A Conversation for Innovation

Innovation is the engine to advance organizations today and although conversation is key to spurring creative thinking and innovative action, it is naive to think that just having more conversations where information is shared and people collaborate is enough. These conversations, often spontaneous, can be unconsciously valuable but we should strive for dialog if we want to see growth. 

“[Dialog is] a conversation in which the intention is to generate something in the conversation itself that did not exist in any one of the participants before the conversation began.

– Michael McMaster, The Intelligence Advantage

Dialog is not debate or discussion and its not brainstorming. Dialog calls for strong discipline to refrain from judging, and reacting. It’s having the ability to hold fast to a position of listening and for raising more questions that add to the conversation rather than trying to end it with answers.

Dialog is the stream that carries knowledge. And like knowledge itself, it too is ever expansive and ever flowing. 

Knowledge doesn’t exist with in us but rather it exists between us in our [conscious] conversations [dialog].

The barrier to more dialog is innately a human condition; we are competitive. Our business hierarchies only serve to reinforce this by rewarding those with quick wit, quicker ideas, and for being the loudest voice in the room. Social Media however is a great equalizer, it can support dialog; a conversation for innovation. Social Media provides an important buffer to this human condition, one of time and space. This buffer allows for (but can’t guarantee) reflection; a pause.  In social tools I can write my response immediately but I don’t have to hit submit immediately. I can sit idle and wait for those societal reinforced and rewarded behaviors to pass and use my response to seek clarity rather than try to provide it.

As always, the technology can only support the practice of dialog. This behavior, like most, is best learned through experience, practice, and reflection. Yet it must also be modeled and supported by leadership; those that hold innovation so dear… and where better for them to do it than in the tools that make the practice most visible.


This is what I was listed as on the Open Sesame Blog out of 100 Ed Tech Must Follows back in December. The number or even being on a list is thoughtful and appreciated of course but insignificant really as we live in what Euan Semple refers to as an ephemeral meritocracy . All-in-all its nice company to be a part of and I recommend you check the list out.

What struck me initially though was my description compared to that of the other 99 on this list.  Mine is a bit nebulous, no?  Well I guess you can check me out on LinkedIn or about.me, or better yet follow me on Twitter etc and dig a bit deeper but I’ll save you some trouble and share a few things. I am not an author, I’m not really on the speaking tour (couple events here and there), I am not a consultant, I’m not specifically an ISD or elearning (courseware?) designer (although I’ve worn those hats since at least the mid 90’s), and finally I don’t work for a big name organization having thousands of employees. In comparison to my illustrious peers on this list I appear pretty vanilla really.

I think the reason I am on this list and a few others like it is in the first sentence – “master connector.” And this really resonates for me. Heck, I’m down right proud. This “connectability” has helped transform my thinking and enabled me to bring real change to the organizations that employ me as well as helped me connect others to the many who influence my thinking and actions.

Connecting is a necessary skill today. I often share with others my belief that knowledge is not static, it is dynamic – its fluid. It doesn’t exist within us, but between us in our conversations. I connect with authors, speakers, thinkers, designers, and disruptors not because we are peers in those areas but because we share a common belief in learning and in the humanity within organizations being the most critical part of the organization. It’s here, at this simple level, far below the tools, technology and processes that seem to dominate the conversations that our connection is made.

In the end, a master connector is really just a good “node” and a node is where everyone should strive to be first and foremost. What you know and do today is only important if you continue to stretch. And the only way I know to do that is to help keep the conversations and information flowing between us.