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The library of essays of Proakatemia

Dialogue in team learning



Kirjoittanut: Emil Makkula - tiimistä SYNTRE.

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Dialogue, noun, “a conversation between two or more people”.

 

The word “dialogue” comes from the Greek word dialogos. Logos means “the word”, or in our case we would think of ‘the meaning of the word’. Most of the people think “Dia” means “two” and that is in fact not the case. “Dia” means through. In a way it means the conversation and words are flowing “through” us. The flow of words creates conversation which gives our specie the ability to be on the top of food chain.

I would say, and I think that most of the people agree, that conversation is the most important thing in life. I personally do not believe in the traditional school system that much. Of course, it is important to learn math and other basics, that help you with life in general. In my opinion the social skills are the most important ability to master. If you look at any successful businessman, people who lead countries, even presidents, they all have really good social skills. Now, I am not saying that being a leader and always reaching for the most profit is the most valuable thing in life, but as long as we have been on this planet, conversation and dialogue has been a huge, maybe even the biggest part of our life.

Dialogue is not self-evident; dialogue require two or more people with intelligence and the ability to speak and understand the same language.

When I applied to Entrepreneur and Team Leadership program, I was really excited because I heard that here in Proakatemia they use a lot of dialogue as a way of learning. I have never been the most book smart person, but I really enjoy an intelligence conversation and I feel like that is my strength. There is something about having a conversation that just makes me happy. Maybe it is seeing other people agreeing with you. Maybe it is even seeing that someone doesn’t agree with you. This raises a question; is there even a conversation if you agree all the time?

Here in Proakatemia we have a paja two times a week. It its basically a workshop of a kind that lasts 4 hours each. It is the only “mandatory” class that we must attend. In these paja sessions we share knowledge and that is what dialogue is all about.

Imagine a football team with just one type of player copied 11 times. Everyone is not good in passing. Everyone is not good at goal tending. Everyone is not fast. Everyone is not tall. You get the point. With a team with different kind of people with different abilities there is so much more power. The same principal applies to team learning. Twenty different opinions are way more than one. Twenty people all brainstorming creates so much better ideas than just one. And when we take from those ideas the best and polish them, we get some very fine diamonds.

In team learning model it is really important to have people with good dialogue skills. The way that team learning works is by sharing own experiences with each other. The best way to share them is of course through dialogue. Dialogue should take place in somewhere where every participant can see each other. Because eye contact is a big part of dialogue, especially in multi-cultural environment. We might say some things that sounds different to other, but the body language makes us understand them. It would also be ideal if there were no other stimuli or distractions like electronical devices. In that way everyone can enter into the wonderful world of dialogue.

The dialogical skills can be narrowed down in to four corner stones. The first one being of course listening. The quality of listening decides the results of a conversation. Listening is the foundation of a dialogue. People often think that the loud ones, social, as we like to categorize them, have the best dialogue skills when in fact they just lack the skill to listen, which is quite common. Listening sounds easy but it is not. On top of individual listening that you do daily when having a conversation, there is also listening to the whole group. The ability to listen what the team has to say and has to offer is a skill to master. If you have some or even one of these people in your team you will see how much deeper and better the conversation will get.

 

The second corner stone is respecting. This means that you value the other persons in the discussion. You recognize their position and have the ability to try to understand them in the deepest level possible. When you achieve this skill, you will be able to see things from a different perspective. In team learning we are supposed to speak about quite deep things and open up to each other. Respecting is also creating a safe environment that enchants the deeper conversations.

It is important to pay attention to the topics in dialogue that you do not even agree with or sounds silly to you. If you give up very early, the conversation will die, and your team will have nothing to learn about a dead conversation. A good exercise for mastering the respect part of this dialogue diamond is categorizing others as totally different and assuming that we understand nothing about them. This way we will not have any presumptions and the maximum amount of respect can be achieved. We will pay more attention to what they have to say, and in that way the level up the dialogue.

Next one is suspending. We need to suspend our assumptions, certainties, emotions and judgement in order to fully understand behind the question and get to the core of the discussion. In team learning and dialogue circles it is all about being as productive as possible. If we follow the most obvious question in the conversation, we easily give up the possibility of speaking on a deeper level, and this is how the conversation might easily get unproductive. No one wants to spend 8 hours of their week to have unproductive conversations after another. The deeper the conversation, the more productive the conversation can be. The productive the conversation is, the more we can find new and different ways to approach problems, and ultimately, solve them.

The last of these four corner stones is voicing. It is the ability to speak. As simple as it sounds, it might not be. The most important thing you can do with your voice is to speak. You must have the balance between listening and speaking out. There is a lot of ways to speak and for example the most constructing way to use your express your opinion is through courageous speech. That will create a safe environment for other team members to speak up as well. Do not stress too much what you are going to say. Speaking is improvising and now one knows what to really say next. Someone just says something, and usually other people agree on it. If they do not, it will create even more discussion!

Using and understanding these four corner stones enhances the level of your team’s dialogue by a lot. It takes a lot of time to fully understand this dialogue diamond and even longer to know how to use it correctly. Over time this will happen, and the best part is that you will see how much better the discussion gets week after week!

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

https://www2.clarku.edu/difficultdialogues/learn/index.cfm

https://thesystemsthinker.com/dialogic-leadership/

https://organicstrategies.de/en/4-skills-for-a-culture-of-dialogue-in-organizations/

 

 

 

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