MIT’s Peter Senge describes the paradoxical term as a vital environment in which an employee can share his or her dreams with colleagues. But more important in the twenty-first century is how these dreams are shared. Today dialogue is as essential as discussion, but few CEO’s and companies actually know or care about the stark differences.
Dialogue is trickier to inspire than discussion because it requires genuine openness, critical listening (rather than ignoring what you don’t wish to hear), and patient reflection. In true dialogue, no decisions are made. There are no winners or losers. It’s a magical setting, where one person can share an imperfect yet authentic dream, and others are free to offer reactions that build on the idea rather than rip it apart through industrial-age competitiveness.
That’s an aspect of creative tension.
Tension shouldn’t connote twentieth-century anger through emotional office explosions. And that’s exactly what is difficult to establish–unemotional listening coupled with patient refection to guide an idea through creative tension and on to an authentically shared idea, team intelligence, often improving it from the individual’s dream that sparked the imaginative process.
On the contrary, in a typical discussion, we make a decision about whether to launch the idea into the real world. There are distinct winners and losers. But there is no genuine dialogue (routinely dismissed as children’s bed-time fantasy hour with dear Mommy), and that rejection is a twenty-first-century storm that’s moving closer to our shores.