How Dialogic Relationally Responsive Philosophy is Important to Learning

There’s been some discussion of a Harvard Business Review Article by Peter Bregman.  He describes a case where people were unresponsive to a new corporate learning process and he solved the problem by being flexible and allowing them to individualize the process.  Ken Allen was responding to this article which generated my though of how Bregman’ case was a good example of a relationaly responsive dialogical approach and I posted this comment.

Hi Ken

I look to dialogical philosophy (Wittgenstein, Bakhtin, John Shotter) not postmodernism to understand Bregman’s case.   (I’ve read critiques that the anguished postmoderns were as negatively obsessed with the lack of certainty as the moderns were obsessed to trying to obtain it.)  A dialogic approach looks at people as relationally responsive.

Instead of trying to solve problems exclusively by analyzing “patterns and regularities” for perfection, we must also live in “the context of peoples disorderly, everyday conversational realities. . . (where) to solve problems, our task becomes the more practical one of struggling to create new ‘pathways’ forward into the uniquely new circumstances we create for ourselves as we live our lives together”.

Quotes from the back cover of John Shotter’s book Conversational Realities Revisited

I had a mentor in college (Helmut Bartel) that once said new paradigms were only successful if they could account for the successes and the failures of the old paradigm, while moving beyond it.  That’s what I think the idea of dialogic responsiveness does.  In Bregman’s case we can see the failure of the company’s and Bregman’s first modernist approach and how Bregman succeeded by being more responsive to the involved people.  The recent idea of closing training departments can also be read in the same terms of the failure of modernism (prescribed ‘one size fits all’ instruction based on observed patterns and regularities) for the dialogical (facilitating the ability of people to work together to solve problems in people’s everyday context).

Thanks for your post.  I struggle to understand philosophy that I know is important, but I can’t alway articulate just how.  I just grown by responding to your conversation and I am learning in dialogue right now.  And, I think my brain is completely fried for the moment.