Using Dialogue Techniques for Wicked Problems
I have always loved communicating and using words. I love how dialogue and words trigger feelings and thinking. I love how a word can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on its context and the lens with which we view it. I love how dialogue always has an impact.
Wicked. An interesting word. Depending on your view of the world, wicked can mean a lot of different things. Wicked problems are those problems that are seemingly unsolvable. The ones that you have attempted to solve over and over again, with little to no results. The problems that, despite your best attempts to solve them, keep popping up.
I have found that in working with leaders, there are a few persistently wicked problems that keep showing up. Most have to do with people and culture in organisations and tend to keep you awake at night. Most are seemingly unsolvable. In the increasingly complex and uncertain world we live and work in, solving our wicked problems can sometimes feel overwhelming and often very lonely.
Dialogue is integral to making sense of wicked problems. Dialogue allows us to have conversations, think about our thinking and open up our perspective. Dialogue forms the basis of solving problems together. Dialogue is a powerful tool for framing and reframing the way we understand and solve challenges. Dialogue creates meaning and produces insight. It allows you to tap into the tacit knowledge and collective wisdom of others.
As an observer of people, I am in awe of how dialogue allows people to think together. The word dialogue has its origins in the Greek language and can be understood as the flow of meaning between us. My observation is that in thinking together, people no longer take their own position as final. Through structured dialogue, people experience sense-making, order bringing and idea generating at a level that allows for the authentic integration of mind and heart. Dialogue does not analyse or compete or debate. Dialogue listens and suspends judgement and appreciates truth.
Through facilitated dialogue in a safe setting, wicked problems can be categorised, broken down and defined. Through dialogue and sense-making with others, wicked problems can be placed into perspective. Through dialogue and idea sharing, approaches to finding solutions can be structured to match the conditions and context of the problem.
I believe that to fully appreciate the power of dialogue in making sense of wicked problems, you need to be willing to bravely share and openly listen.