Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Book Review: Dialogue and Humble Inquiry

Every month, I send out our library's list of new titles or acquisitions. There are many ways to promote new books, but I still prefer to use email to inform and communicate with the community of our current books and resources. 

Our featured new books for the month of September
From the list, here are my top two recommended reads.

In Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together (Currency and Doubleday, NY 1999), William Issacs brings readers back to the flow of meaning present in conversations. He writes, "most people living today do not know how to create meaningful conversations" and traces the etymology of the word from the classics. He defines dialogue as a conversation with a center, not sides. A way of taking energy of people's differences and channeling it into a new creation. The aim of dialogue is to avoid and, in time, remove us out of polarizations, he adds.

What follows are stories and examples of men and women in the sciences, engineering, military and business who all have succeeded and made a difference in their chosen field because they have recognized the power, aesthetics and flow of meaning in dialogue. Contents include capacity building for effective conversations in the workplace, enhancing relationships through dialogue, an examination of the ecology of thought and the role of dialogue in organizational management, the new economy and today's fragile democracy.

Consider Edgar H. Schein's book, Humble Inquiry The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling ( BK Publishers, CA 2013) as a companion to Isaacs' Dialogue because, the former is written to build positive relationships and better organizations. It is only seven chapters long but it's a powerful read. It explains the value of humility as key to achieving personal goals and professional success by communicating with people we admire, respect and even dislike. It challenges readers to recognize one's limitations and that, the admission to be helped by another is a path towards establishing a positive working culture.

Chapters 2 and 3 deal with strategies on the humble act of asking people, case studies and practical activities to apply the asking vs. telling strategy. In the succeeding chapters, Schein discusses the culture of "do and tell", how we value "doing" more than "relating", the misinterpretation that "doing is relating", and how humility dissipates as people climb up the ladder of power and authority. The book ends with real life examples on the difficulty and challenges of being humble in these modern times as Schein provides ways and means to keep a small and grateful heart. 

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