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The library of essays of Proakatemia

Dialogue – enabler of development

Kirjoittanut: Samu Nyqvist - tiimistä SYNTRE.

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For anything or anyone to keep up with today’s fast-paced world, constant adaptation and development are necessary. Development is often talked about in a very grand matter – economic, social, cultural, and ecological development, things like Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Human Development Index (HDI), and so on, are discussed. I like to approach this topic on a more personal level, however. To me, development is the same as growing or advancing. It is the process with which we as humans improve ourselves to be better versions of our prior, younger versions. Humans are social creatures though, and things that are related to development, such as learning, are heavily influenced by interaction. Specifically, interactions among people. This interaction is most commonly done by using verbal communication, dialogue.

Dialogue is a fundamental tool for development. It enables open, critical information-sharing and meaningful experimentation required for creativity and progress. The absence of dialogue sparks dissension and division between members of the organization. The presence of it generates relationships and commons (Albert & Perouma 2017).

Dialogue is probably the most important means of learning especially for educational organizations like Proakatemia, that implement the team learning model. This model’s whole idea of learning and studying is based on people’s different learning experiences and sharing that knowledge with others and building on that. Transferring learnings from one to another usually happens in workshops, which are held by the team members – the students – themselves. There they go in-depth to the topics they find central for, for example, running a business. The students have discussions, complement each other, and together make sense of the right course of action. This kind of model enables the students to rapidly grow and improve their skills as entrepreneurs and learning individuals in general.

In organizations like this, development is heavily dependent on the quality of dialogue. The pace at which they grow and improve is almost entirely controllable by the team itself. Each member is dependent on the other for gaining knowledge and advancing their skills. If nobody shares anything they’ve learned, there’s nothing for others to build on and improve. For discussions to support and enable proper progress, they must be constructive and informative. It should include content that is beneficial in some way for all the parties. To help with this, a good idea is to use a tool of some kind or to follow a structure. For instance, using the dialogue diamond, people follow a certain structure that keeps them conscious about the content they put in the discussion and how they moderate it.

To make the dialogue beneficial and to unlock its full potential, the people participating in the dialogue need to also be emotionally invested in it. This is obvious since we’re talking about dialogue, not a monologue. Avoiding self-centeredness, thinking out loud in a respectful manner, and expressing that you care, are central for supportive and meaningful dialogue. Thinking out loud and negotiating ideas creates a common understanding and a shared point of view. They lay the foundations for meaningful coordination of activities, collective learning processes, and further achievement of good results (Syvänen, Tikkamäki, Loppela, Tappura, Kasvio & Toikko 2015). In addition to these, a certain kind of mindset is required to make the best use of dialogue. You must open yourself to it. If the prevailing method for approaching solutions is “this is how everything has always been done”, development is simply not going to happen (Syvänen & al.). You need to be open to new ideas, views, and approaches.

If the conditions mentioned above are not met, the dialogue can have potentially negative consequences. If the content of the dialogue is poor, the parties involved in it can easily lose touch with what is fact and what is fiction. This happens when people start having critical discussions about subjects they’re uneducated in. Also, even if the content is good, but the message doesn’t transmit properly to the receiver(s), it may, again, cause further misunderstandings. This is very common when having discussions with people from different cultural backgrounds, for example.

In the end, the benefit of dialogue comes down to its quality. When proper factors, such as openness, manners, and critical thinking are implemented, dialogues enable students and other community members to help develop and build on each other’s skills.  Students, teams, and organizations, in general, should be encouraged to actively participate in it. It is necessary for the process of growing and advancing; to the process of becoming better versions of our prior selves.


List of sources:

Syvänen, S., Tikkamäki, K., Loppela, K., Tappura, S., Kasvio, A. & Toikko, T. 2015. Dialoginen Johtaminen: Avain tuloksellisuuteen, työelämän laatuun ja innovatiivisuuteen. Tampere: Tampereen Yliopistopaino Oy – Juvenes Print. 156, 172.

Albert, M. & Perouma, J. 17.7.2017. The Dialogue: an Essential Component to Consider “Organization as a Community of Persons”. SpringerLink. 17.7.2017. Read on 11.02.2022. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41463-017-0024-8#Bib1

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