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Dialogue: The Art Of Thinking Together Hardcover – September 14, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; 1 edition (September 14, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385479999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385479998
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Modern conversation is a lot like nuclear physics, argues William Isaacs. Lots of atoms zoom around, many of which just rush past each other. But others collide, creating friction. Even if our atomic conversations don't turn contentious, they often just serve to establish each participant's place in the cosmos. One guy shares a statistic he's privy to, another shares another fact, and on and on. Each person fires off a tidbit, pauses to reload while someone else talks, then fires off another. In Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together, Isaacs explains how we can do better than that.

Isaacs, who is Director of the Dialogue Project at MIT and a consultant to major corporations, including AT&T and Intel, believes that corporate, political, and personal communication can be a process of thinking together--as opposed to thinking alone, and then trying to convince others of our positions by refusing to consider other opinions, withholding information, and ultimately getting angry and defensive. This is not pie-in-the-sky, let's-all-hold-hands-and-sing stuff. He offers concrete ideas for both listening and speaking; for avoiding the forces that undermine meaningful conversation; for changing the physical setting of the dialogue to change its quality. The outcome, he says, can be quite different from the traditional winner-loser structure of arguments and debates. Businesses can make more reasoned decisions, and thus earn more money. Governments can create peaceful resolutions to seemingly intractable problems. (For example, Isaacs cites secret conversations between Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk in South Africa, which occurred over a number of years, while Mandela was still under arrest and led to a new framework for their country.) And, although this is a book primarily geared toward managers, even married couples can learn a few new ways to communicate. --Lou Schuler

From Booklist

Isaacs is a colleague of organizational learning guru Peter Senge and one of the founders of MIT's Organizational Learning Center. He also directs MIT's Dialogue Project, on which this book is based. Isaacs argues that organizational learning cannot take place without successful dialogue. Dialogue is conversation that encourages collective observation and thought, enabling groups to think beyond their members' individual limitations. Isaacs posits an "ecology of thought," which is typically constrained by habits that are known and felt but never discussed. Those habits can be revealed only through dialogue that permits inquiry, confrontation, and clarification. Only then can habits be changed and new possibilities explored. Isaacs examines the processes that constitute dialogue and shows what encourages and what discourages dialogue, what happens when dialogue is introduced into difficult settings, and how to manage the changes within oneself that are necessary to become an effective participant in dialogue. David Rouse

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Customer Reviews

Should be mandatory reading for anyone desiring to be a true leader!
"frankkr"
As a person that feels as if there is something missing in the conversations I hold in my life and in my career I found this book to be very insightful.
Jessie Bader
A book written in a language that is easy to understand and full of real life examples.
Marcos "Ronin"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Dialogue
According to the subtitle, Isaacs provides "a pioneering approach to communicating in business and in life." This he does with insight and eloquence. There is a great need for what this book provides, especially now as organizations are (finally) beginning to appreciate the importance of supporting (indeed nourishing) the personal as well as the professional development of their "human capital" The word "dialogue" denotes conversation between two or more persons. Moreover, the original meaning of the word "conversation" is to turn around, to transform; later, the word's meaning evolved to "living, dwelling, and associating with others." Today, most of us think of conversation as "talk." Some of us think of it as a "lost art." Isaacs obviously has both words clearly in mind as he introduces his "pioneering approach." His purpose is to explain HOW effective dialogue, dialogue which is "about a shared inquiry, a way of thinking and reflecting together", can increase and enhance human dignity and understanding. How important is face-to-face communication? My own opinion is that it is more important now than ever before. However, again my opinion, the quality of face-to-face communication has rapidly deteriorated in this age of high-speed electronic "connectivity."
Isaacs' book is organized into five "Parts": What Is Dialogue; Building Capacity for New Behavior (ie listening, respecting, suspending, and voicing); Predictive Intuition; Architecture of the Invisible; and Widening the Circle. several For me, one of the most important of Isaacs' themes is so obvious, so simple: Show your respect for others by listening carefully to what they say. Dialogue worthy of the name is based on mutual respect. Hence the importance of attitude.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When this book arrived on my doorstep, I tore into it as I usually do with nonfiction books of great interest: I read the first and last chapters, dove by intuition into various middle points, eyeballed the diagrams, and sighed. No quick read, here. This was going to require full attention, and a willingness on my part to 'walk' with the author through his description of that most familiar and elusive phenomenon, dialogue.
It has been well worth the walk.
Isaacs both knows his stuff and has done his homework. He participated with David Bohm and others in the early dialogue sessions, and remais quite true to the spirit and intent of Bohm's work. He also brings depth of experience with subsequent dialogue work, and breadth of supporting ideas from eclectic sources to his description of the practice of deepened and enriched conversation. Few have experimented with dialogue in as many settings, and few have linked this current practice with as many related disciplines as Isaacs has.
To me, Isaacs presents dialogue as a world view, moreso than a set of conversational skills and techniques, remarkable moments in communication, group pain relief, or organizational change practice (as I feel other authors have done). Yet dialogue may play an important role in all of the above, and he does offer practical examples and approaches to try.
As practitioner, researcher, and occasional critic of dialogue, I appreciated revisiting its deeper roots. I particularly liked the discussion of dialogue and the senses of seeing and hearing. I hadn't thought of listening as geographic, before! Nor had I thought of 'participation' in quite the way he describes. At several points, I found it helpful to stop, put the book down, and think through the implications.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jessie Bader on June 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Dialogue; traced to its Greek roots is a flow of meaning, an ability to take many different issues and opinions to a table and create something completely new out of the process. Communication is the center of our culture as human beings, yet we rarely make time for true communication in our society today. As a person that feels as if there is something missing in the conversations I hold in my life and in my career I found this book to be very insightful. I gained an understanding of my frustrations, some skills to apply, and a look at the direction in which I want to go in the future. As it is a complex book that applies to every part of my life (and yours!) I have chosen to simply include a few of my favorite quotes.
"Respect also means honoring people's boundries to the point of protecting them. If you respect someone, you do not intrude. At the same time, if you respect someone, you do not withhold yourself or distance yourself from them. I have heard many people claim they were respecting someone by leaving them alone, when in fact they were simpley distancing themselves from something they did not want to deal with. When we respect someone, we accept that they have thinks to teach us."..."Treat the person next to you as a teacher. What is it that they have to teach you that you do not now know? Listening to them in this way, you discover things that might surprise you."..."Respect is, in this sense, looking for what is highest and best in a person and treating them as a mystery that you can never fully comprehend. They are a part of the whole, and, in a very particular sense, a part of us." - PP 114-117
"Every conversation has its own acoustics.
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