Innovation and Dialogue

dialogue innovation


How much of innovation is an Isaac Newton-like moment (mythically alone and the apple drops on your head….”AH-HA!”) and how much is something else entirely?

And what IS that something else?

I wrote another article asking if innovation was dead. Looking at the world around us, it seems a mixed set of answers. Some things like Artificial Intelligence (AI), driverless cars and certain kinds of other technology seem to beg the question that innovation is alive and well. But we still have stubborn problems as a culture and a world that seem to defy innovative answers. Some of these problems are so monumentally complex that just trying to confront or define them is hard enough (think eradication of hard poverty, cures for things like cancer or diabetes, nuclear proliferation, economic inequality, how to have a positive outcome with whatever the heck is happening to global environment, etc….).

Getting to a more manageable level, like your business, how do you:
  • keep from being a follower when it comes to coming up with new and different ways to attract customers
  • improve and create new products and services
  • grow your business in scalable ways
  • stand out from the crowd of competitors
and the like?

Going it alone can seem attractive. It can feel like, unless you come up it, it’s not really your innovation or idea. This is a real danger for solopreneurs, as innovation is not the same as churn, and this churn is where many of us live and work. Surrounded by shifting tasks, fluid schedules, never-ending revisions of services and offerings….it can SEEM like Innovation at times, even if it’s just a new way to get through the day in one piece!

It’s not.

Stepping back to look at the bigger picture may not give the perspective we’re looking for, either. Likely it just gives a bigger view of the mess….

In his book On Dialogue, David Bohm says that the kind of dialogue / conversation that can take place over time within a group of people can result in new thoughts, “felts” (his word for the emotional equivalents of thoughts…) and, in the context of this article, innovation. This would include equal status to all members of the dialogue, and “free space” as prerequisites of communication and the appreciation of differing personal beliefs. An essential ingredient in this form of dialogue is that participants “suspend” immediate action or judgment and give themselves and each other the opportunity to become aware of the thought process itself. Bohm suggested that if these “dialogue groups” were experienced on a sufficiently wide scale, they could help overcome the isolation and fragmentation Bohm observed in society.

This kind of thought awareness is definitely NOT easy, and doesn’t lend itself to how most of us work through conversations and challenges in today’s world. We’re much more likely to have closely held, cherished beliefs and positions that we’re willing to defend at all costs, and that starts out with not suspending them, EVER, in order to become more aware of the thought pattern traps we set for yourselves and others.

I know this sounds kind of fuzzy, but when you think about the real possibilities that unhooking our own stances and working toward a DIALOGUE, and not an “I-Win-You-Lose” DISCUSSION, could have, it sounds incredibly attractive!

How to set this kind of thing up? 

Great question. Many of us already have various groups that we participate in the are confronted with huge challenges and tasked with figuring them out.

Start there.

Institute a “dialogue-stance” yourself.

Model this within the group and gradually encourage the others to the openness and suspension of judgment, allowing the conversation to expand, the relationships to deepen in trust, and see that this grows toward the kind of environment where fragmentation dissolves and collaboration becomes the air you breathe.

You will be living the foundation of innovation.

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