed through extensive client work during the 1990s.  This was partly with corporate businesses, in particular through the ‘Leadership for Collective Intelligence’ and other work with Dia-logos.  We inspired Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline (the fifth discipline is Dialogue) and we helped him launch his book with a series of corporate Dialogues.  The second major contribution was our action research work in maximum-security prisons, that resulted in our setting up the not-for-profit charity Prison Dialogue, in 1995. 

During the past decade we engaged with many different commercial and social organisations to establish Dialogue as an ethical and Professional Practice in organisational change…

                  … and created a practical theory about the nature, use and abuse of Power in Organisations

What do organisations organise?  Our enquiry into organisations led us to conclude that what organisations organise is power.  They organise power by distributing decision-making authority along vertical and lateral organisational power lines, often resulting in a fragmentation of competing interests.  This required an exploration of the practical resolution of power differences in multiple-stakeholder situations through Professional Dialogue, and in 2003 we founded Dialogue Associates to develop and fund this work.  Over 10 years we were employed by, and partnered with, a very wide range of organisations, from multi-nationals to local ventures.  The fruit of this phase is Implicate Change, an integrated organisational change model.  Implicate Change is a generative, participatory, ethical transformational process that uses a macrocosm/microcosm change principle, and follows the organisational power lines as well as creating local power centres to shift cultures and change the future of an organisation. It is based on consultancy redundancy, with sustainability through the development of internal capacity.

Recently we have been concentrating on fewer longer-term whole-system organisational change programmes of 5 to 7 years…

                  … to prove that organisational identity, productivity and social value depend on the quality of Dialogue

Experience has taught us to be both pragmatic and idealistic, attending to detail and concerned about the implications for the whole.  We know that the starting point for transformational change is the immediate need, challenge and opportunity.  Addressing what is at hand informs the generative change process, indicates what needs to shift in the change process, and also initiates the capacity development process.  Some of those pieces of work develop into full whole-system change programmes which, in our view, require 5 to 7 years to be embedded in a self-sustaining form.  Change has only occurred when internal capacity has been developed, and we believe that a large team of external consultants and coaches delays rather than accelerates this skill transfer.  Two skilled consultant coaches working a cascade model in partnership with the executive can shift a large organisation in 7 years.  Counter-intuitively, we believe the more external input there is, the longer the change takes. 

And in the future?

                  … we are becoming more interested in whole-system transformation and social change…

If you like the tone of what you are reading and would like to think about engaging our services,  call us.  Sometimes things start with a big bang - sometimes they start small with an apparently mundane challenge or nut to crack, and expand over time.   Either way, like all living processes, Dialogue is generative and develops in a self-sustaining way, provided a few conditions are met.

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