What is dialogic design anyway?

Peter JonesDialogic Design

Are you guys just making this up? Weren’t you just calling it Structured Design Process a month ago? Wasn’t it Interactive Management for 20 years? (No, Yes, Yes …)

Today’s discussion on Blogora with Surinder Batra on IM and KM raised the realization that many of us are viewing phenomena of collective intelligence from the perspective of different practices, and we’re not using a “lingua franca of the same realm.”

Dialogic Design as Organizational KM

Both IM and Nonaka’s theory of the knowledge creation cycle rely on several stages of interaction to transform the functions of knowledge, from the personal and tacit to the shared and organizationally accessible.

Perhaps the most significant barrier to organizational KM is the inability to coordinate the transformation of knowledge “on demand,” for the emergent needs of the business. It would appear the SDD process creates a new type of knowledge cycle, a collaborative model, which functions as such (using Nonaka’s language):

C- Combination: Originates with the explicit knowledge of multiple individuals responses to trigger question.

I – Internalization: An emerging pattern of new knowledge is realized in the dialogue.

E – Externalization: These emergent, evolutionary patterns are disclosed and patterned using ISM.

I also suggest there is no set cycle, as implied by SECI. Knowledge processes are never that neat and tidy in reality, but the SDD process establishes a cyclic moving from individual knowledge, to group patterning, to individual learning, to group learning, to group understanding.]

S – Socialization: But not Nonaka’s Tacit-Tacit version. Here I suggest socialization means a totally synthesized explicit-tacit exchange within the organization, based on the shared experience and evolutionary learning of the SDD sessions, as well as the interpretations emerging from the tangible artifacts (Influence Map, reports) of the engagement.

We are using new language, intentionally – a vocabulary for business process design based on bottom-up socialization, as an alternative to the received notion of “strategic alignment.” The notion of alignment is maladaptive because it encourages executives to micro-manage processes under the assumption that alignment to strategy is an achievable state, or that it is even desirable (in the predetermined way they would execute alignment). Instead, managers should construct a collective, adaptive strategy (using SDD if possible). They should lead by embodying and celebrating the new values associated with the strategic intent, since values are the slowest functions to change in an organization, and are best demonstrated by leadership modeling. People closest to the processes are best suited to adapt practices to the changing direction/intent.

We are also adopting the generic, non-Warfieldian term dialogic design and the process of Structured Dialogic Design (SDD) in the research. Here’s why:

1. We need a generic term that describes a class of collective knowledge generation processes enabled by democratic dialogue. One that encompasses IM, SDP, and even Dialogue Mapping. That term is dialogic design.

2. When we publish peer-reviewed research, we will not be treated seriously if we are seen as advocates of a certain style of practice. I have received comments to this effect in reviews. Interactive Management is more like a brand name, and SDP is a confusing name to everyone in the IT world who know s of “structured design.”

3. We can improve the practice and generalize from first principles better if we distance ourselves from the “terms of engagement.” SDD is a type of dialogic design, as is IM.