how groups learn

Groups learn through dialogue. Dialogue is about listening to, and with others, in an effort to develop shared ways of understanding a situation or an issue. William Issacs believes there are four components to the development of true dialogue:

Listening - to others, and to our responses, thoughts, and reactions;

Respecting - honoring and deferring to others, accepting their legitimacy as beings;

Suspending - neither suppressing what we think, or advocating for it, but instead, seeking ways to communicate our viewpoint that allows others to see and understand it;

Voicing - revealing what is true for you, regardless of what other influences might be brought to bear.

The exploration of music-making (literally and figuratively) is a powerful way to deepen one's awareness of, and appreciation for, the skills that underlie the artful practice of dialogue. Such a musical approach to life may hold the key to our ability to see conflict as an opportunity to think more creatively about important issues, rather than as a series of volleys in an argument that needs to be won or lost. And because the stance we take when we make music creates a space for surprise and improvisation, it may also offer us a map for how to move beyond a techno-engineering mindset and use our collective imaginations to develop more innovative responses to the social, economic and environmental impasses we are facing. As artist and social commentator Christopher DeLaurenti notes, "music is a way of listening."

When we commit to listening as musicians do, we are choosing to adopt a stance of shared inquiry, and are acknowledging the necessity of a certain level of skill in playing our instrument. If we are skillful and committed listeners, we can engage together in an effort to think (play) and reflect (listen & respond) in service to the creation of something dynamic, original and incredibly beautiful. At heart, this is the essence of collaborative design.

What might the world look like if we practiced listening together in the way musicians do?