Why Are We Talking?

Why will this conversation matter? What needs to be explored? How might a conversation illuminate new perspectives on this?


Don't Have a Goal

Most ventures go better when we have an idea of where we want them to go. As Walt Disney’s brother said of his accomplishment, “because he could see it, we all can now see it.” Clear targets are easier to reach. Goals and objectives have become part of our culture.

But should a conversation have a predefined goal? If a conversation is real, it must be open to what ever comes up. If one has a predefined outcome in mind, we end up with a presentation or worse – manipulation. Yet, conversations that float all over the place and go nowhere can take the wind out of our sails.


Have an Intention

In conversation, it is better to have clear intentions than fixed goals. While the path to hell is littered with good intentions, the path to good conversation is illuminated by intention. Having clear intentions means setting a direction, but not a destination. Intentions allow for exploration that may discover things that are different and better than what is expected. This search goes beyond looking for solution X. Seek and ye shall find – but ensure that you are not too focused on your own hypothesis or a detail that is too incremental.

Conversations become great when they are surprising, challenging, fresh. If you are just going through the motions, it will never feel invigorating; and if it is not invigorating, then it is not a great conversation. How would you phrase your intention?

My intention is to explore the nature of conversation.”
Our intention is to uncover insights into the motivations of our people.”
The shared intention here is to understand social responsibility in our community”


Intentions Eat Goals

CASE: Conversation About Collaboration

Getting people to work together can be difficult in the best of times, but in a decentralised organisation where people are divided by topics, geographies and reporting lines, it can be near impossible. When one manager "Mario" set out to make collaboration a reality despite people having no incentive for it, he did so by setting a clear intention and inviting people into conversation.

Mario explained to a hand-picked team of peers that “Our intention is to jump over the ‘not invented here syndrome’ and innovate by learning from each other.” This was a radical departure from their command and control culture, and implied putting a stop to territorial-ism, distrust and the fear of the unknown. There was no road-map. If he had presented a plan to his peers, it most definitely would have been shot down. But by inviting them into conversation, they moved into the space of collective intelligence and exploration.

Mario's intuition was right, and the group built many bridges across their 30,000 person organisation. The most successful programme that emerged from these conversations were the “Best Practice Awards” which highlighted innovative projects and people and served as an inspiration for chain reaction that went well beyond their original intention.

What was first seen as a ‘why are we here talking about something so abstract’ became a conversation that marked a turning point in the organisation’s history. The conversation, with its ambitious intention, reshaped their culture.

Stimulating Ideas & Building Futures