[Paleopsych] Robust scientific dialog

Steve Hovland shovland at mindspring.com
Mon Feb 21 15:38:56 UTC 2005

"You get what you inspect" may also apply here.

Rudy Giuliani dramatically changed the output
of many agencies in New York by measuring
progress toward the results he wanted.

He probably didn't change the culture, which is
very difficult, but he got a different result, which
was enough.

Steve Hovland

-----Original Message-----
From:	Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D. [SMTP:ljohnson at solution-consulting.com]
Sent:	Sunday, February 20, 2005 9:17 PM
To:	W. David Schwaderer; The new improved paleopsych list
Subject:	[Paleopsych] Robust scientific dialog

Thank you for this inspiring question. I have been giving it some thought.

My assumption is that we find true dialog threatening. Groups value 
stability. Stability comes from shared meanings, shared norms, shared 
values. We create meaning about the universe, and we are dismayed by 
data that undermines our creation.

So we started that particular project with a focus on group culture. 
What is the norm about dialog? Clearly it had been to suppress debate. 
Back-channel communications were common.

I used an Appreciative Inquiry / Solution-focused approach, looking for 
exceptions, times when dialog had worked. The idea behind that is that 
we can change a culture by seeking positive examples of what is desired. 
Fluctuations occur in all systems all the time. Even in a culture of 
defensiveness and non-sharing, I assume there will be examples of times 
when sharing did happen. If we discover those exceptions and talk about 
them, the group members begin to re-view their concepts of the group. 
New norms can be based on those exceptional times. Trust in the new 
norms is improved by further dialog about them, mroe examples.

We asked scientists:
"We all have experiences of direct, robust dialog, and we also have 
experiences when we do not talk directly to others. We want to study 
times when dialog was direct, to the point, and helpful. Please tell us 
a time when that happened. What was going on? Who was involved? What 
were you told? How did that help?"

In retrospect, I should have trained three scientists to collect that 
data, and each of them training three more and so on. I did too much of 
the work. When the consultant does the interviews, it greatly reduces 
the impact on the system, since the consultant is an outsider. Insider 
collection of exceptional times is much more powerful.

The senior scientist was quite pleased and felt that people were being 
more open. We didn't have any actual data, though. Not  long after, the 
VP of HR became ill and eventually died.

I have much more to say. I wonder whether we ought to say this on list? 
Would the paleo group be interested in this dialog between you and me? I 
will forward this on to the group and see if we get interest. In the 
mean time, David, please write back and tell me if this kind of story is 
what you have in mind. I am interested in keeping this going.


W. David Schwaderer wrote:

>>I once consulted with a pharmaceutical research firm. ... but they
>>would not challenge each other.
>>Divergent opinions are generally felt as threatening to the group, and
>>it takes sustained effort to legitimize divergent opinions. We came up
>>with "Robust Scientific Dialog" as a title for an organizational
>>intervention that had some positive impact.
>Lynn, I am *extremely* interested in this phenomena - treatment of dissent
>and divergent opinion.  This is a key human behavior....
>=> If you have *any* other thoughts on this please let me know what they
>are.  Please.
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