The importance of dialogue

Posted by  Mark Schenk —July 10, 2006
Filed in Communication

Shawn’s series of posts on finding expertise has reminded me of one of my favourite quotes: an anthropologist’s description of an agricultural North American tribe from David Bohm’s book On Dialogue:

From time to time, (the) tribe (gathered) in a circle.  They just talked and talked and talked, apparently to  no purpose.  They made no decisions.  There was no leader.  And everybody could participate. There may have been wise men or wise women that were listened to a bit more – the older ones – but everybody  could talk. The meeting went on, until it finally seemed to stop for no reason at all and the group dispersed. Yet after that, everybody seemed to know what to do, because they understood each other so well.  They could get together in smaller groups and do something or decide things.

Dialogue provides shared meaning and empowers people. With the number of meetings in most organisations it is not unreasonable that we should expect high levels of shared meaning and empowerment…but this doesn’t appear to be the case. What is it that prevents our meetings from enabling us to engage in dialogue?

About  Mark Schenk

Mark works globally with senior leadership teams to improve their ability to communicate clearly and memorably. He has been a Director of Anecdote since 2004 and helped the company grow into one of the world’s leading business storytelling consultancies. Connect with Mark on:


  1. Ali Anani says:

    Dear Mark,
    Your ideas are simple and follow simple writing rules. The emerging patterns of your writing are brain-catching. The strange attractors of your ideas are bound to attract serious readers.
    I remember that in the early nineties I proposed a helical-structured management system to ensure the flow of information, in emulation of the DNA molecule. I wonder if the people of the tribe arranged themselves likewise if different results would emerge than their seating in a circle.

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