First Dialogic Organization Development Conference – a report from Vancouver

Yabome Gilpin-Jackson – one of the contributors to the book ‘Dialogic Organization Development’

Frederic Laloux’s book Reinventing Organizations highlights the many ‘beautiful’ non-hierarchical and self- organising large group processes organisations are now using, that give everyone a voice, even with thousands involved. Processes range from Future Search and Appreciative Inquiry to Theory U and Open Space. In parallel with the growth of ‘Next Stage’ organizations, there is a newly-named approach to the practice of Organization Development (OD) called ‘Dialogic OD’, which draws on these large group processes. It contrasts with the standard ‘Diagnostic OD’ methods, which are characterized by a more linear predict-and-control approach. Even when used in a hierarchical organization, Dialogic OD processes can enable a shift to more self-organizing, non-hierarchical structures. Doug Lewis reports from the First International Conference on Dialogic Organization Development, in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Recently I attended the first annual Dialogic OD conference in Vancouver B.C, writes Doug Lewis.   I was drawn to the conference because I work in corporate environments that have so much change occurring at the same time it’s impossible to manage and/or manage in a humanistic way. Most of the approaches are based on old models that believe that managing change can be done in a planned and predictable manner.

I had a sense that this was the way to go but lacked a framework, a model and a way to communicate to others

What I’m experiencing is that we’re not being successful with traditional approaches. I was interested to learn new ways and new mindsets that I could to bring back to the workplace to make a difference. I had been experimenting with interventions focused on bringing teams together, creating the right experience that would drive a conversation and then determining action based on what emerged. I had a sense that this was the way to go but lacked a framework, a model and a way to communicate to others. I had read and tried different approaches but nothing that brought it together in a holistic way.

Prof Gervase Bushe – co-developer of Dialogic OD – addresses the conference

What I found through the new book Dialogic Organization Development – The Theory and Practice of ransformational Change was exactly what I was looking for. The first part was around the theory and second part was around the practice – a wonderful blend.  The conference mimicked this approach in both its content and participants. It was very impactful to hear from, and interact with, both the leading thinkers in academia as well as practitioners with a variety of approaches and experiences.   The key takeaways for me were:

It gave me hope that there may be new ways to approach difficult problems and do it in an inclusive and people-centered way

  • The distillation of a lot of complex ideas and practices into a very coherent and simple framework and model.
  • The connection and networking with many others in academia as well as practitioners.
  • The invitation to get involved and learn from each other.
  • The energy and excitement of people coming together for the first time with the hope of building this into something meaningful and useful.
  • That this is a first step and I’m looking forward to learning and experiencing Dialogic OD.

The bottom line for me was that it was an amazing experience to find and connect with so many like-minded individuals who are looking for ways to help people and organizations through the vast complexity of changes we are experiencing.

It gave me hope that there may be new ways to approach difficult problems and do it in an inclusive and people-centered way. And it renewed my interest in researching and experimenting with this new branch of the field of organization development.

Doug Lewis photoDoug Lewis has spent the last 25 years working in large corporate environments dedicated to the business of Finance and Information Technology (IT). He has spent the last 20 years working in the Hi-Tech sector, with the vast majority of the time focused on leading large global software delivery teams. Recently he transformed his career towards Organizational Development (OD) where he is focused on helping the IT division through major culture and change initiatives.  Doug has recently completed a Masters in Organization Development from Case Western Reserve University and Leadership Coaching Certificate from Georgetown University. You can reach Doug at [email protected].


* Presentations, key ideas and photos from the conference (including Edgar Schein’s opening video)

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