Blog Post

Engaging each other and challenging our thinking

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 22 August 2014



Engaging each other and challenging our thinking
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 170
Posted DateFriday 22 August 2014 08:26 GDT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen
Linkshttp://cognitive-edge.com/blog/entry/6311/on-public-speaking ... 
http://www.kmworld.com/Articles/News/News-Analysis/Everythin ... 
http://whatsthepont.com/2011/08/14/ritual-dissent-getting-be ... 
http://cognitive-edge.com/library/methods/ritual-dissent ... 

Those of you who have had the privilege of hearing Dave Snowden speak know that he delights many people and angers others.

I never quite understood why until I read this recent blog post of his On Public Speaking.

His style is quite deliberate and for good reason. He is purposefully disruptive to engage people and to provoke them to think for themselves.

Here are a couple of snippets from his blog post.
If I am in shock and awe mode, trying for a long term shift then I operate my three-thirds rule.

That seeks to inspire a third, confuse a third and anger/disturb a third of the audience.

It works! Everyone who hears Dave speak talk about him for days, weeks, even months afterwards. They don't always agree with him or appreciate his style. But he engages them and challenges their thinking!

Some years ago, I recall recording one of Dave's talks and playing it back to myself on the train home, pausing every few moments to take in an outlandish statement of his and reflecting - "Is this really true?" "Have I had this so wrong in my head for so long?" or "Is Dave just saying this to provoke the audience?". Either way he sure gets me thinking.
Another good disruptive technique is to read the descriptions of other speakers and deliberately create the odd virus like the five most dangerous things people say about X which includes paraphrases of points you know will come after.

Good speakers take this in their stride and give as good as they get, others get flummoxed and that is no bad thing as we need better speakers, oh do we need better speakers.

The point about all of this is to create diversity for learning.

Conferences where all the speakers agree with each other are turgid.

Dave also makes the point that "Good speakers stimulate debate and discussion at events and organisers need to provide for that."

It's why I am so keen to promote conversational techniques such as Knowledge Cafes at conferences. The Cafe is often seen as people talking nicely to each other and thus prone to Group Think. Some times this is true, some times it is not.

There is nothing I would like to see more in my Knowledge Cafes than more passionate but respectful dialogue and debate around a significant issue.

Some time ago Dave suggested that I run Ritual Dissent sessions in addition or as part of my Knowledge Cafes. Somehow I have never got around to this. It's about time I did :-)
Ritual Dissent is a workshop method designed to test and enhance proposals, stories, ideas or whatever by subjecting them to ritualised dissent (challenge) or assent (positive alternatives).

In all cases it is a forced listening technique, not a dialogue or discourse.

The basic approach involves a spokesperson presenting a series of ideas to a group who receives them in silence.

The spokesperson then turns their chair, so that their back is to the audience and listens in silence while the group either attack (dissent) or provide alternative proposals (assent).

The ritualisation of not facing the audience de-personalizes the process and the group setting (others will be subject to the same process) means that the attack or alternative are not personal, but supportive.

Listening in silence without eye contact, increases listening.

Overall plans that emerge from the process are more resilient than consensus based techniques.

Ritual Dissent is meant to simulate the process of delivering new ideas to management or decision-makers, and to open up new thinking to necessary criticism and iterations.

The process is meant to enforce listening, without disruption.

The scenario replicates real-life proposal making especially with regards to new and non-conventional ideas - as more experimental approaches are commonly met with the most challenges from management.

Watch out for a Ritual Dissent session as part of one of my future London Knowledge Cafes!

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
David Gurteen

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