Knowledge Café on 'The role of conversation in business' - Wed 16 Oct 2002




Anna McAvoy 

First Published

November 2002


Communities of Practice; Conversation; Dialogue; Knowledge Cafe


United Kingdom

Anna McAvoy
The second Knowledge-Café meeting took place at the Strand Palace Hotel, London on Wednesday 16th October 2002. With a central theme to each Café, David Gurteen introduced ‘The role of conversation in business', and made observations on its lack of effective use, which in turn highlights potential improvements to many aspects of business life.

At the center of business life - conversation - good conversation helps build relationships, which is the lifeblood of business life. Good conversation triggers ideas, and is real-time knowledge transfer. From press offices, to effective selling, conversation is the medium of all industry sectors, relationship building, and the fast transfer of ideas. Yet there is poor usage of this high-band width form of communication.

Communication, when lacking, is an all too common business problem. It leads to poor client, and customer, relationships, and acts as a bottleneck in achieving goals. And this lies at the heart of poor decision making with inevitable, negative results. Lack of communication is often a problem between different sections of a business, and there is little that company culture or technology can do to resolve this. In fact, use of the ‘professional voice’ can serve to deepen divides, especially if it is jargon-based and alienating to others. Perhaps the classic example is the gulf between the IT department, and the business. Different roles see their contribution, and their skill set, as being the most valuable. Lack of understanding and respect for others can lead to genuine problems. How many IT projects have failed to deliver to the client exactly what the client expected? Are we simply to look to technical solutions to overcome this, or do we look to ourselves in the ways in which we communicate? It’s certainly cheaper!

Taken a step further, there are the problems faced by global and merged/acquired businesses with different cultures, both corporate and national. Yet another example can be seen in staff recruitment. Attracting, and retaining, the best staff is a business issue, which can turn expensive if poorly managed. Discerning the qualities of the person behind the piece of paper is difficult: cue meaningful conversation. The traditional interview format is formal, and a looser, more conversational style, would especially in a relaxed setting provide the interviewer with far greater insights into the strengths and personality of the candidate.

Conclusion: For each individual to take responsibility for the quality of their conversation by listening, and speaking openly and truthfully, is one practical means of contributing to the success of our organizations.

What is Knowledge Management? - Graham O'Connell

Mini-clip interview for Gurteen Knowledge with Graham O'Connell . What is Knowledge Management? Shot at the Henley Knowledge Management Forum in September 2006.

Media Information: Image

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership


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