Communication and organizational development tools are the fodder of many intellectual discussions. However, without action, they collect " mental dust" and benefit no one.

Always on the lookout for real-world ways to employ effective tools in the today' s world, we' ve put together some great tips on how to use three outstanding communication- and organizational-development technologies --Appreciative Inquiry, Dialogue, and Open Space Technology --with ways you can apply these " systems strategies" in smaller ways throughout your organization:


Circle up: Ensure that no one person is the " head of the table" or in control of the discussion (and therefore what gets discussed, and how). A circle of chairs welcomes others to participate fully and contribute ideas that enrich the group.

Employ the law of mobility: If you find that you are not learning or contributing in the meeting, use your two feet and walk to a more productive place. This saves your time and reduces the likelihood of worthless meetings. Also, discussion-in-motion can have the advantage of breaking through log-jams that occur when people are --and sometimes silenced by -- traditional meeting venues.

Suspend judgment: Don' t arrive at conclusions until you have honestly absorbed multiple perspectives and ideas. When you automatically conclude that you're right and others are wrong, you eliminate any possibilities for dialogue and participation (and your perception may not even be correct!). Just because you think something, doesn't make it universally true. Why shut the door on a potentially great idea for your group?

Leverage what works: Rather than sticking to a formulaic meeting style -- agenda, flip chart, one meeting leader and a task list -- conduct your meeting in a manner that works best for the group. Apply this thinking to the ideas shared during the meeting, too.


Tap into personal responsibility and passion: The success of Open Space Technology rests on --and requires --commitment from all players. Through meaningful and respectful communication, tap into each participant' s motivation and interests in order to allow those participants to take the gifts discovered during the meeting out into the organization in positive and lasting ways.

Stay curious: Don' t make accusations, advocate for or tear down elements of a change initiative (or other topic of discussion). Pause long enough maintain your curiosity about what is happening, why it' s happening and how you fit into it all. This allows you to gather more information, which can expand understanding, reduce stress and eliminate the " instant assumptions" and resulting judgments that we humans normally (and all too often) make. When you feel the urge to slam the door on the discussion with an " I'm right" statement, ask a question.

Use stories: An organization' s " inner dialogue" or stories help shape the culture. Communicate real-life stories that exemplify your organization' s ideal culture, benefits, areas of potential and strength, and where the company is headed.

AS PART OF AN INTERVIEW (or even a meeting with someone you don't know well)

Focus: Whether the interviewer or interviewee, concentrate on real business issues that you' re passionate about. You' ll be more able to identify " good fit" employees and employers, or vendors, associates and clients.

Understand your intentions: Ask about the intentions of others. Respectful and honest questions about a person' s interntions -- including one' s own -- can help reveal how well one' s thinking compares with organizational culture. Also, by allowing yourself to become familiar with someone else's (or your own) intentions, you deepen your understanding of why someon else thinks the way they do.

See the flip side of unfavorable traits: Someone who seems jittery in an interview might actually be nervous because she wants the job very much. Someone who seems overly strident or judgmental may simply have at his core the intention of making a positive difference. An interviewer who asks tough questions without cracking a smile might have such admiration for the company, that he wants to ensure that only the best of the best become employees, and this is the only approach he knows to select the top candidates. Ask probing questions to delve more deeply and collect more information, rather than making assumptions based only on " surface traits." Beyond that, allow someone else his or her humanity --even if it doesn't measure up to your personal standards of perfection!


Discover your reasons to reflect: Find your own reasons to reflect, rather than external ones. If you' re averse to reflection, consider why you are resisting it, and ask yourself whether this is truly a productive position to hold or whether it is limiting you. Ask, " Why am I resisting this suggestion to go inward, or be more reflective, and what potentially positive outcomes does that produce or block?"

Be comfortable in the unknown: Don' t be surprised by elements that arise in your mind, such as potential career shifts, new ways of seeing old habits and possibilities that are " out of the norm." Reflection opens the doors to new understandings and perspectives. Remember that you can choose fear or faith in the face of the unknown.

Motivate yourself: Rather than hamper your mindset by thinking of everything that' s wrong with you, concentrate on what' s right and what you enjoy about yourself. Then, determine how you can expand these traits to other parts of your self-expression. Balance this with a bit of external feedback to ensure that your assumptions about yourself are correct -- such as if you ask someone else to " accentuate the positives" about you or share ways in which you might become more skillful.

Jamie Walters is the founder and Chief Vision & Strategy Officer at Ivy Sea, Inc. in San Francisco, CA.

This information provides food for thought rather than counsel specifically designed to meet the needs of your organization. Please use it mindfully. The most effective leadership, interpersonal or organizational communication plan should be tailored to your unique needs, so don't hesitate to contact us at Ivy Sea or get assistance from a qualified adviser.

© 1997-2001 Ivy Sea, Inc., San Francisco, California. All rights reserved.