Dial in to dialogue
Play • 12 min

The Pursuit of Generative Dialogue

Generative thinking: the idea that there really is nothing new under the sun BUT when we put different combinations of that “nothing new” into a conversation, something generative happens and we see things from a different and unique perspective.

As a leader gains the skills needed to initiate generative conversations, the ideas shared will not only move you to a clarity of actions you can take but will also serve as a gateway to other topics where resolutions are not evident.

Questions for a leader learning how to dive more deeply into generative dialogue:

1.       Are you willing to create vulnerability and shared experience through your conversation?

2.      Can you take the time to generate a space where authentic dialogue has the potential for initiating meaningful relationships?

Generative conversations:

·        direct, honest exchange of sharing and inquiry between people who have released their need for certainty, for knowing that they are right,  and opened themselves up to hear possibilities and deeper meaning than either could have thought up individually.

·        marked by deep respect as individuals look at their deeply held assumptions and beliefs with curiosity. Instead of feeling a need to defend what they see as “right,” they are open to seeing things anew and from another perspective.

·        acknowledging all voices and perspectives matter; when you approach a conversation in this way your goal is to engage in dialogue to weave patterns together instead of defend positions or beliefs.

“We have to bring together the people who are co-creating the current reality to co-create new realities. We have to shift from downloading and debating to reflective and generative dialogues.” Adam Kahane – global facilitator of processes through which business, government, and civil society leaders can work together to address intractable issues.

Recommendations from Adam:

1.      Pay attention to how you are talking and listening.

2.      Reflect on your own role.

3.      Listen:

a.      To others who have a stake in the system

b.      To what is being said, not just by yourself but by others

c.      To what is being said through ALL of you

4.       Relax and be fully present

5.      Get ready to find yourself stuck! What? 


 1.      We can’t solve problems within the current context

2.      We can’t change the context we find ourselves in on our own or with our friends and colleagues

3.      The people we need to engage in order to shift the context don’t understand, agree or trust one another. 

Good news: you can seek the opportunity for generative dialogue that will help you stay real, and, as you feel stuck, be honest that you do not have the answers but that you are willing to engage until clarity comes with next steps.


Meet me at www.healthyleadership.online. Look for the course called Relationships Accelerate Results to complete a self-assessment of how you, as an individual communicates with others.  

Kahane, A. (2004). Solving Tough Problems. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.: San Francisco.

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