Conversations create coherence

For some time now, I’ve been evangelising the need for conversations within organisations facilitated by social media tools. While at some cellular level I knew this was the right thing to do, articulating the absolute necessity for these conversations has proved difficult … until now (thanks to Margaret Wheatley and Schumacher College for thought seeds)! So, here is my definitive reason (until the next one comes along!) why, without conversations, the only possible outcome is organisational incoherence …

If you stand two people in front of the same object, say a tree, only 20% of what they ‘see’ will be shared between them – a shared experience. Eighty per cent of what they ‘see’ will be personal perception based on their personal experiences and various memory triggers built up over the period of their lifetime.

Unfortunately, as human beings we tend to think that everyone ‘sees’ everything in the same way that we do. Failure to recognise the importance, or even existence, of personal perception results in disconnection, incoherence and conflict.

The ONLY way to recognise personal perception is through conversation in which perceptions are aired and people can arrive at the concept of shared significance … i.e. we agree that something is significant without having to agree on a single shared meaning.

In an organisational context, we almost always deal with ‘certainties’ and very rarely, if ever, recognise that what we communicate to our employees may mean different things to each and every one of them. No wonder the dreadful statistics around employee engagement make such depressing reading. You cannot enter into a true conversation from a position of ‘certainty’ … entering a conversation with certainty rather than curiosity almost always leads to conflict. The only way to reach shared significance is to enter into a conversation with curiosity.

So, the only way I can make my perception open to others is through conversation and the only way I can consume other people’s perceptions is through curiosity. If we all get the chance to speak, if we all get the chance to be listened to, then we can agree on shared significance resulting in organisational coherence.

Without conversation we can’t be truly connected. Without curiosity, we can’t enter into a true conversation. And, curiosity creates community …

… well it makes sense to me!

And now for some light relief … an exercise in perception! Enjoy …



  1. Okay so my comment on your most recent post about the importance of conversations has something to do with this – I think.

    Your point is a good one and I think curiosity can create community even where people don’t necessarily talk during a conversation. Listening with a curious ear can also play a part in achieving ‘shared significance’.

    The beauty of social media is that it allows people to listen to a number of conversations that they might not ordinarily be a part of.

    I particulalry like your point about having the chance to speak and the chance to listen. Social media is a great leveller in that respect. Thinking about conversations in meeting rooms…those who take more time in developing their ideas and those who aren’t comfortable shouting over the noise in a ‘live’ environment, can have the samn influence as anybody else.

    The bit I didn’t enjoy was the reminder of how much I struggled with undergraduate philosophy of perception…

  2. Thanks, Peter … I truly believe (… or maybe perceive!) the people who benefit most from social media are those most open to new ideas and bursting with curiosity about what other people think and feel … hmmmn hang-on, are the words ‘truly believe’ too ‘certain’ which makes me a fundamentalist thinker afterall … dammit! 🙂

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