We might all be free-thinkers but inspiration and insight is often found by standing on the shoulders of giants. Here are the works of some of the giants that have been helpful in forming the vision and practice of Photo-Dialogue:
Within an opening address to World Leaders, Mark Edwards writes:
"This project began forty years ago on the day of the first moon landing, when I was lost in the Sahara and rescued by a Tuareg nomad who played me "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall". "Sad forests", "Dead oceans", 'Where the people are many and their hands are all empty", "Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten": I have seen Bob Dylan's piercing words come alive in the view finder of my camera and in the photographs of my friends. It has fallen to our generation to deal with these tragic problems that threaten to overwhelm us all."
Since the first edition of 'Hard Rain' in 2006, it feels as though the environmental, social and ethical challenges it poses are ever more acute.
It is a favourite for long flights and is regularly pulled from the shelf and thrown into a kit bag - or simply reviewed to check a few points or refer again to a diagram. I was introduced to the book during my Master's in Organisational Consulting at Ashridge, and the practice of dialogue and the reflexive approach it provides to the way we think, has been foundational in my work ever since.
Isaacs starts alongside David Bohm as he starts to define what dialogue is:
"Generally, we think of dialogue as "better conversation." But there is much more to it. Dialogue as I define it, is a conversation with a centre, not sides. It is a way of taking the energy of our differences and channeling it toward something that has never been created before. It lifts us out of polarisation and into a greater common sense, and is thereby a means for accessing the intelligence and co-ordinated power of groups of people."
"Dialogue fulfils deeper, more widespread needs than simply "getting to yes." The aim of a negotiation is to reach agreement among parties who differ. The intention of dialogue is to reach new understanding and, in doing so, to form a totally new basis from which to think and act."
The book has been a 'staple' of the organisational change courses at Ashridge where it features on the certificate, master's and doctoral reading lists. Participants on those courses 'get' Morgan's work quickly and it is exciting to see new insights about how to intervene in organisations suddenly emerge.
Morgan explores the idea of metaphor in the way we think about organisation and invites us to 'see' organisation though different 'lenses'. He begins:
"Effective managers and professionals in all walks of life have become skilled in the art of 'reading' the situations they are attempting to organise of manage."
In exploring this art of 'reading' into our experience he outlines the promise that all theories of organisation and management are based on implicit images or metaphors that lead us to see, understand and manage in 'distinctive, yet partial ways'. Skilled leaders and managers develop the knack of understanding situations in a variety of ways...
....and, to be honest, found myself rather distracted by the giraffe and jackal puppets that were used to characterise the empathise spirit of NVC and, alternatively, a more commonplace style of judgemental or demanding communication.
Yet the fundamental assertion of NVC, that most conflicts between individuals or groups arise from miscommunication about human needs, due to coercive or manipulative language that aims to induce fear, guilt or shame stayed with me. I've since used the basic process of NVC either as a point of inquiry and reflection for clients, or as a practical, effective, shorthand that they an use to work 'in the moment' when they are faced with difficult circumstances.
The author, Marshall B. Rosenberg, outlines 4 components of NVC: Observation; Feelings; Needs; Requests.
"First, we observe what is actually happening in a situation: what are we observing others saying or doing that is either enriching or not enriching our life? The trick is to be able to articulate this observation without introducing any judgement or evaluation - to simply say what people are doing that we either like or don't like.