Monday, May 26, 2008

A juicy conversation with Dennis Rivers

I spent a fascinating 3 hours recently with Dennis Rivers of New Conversations and author of (among several other works) The Geometry of Dialogue. He now lives in Eugene, OR, too, and we were brought together for coffee and hot chocolate by our common friend and inveterate networker Robert Bushman. Our time together was too stimulating to cover here more than a few of the many interesting gifts Dennis brought to the table.

A notable outcome: Thanks to Dennis, I have finally compiled and posted a long-overdue page on questions and inquiry on my co-intelligence website which includes a chapter from Dennis' Geometry of Dialogue book. A focus on inquiry fits his insistence that we are all teachers and learners, all the time, intrinsically -- and that it is worth our effort to become more conscious of the dynamic of that within and among us.

He also shared with me his understanding that we and much else in life are "silent partners" in the success or failure of what happens. Often chaos and order, form and process, show up as silent partners of each other. For example, practice playing scales (a highly structured activity) is a silent partner to the free-wheeling sensibilities of a proficient improvisational jazz musician. A few simple rules and micro-cultural expectations (as well as the personal and cultural baggage people bring into their encounters) are silent partners of the self-organizing Open Space Technology process. A container is a silent partner for all that exists and goes on within it. And, perhaps most importantly of all, mistakes (trial and error) are silent partners of all real competence, learning, and evolution. Therefore it behooves us as co-evolutionaries to make mistakes safer by (a) making amends for our mistakes and (b) forgiving others for their mistakes.


Anonymous said...

Tom - I completely align with the concept of 'silent partners' in dialogue and forgiveness has been a theme of instruction I have been using (expecially for the recently incarcerated who come out with LOTS of baggage) to bring human beings together. It definitely makes a difference.

But there is another issue to be addressed - there are humans who have no intention of forgiving and who have only one agenda - power. Unless we accept this fact and work with that knowledge, we are deceiving ourselves that dialogue with changes will work.

I come in peace and want others to BE in peace, but I know there are plenty to whom peace is anethma and who thrive on chaos, using it to gain the power they are hungry for. If you haven't read "Confessions of an Economic Hitman," you are missing a vital link to the issue of dialogue.

We haven't e-mailed in awhile but I am still benefitting from many of the exchanges we had during and after Y2K - Annie

Tom Atlee said...

I agree that there are people at present for whom dialogue is, at best a medium to manipulate for greater power. I also believe that that was even more true decades ago before modern processes were developed. I believe that dialogue is on a developmental curve which will embrace more and more "impossible people" and "impossible problems" as it grows more sophisticated. Of course, I could be wrong. And definitely, in the meantime, we need to be mindful of the limits of our capacity to heal and transform with communication.