The Paradox of Consensus and Conflict in Organisational Life

Today’s dominant thought collective[i] of practitioners, consultants and academics concerned with leadership, management and other organisational matters is characterised by thought styles[ii] which, in a completely taken-for-granted way, equate success with positives, sharing, harmony and consensus. Leaders are called upon to communicate inspiring, compelling visions of desirable futures shorn of all problematic features. Followers are to be converted to sharing the vision and committing to the mission so that everyone ‘is on the same page’, ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’, ‘climbing on board’, ‘on the message’ and ‘a team player’. This whole raft of idealisations is taken even further when it is accompanied by a relentless emphasis on the positive aspects of all situations. There seems to be a scarcely-concealed dread of ‘negatives’, such as conflict, and a half-expressed conviction that success can only be achieved when all share the same view, with breakdown as the consequence  of not doing this. If conflict is noticed it is immediately followed by calls for the practice of ‘conflict resolution’ or approaches which rapidly move people from anything negative to a focus on the ‘positives’. A popular example of the prescription for positive consensus is provided by Appreciative Inquiry. Proponents[iii] of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) point to how the dominant approach to leading, managing and changing organisations focuses attention on problems, deficits and dysfunctions. They argue that this approach is demoralising and ineffective in bringing about change and call, instead, for a focus on opportunities and what is working because focusing in this appreciative, positive way raises  morale and promotes generative inquiry. It is claimed that AI generates spontaneous, transformational action on the part of individuals, groups and organisations which leads to a better future. Critics[iv] of AI problematise the focus on positiveness, arguing that positive and negative feelings are intimately connected and conclude that AI is a method whose proponents show little self-reflection or evaluative critique of what they are proposing. In response, Gervase Bushe of the Segal Graduate School of Business has published a paper titles ‘Appreciative Inquiry Is Not (Just) About the Positive’.[v]  Bushe agrees that AI can become a form of repression when it suppresses dissent and focuses on the positive as a defence against the anxiety of dealing with reality. However, he then immediately goes on to say that when AI is used in appropriate ways, which he does not identify, then people do not wallow in mutual pain but tell each other uplifting stories instead, which sooth tensions and release energy. Instead of focusing on conflict, bridges are built between conflicting groups.  In his view, people who want to talk about what they do not like should not be stopped from doing so but they should not be asked to elaborate on these matters. They should be encouraged, instead, to talk about what is missing, what they want more of and what their image of their organisation ought to be. He talks about small group meetings where everyone reads the same story together. Much the same points can be made another positiveness movement called Positive Deviance which is basically an idealised form to ‘benchmarking’ and a sanitisation of ‘deviance’.

This unrelenting emphasis on the positive, on harmony and consensus functions to cover over conflict, difference and real-life attitudes towards deviants because to bring these matters out into the open is to reveal patterns of power relations,  the dynamics of identity-forming inclusion and exclusion and the ideologies sustaining current power figurations. As a consequence, public discussions of organisational life take the form of a kind of rational, positive fantasy that focuses our attention on only a small part of what we ordinarily experience in our daily organisational lives. People continue, as they always have done, to disagree and subvert what they disagree: organisational life is characterised by ongoing conflict in which, at the same time, people normally manage to achieve sufficient degrees of consensus, tolerance and cooperation to get things done together. In order to understand what we are ordinarily engaged in during the course of our daily organisational lives we need to avoid thinking in terms of a duality of consensus and conflict, where we can decide to move from the one to the other, and think instead in terms of the paradox of consensus and conflict: we engage in, we are heavily invested in, organisational games displaying the paradoxical dynamics of consensual conflict or conflictual consensus.

The American pragmatist sociologist, George Herbert Mead, articulated these dynamics particularly clear a century ago. For him, the evolution of social forms emerges in interactions between different groupings of people.

A highly developed and organized society is one in which the individual members are interrelated in a multiplicity of different intricate and complicated ways whereby they all share a number of common social interests – interests in, or for the betterment of, society – and yet, on the other hand, are more or less in conflict relative to numerous other interests which they possess only individually, or else share with one another only in small and limited groups.[vi]

Mead is arguing that a complex society of interdependent individuals can only exist if those individuals share common interests to some extent but that this can never be complete because of the conflict between different interests. The implication, I think, is that society can only evolve through the conflict of interests: the evolution of organisations occurs through processes of identification with others and economic exchange and these processes are essentially conflictual as well as consensual. Mead goes on to argue[vii] that there is a conflict between two aspects of the self: the social, which is impersonal and ethical in the sense that it integrates selves with each other and so is conducive to the well-being of society in which individuals cooperate with, and are equal to, each other; and the asocial, which is personal and unethical in the sense that it creates unique oppositions between people in which they have feelings of superiority over others which disrupts society. The asocial self is socially (in a non-ethical sense) formed just as the social self is and they cannot be separated. So Mead is here using the word social in two different senses: the first and most usual sense is simply to denote any and all processes of interaction between persons without any ethical implications; and the second restricts the word social to mean cooperation and equality which he takes to be ethical and contrasts with asocial, that is, acting according to personal or parochial interests, which he sees causing ethical problems. It seems to me that the first notion of social points to universal processes of human interaction that do not necessarily reflect any ideology. However, the second use immediately reflects an ideology which enables the making of judgements about what is ethical and what is not. However, this cannot be a hegemonic ideology because of the conflict between the social and the asocial emerging in the wider social processes. Ideology emerges in these wider social processes. For Mead, the ideal social situation[viii] is one where everyone takes the attitudes of all of the others so that there is no competition or hostility. However, actual conduct also involves the asocial when individuals compete and are hostile to each other. It is essential for the order of society (p323) that individuals have common attitudes ‘but over and above that sort of social endowment of the individual, there is that which distinguishes him from anybody else, makes him what he is. It is the most precious part of the individual.’[ix] Social evolution can therefore be understood as conflict between ideologies and as such is absolutely dependent on difference.

The complexity sciences make the same point about the evolution of nature and of life. Reynolds’ models of flocking show that when interacting agents all follow the same rules (consensus) then they are restricted to one pattern of behaviour.[x] Ray’s models show that when agents differ from each other (conflict) then their patterns of interaction evolve.[xi]

Allen and his colleagues[xii] work in the tradition of Prigogine to argue that change in organisations occurs through an ongoing process of co-evolution in which behavioural types interact with each other. The underlying mechanisms of such evolution involve micro diversity and it is this that drives ongoing, emergent, qualitative changes. Diversity is defined in terms of the number of qualitatively different types of individuals, each type having different attributes. As an organisation evolves, changes occur in both the attributes internal to each type and the configuration of interactions between types. Evolution requires the invasion of a population by new behaviours which grow to a significant level. The model shows how an ecology of strategies emerges indicating that agents are not susceptible to adopting the same strategy, contrary to the prescriptions for best practice or benchmarking to be found in the organisational literature. Diverse behaviours and learning rules lead to more rapid evolution of market structure at a lower cost than benchmarking. However, the explorations / innovations tried out at a particular time cannot be logically deduced because their overall effect cannot be known ahead of time. The conclusion is that co-evolving agents with underlying micro diversity, idiosyncrasy or deviance, automatically lead to the emergence of new structures. Consensus and the positives would simply kill evolution.

So how might we understand consensus and conflict in organisations? Pure consensus can only exist in extreme cults where all the members give up any independent thought and simply act out the absolute beliefs of the cult. Of course this sometimes happens in this extreme way but something approaching this condition does also appear in ordinary organisations as people come to act out fantasies of subscribing to visions and seeing only the positive rather than thinking about what they are doing. At the opposite end of the spectrum pure conflict occurs only when social norms and conventions break down completely in conditions of highly anxiety provoking crisis. In less extreme forms, differences become polarised and such polarised conflict can be expressed in violence. In ordinary organisations, the closer people move towards polarised conflict, such as in intractable labour disputes, the closer they move to organisational breakdown. However, in ordinary, everyday organisational life, consensus and conflict are held in dynamic tension which reveals important differences and provokes the reflexive thinking and acting in which organisations continue to evolve. The problem about talking about two extremes and about a dynamic between them is that many immediately conclude that it is the role of leaders and managers to operate on processes of consensus and conflict to design the ‘right’ balance. This is a misguided move in thought which immediately loses the notion of paradox. The dynamic of consensual conflict / conflictual consensus is emerging in the interaction between people in an organisation, in the interplay of their intentions and those of other groups of people outside the organisation. No one can design or control this interplay. However, what we can do is become more aware of the pattern of consensus and conflict at the same time and in in our own participation avoid take up positions at the extremes.

So why can we never escape the tension between consensus and conflict, other than in resorting to idealistic fantasies? The answer lies in the fundamentals of human interdependence and human interaction. If no one can control the interplay of intentions then all of us has no option but to exists in conditions of uncertainty, or more accurately, in the paradoxical dynamic of certainty and uncertainty as displayed by the modelling of natural complexity scientists. When we undertake any task together, therefore, none of us can know with certainty what the ‘right’ thing to do is. We inevitably see situations differently and therefore have different views on what to do next. Such difference is the basis of disagreement / conflict which prompts us to negotiate next actions on which we do not totally disagree even though do not totally agree either. Conflict is an inevitable consequence of uncertainty. Furthermore, conflict is an inevitable consequence of human interdependence. This interdependence means that we enable and constrain each other and since this is what power is, it follows that patterns of power relating are central to human life. But power is tilted to some and away from others and this too is the basis of conflict. Power relations can be felt as patterns of domination and this will always evoke patterns of resistance. We are skilled at practising the arts if resistance, at operating on hidden transcripts while publicly expressing the public transcript.
The consequences of not noticing what we are engaged in is a diminished understanding of the nature of the game we are invested in, leaving us open to the manipulation of the more perceptive. If the immediate response to conflict is to avoid it and to develop defensive fantasies of harmony, we avoid more open discussion, we avoid inquiring into difference, we avoid critique and criticism and so we are trapped in repeating clichés that block our further evolution.

Ralph Stacey

[i] Fleck, L. (1979) Genesis and development of a Scientific Fact, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Cooperrider, D. & Srivastva, S. (1987) Appreciative inquiry in organizational life, in Passmore, W. & Woodman, R.,  eds. (1987) Research  in Organizational Change and Development, Vol. 1, CT: Greenwich Press, 129-169

[iv] Fineman, S. (2006) On Being Positive: Concerns and Counterpoints, Academy of Management Review, 31: 2, 270-291. Grant, S. & Humphries, M. (2006) Critical evaluation of  appreciative inquiry: Bridging an apparent paradox, Action Research, 4: 401,

[v] Bushe G. (2007) Appreciative Inquiry Is Not (Just) About the Positive, OD Practitioner, 39:4, 30-35.

[vi] Mead, G. H. (1934), Mind, Self, and Society: From the Standpoint of a Social Behaviourist, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p307.

[vii] Ibid., p321.

[viii] Ibid., p322.

[ix] Ibid., p324.

[x] Reynolds, C. W. (1987), ‘Flocks, herds and schools: a distributed behaviour model’, Computer Graphics, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 25–34.

[xi] Ray, T. S. (1992), ‘An approach to the synthesis of life’, in Langton, G. C., Taylor, C., Doyne Farmer, J. and Rasmussen, S. (eds), Artificial Life II, Santa Fé Institute, Studies in the Sciences of Complexity, vol. 10, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

[xii] Allen, P. M. (1998a), ‘Evolving complexity in social science’, in Altman, G. and Koch, W. A. (eds), Systems: New Paradigms for the Human Sciences, New York: Walter de Gruyter. Allen, P. M. (1998b), ‘Modelling complex economic evolution’, in Schweitzer, F. and Silverberg, G. (eds) (1998), Selbstorganisation, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot. Allen, P. M., Strathern, M. and Baldwin, J. S. (2005), ‘Complexity of social economic systems: the inevitability of uncertainty and surprise’, in McDaniel Jr., R. R. and Driebe, D. J. (eds), Uncertainty and Surprise in Complex Systems: Questions on Working with the Unexpected, Heidelberg: Springer. Allen, P. M., Strathern, M. and Baldwin, J. S. (2006), ‘Evolutionary drive: new understandings of change in socio-economic systems’, Emergence: Complexity and Organization, vol. 8, no. 2.

10 thoughts on “The Paradox of Consensus and Conflict in Organisational Life

  1. ben

    Class from Ralph. But if people do not want to acknowledge this in organisations, particularly those who yield more influence and power than others, who in fact (as the world of management consultancy confirms – see there annual r&a for financial evidence) are quite happy to use ‘safe’ models and ways of working – because they obscure rather than reveal, what should we do? Well its an opportunity to create your own business that is capable of being aware and examining in

    the way ralph suggests. If he us right,

    1. ben

      … if he is right, developing an atmosphere, as the boss, that can encourages this, or allows by your own awareness of its value, so making sure that you maintain your own tendancy to want to rule, your way, there must be a good chance your new organisation will thrive, right ralph?
      Only this doesn’t feel like the whole picture about why dome

      1. ben

        Sorry writing this on a mobile! This doesn’t feel like the whole picture about why some organisations thrive while others don’t. Hence the appeal of those pesky prescriptions that do so much damage and cover up so much if what us happening. Personally I think what Ralph us talking about is spot on, but working as a sustainability consultant in a large, successful organisation, I an finding out how much people do not want to examine real power configurations. Or question ideology (openly at least) that is powerful or from above. This is frustrating. My approach, influenced by my own understanding of Ralph’s (and others) work, is to get people in the organisation to simply engage in new conversations – leaving them to formulate what is best. This is still hard work and people are, to my surprise, reluctant you

  2. ben

    have their own ideas about stuff and that they are not ‘expert’ in themselves.

    My hope is that by introducing new conversation topics, say ‘climate change adaptation’, which if examined properly, is very challenging, particularly of dominent discourses about how business is or should be, or economics, etc etc. This may sound like a bit of a jump (it is), but my job is help reveal some of this conflicts, so that that process of questioning and conversation, or dialogue can unfold. I believe, as Ralph suggests, that in fact some people will not see the challenge as I do, but in a totally different way and according to their own asocial ideology, or power paradigm etc. Great, but what has happened is that this gets revealed in the conversation. The conversation is the catalyst for that diversity to appear, where perhaps it doesn’t always get an obvious, or ‘approved’ opportunity to do so.

    I don’t have any answers, but I think that sustainability as a discoure in businesses, is an excellent way to open up exploration of lots of the theory that Ralph talks about above. It has influenced deeply my own approach to ‘prescribing’ sustaianbility advice as an ‘expert’. I am now thinking more of my job as yes, being a guide (who has some knowledge) – but actually being a conversation facilitator. This has dangers and can create havoc (I suspect) and these blog posts are poorly written, but I hope my experience helps reveal a process of understanding that helps to contextualise what Ralph is talking about and at times, feels very difficult to articulate, or translate into practical “how can I earn a living talking about it in organisations” reality.

    So be gentle.

  3. Phil Lawson

    Ralph, I appreciate your taking the time to write this post. The demoralization when “organisations focuses attention on problems, deficits and dysfunctions” is quite real and common. And “positiveness” can easily “become a form of repression when it suppresses dissent and focuses on the positive as a defence against the anxiety of dealing with reality.”

    I have seen both happen too many times, almost always with unexpected and undesirable results.

    Ben made a good point in his comment that his approach; “is to get people in the organisation to simply engage in new conversations – leaving them to formulate what is best.”

    I assume these ‘new conversations’ Ben is referring to include both positives and deficits.

    What I find missing though in most dialogs about complexity in organizations, is how we, as humans, can overcome our genetic limitation to dealing with complexity? It is a well established fact that the average human can only deal with 4 to 7 items at a time in their working memory. In most organizations there are more than 4 to 7 positives and deficits that must be simultaneously considered, as they all come together shaping the situation.

    And to make the challenge just a bit more interesting, how do we talk about and address both the positives and the deficits in a manner that will not ignite the defensive fight/flight/freeze response of any of the participants’ amygdala, so as to insure they do not feel their views, position or ideology are being challenged, or worse? Progress in addressing the situation quickly comes to a stop when any of the parties feel their views are threatened or ignored.

    I worked for many years to develop an approach that addresses all these issues and in 2004 wrote a book about this.

    The approach I developed consists of a concept that there is a whole to an organization or any situation and that we can identify the essential elements that constitute the whole (a complex system). Second is that all involved parties share their views on all elements prior to discussion (via an online questionnaire). Third we visualize their individual and group views identifying strengths (positives) which can be leveraged to address areas of challenges (deficits) in real-time online. The visual then shows matches and gaps in views and allows the participants to move beyond 7 issues/elements to looking at 70+ issues simultaneously. Fourth the visualization is used as a guide for the dialog, bringing everyone together on the same page to see what they perceive as positives and/or deficits. There is no judgement or ideology in the system or approach hence no participant feels threatened and they become more fully engaged. Then, somewhat as Ben described, the visual is used to guide them to formulate what is best for them at this time.

    The system has been in use since 2005. There is a short 118 second video on my website that is an introduction demonstrating how this is used in a real company with great results. There is much more to what it does. See what you think about the approach.

    You can see this video at statasphere (dot) com or use this link

    Spherically speaking,

  4. Ari-Pekka Skarp

    Coincidentally, I was just last week asked to write a review of a book about Solution Focused coaching. I’m not very familiar with Appreciative Inquiry (AI), but I know it has some common elements with Solution Focused movement. One of them being the focus on positive things instead on the problems. I received Solution Focused coaching certificate in 2005 and I have been using this approach from time to time in my own work.

    For me, there are few aspects of this approach that have made it somewhat popular in coaching and therapy. Perhaps the most important one is the change in power-relations. The traditional therapy setting is the therapist-patient. Patient has some problems, perhaps even a diagnosis, and then the therapist uses her expertise to analyze and solve those problems. In solution focused therapy there is an assumption that the client (not patient!) is the expert of her own life. She has all the needed strengths and skills to overcome her problems. The therapist’s job is to help her find and utilize those strengths. So the solution focused movement is criticizing the traditional view of therapy and tilting the “static power-relations” towards the client.

    Another aspect is that solution focused therapy usually requires only few appointments to improve the client’s situation, not months or years of therapy. In traditional setting the patient develops a strong dependency towards the therapist and this is often consciously encouraged. Therapy can last for several years and the change in the client’s situation is expected to happen slowly during these years. In solution focused approach the client is seen to already possess everything that is needed to change the situation. There’s no need then to develop certain personality characters, strategies or something like that in order for the situation to improve. Instead, it is usually enough if the client notices that she is already utilizing her strengths successfully in some areas of her life and she just needs to notice it and start to utilize them more consciously. There are lots of experiences where the situation has improved tremendously even just after one or two meetings with solution focused therapist.

    The third aspect is the focus on solutions, not on problems. If the first two aspects criticize the power relations of therapist-patient, this aspect criticizes the traditional “scientific” problem-solving approach. Instead of trying to analyze the problems, their root causes and causalities leading to them, the focus is on solutions. What is already working? Have there been times when this problem has been mitigated? What was different, how did you manage to mitigate it? The focus is put on finding out what are the strategies that the client has already been using to cope with the problem. By making this kind of change in the viewpoint, the old pattern of focusing on the problems is broken and it gives room for new possibilities. Solution focused movement also utilizes the research findings of “positive psychology”, a popular new trend emerging in the field of psychology. It is believed in positive psychology that people are naturally leaning towards problem-solving thinking which in many cases becomes counter-productive. Focusing on the solutions-side of the situation is usually a significant switch in viewpoint and thus can provide totally new possibilities for new thinking patterns to emerge. This is seen important especially in situations that are “stuck”.

    As I see it, the problem of solution focused movement is that they tend to idealize the approach. Instead of seeing the focus on positive side being one of the alternative routes to take in the conversations, it is seen to be the one and only good route to take. This can mitigate the potential benefits of solution focused dialogue to open up new viewpoints, if it suppresses all the possibilities to concentrate also on the negative side of things. In practice many strength-based counselors I know, utilize the solution focused techniques as one of the possible routes to take in their therapeutic conversations, but they don’t idealize it to be the only productive route to take. They use their intuition to guide them, not some pre-defined rules.

    This reminds me of the discussion in Ralph’s newest book about expertise – the experts might use the rules of solution focused techniques, but they are not constrained by them, whereas the novices or competent practitioners have to rely on the rules. It seems to me that there are lots of competent practitioners that are utilizing these techniques and training other people to use them. Because of this, the dominant discourse on the subject paints an idealized picture of solution focused techniques. There are also experts who are training and writing about these techniques because it is comparably easy to train these skills to any practitioner, but who might use them in their own practice only as optional routes to take…

  5. ben

    My post was poorly written, so apologies. Lets see if this is any better.

    What I am interested in is how in organisations those in more powerful positions avoid exploring power – and in fact will actively seek to avoid exposing themes, or hidden transcripts associated with it, because (I think) to do so potentially threatens their power. It might be that I am missing the point about what a theory is and how it gets discussed amongst theorists – but how does one create space for examination of these themes in real life in organisations – if we even think we should (I do)?

    This seems interesting to me as a practitioner working in a commercial environment.

    Yes – when conversations take place, both the good and the bad happens, so no false nirvana, or prescription with the ‘conversation facilitator’ remark.

    What I also think is that the people I am working with will simply have better ideas than me about what to do in the context of their jobs around the ideas being discussed. I think my idealism and perhaps naivety is reflected in the fact that I imagined people would in fact embrace such an open ended thing, like an a loosely prescribed conversation about climate change adaptation. Everyone wanted clear boundaries, goals, the normal stuff. (Which off course was also there – I just made the final project outcome dependent on their input so they would have to engage properly, not simply hand some money over).

    But I am not making the same point as Phil – I am not prescribing a model for dealing with multiple issues effectively (albeit I am not doubting it might have some value). Nor am interested in how one kind of therapy works better than another Ari-Pekka (great name!) – as it seems entirely obvious that any therapy or therapist which, or who does not focus intently on his patients/clients internal ability, or capability of dealing with his own issues – should probably not be in therapy (where else are the solutions going to come from?).

    No, I am interested in exploring how power happens and influences what does and does not get taken up in businesses and why? I’m interested in this as a sustainability ideologue, who is aware that the future is definitely uncertain, but that the ‘calculated-risk’ associated with ecological melt-down, as say proffered by the IPCC, is much greater than most people would normally be comfortable with retaining in their everyday lives. Regardless of how inaccurate this type of calculation might be.

    This is a good example of how people are in fact aware that they cannot control the future – as most will say that they would like things to be different, but they can’t see how to do anything about it…

    So Ralph’s blog to me, is trying to show why a particular type of prescription covers over what in fact happens – this seems to be his general theme in lots of his blogs. This is what is interesting – what we cover over and what therefore it means, or what perhaps leads us to cover over all the time.

    I think it has something to do with power and how people with power, use it to try and control their environment (no matter how ineffectively) and then how this will often lead to unimaginative results, or bad financial outcomes, or ‘risky’ situations being exacerbated, because they have not been examined properly, but instead externalised and not considered, especially if they challenge dominent discourses, or actual power configurations.

    This makes me interested in what to do about it and how to enable conversations that challenge power paradigms to get taken up in organisations, not in a way that reconfirms existing ideas, or world views, but that challenges and creates uncertainty. Because if I understand Ralph properly – it is when you get this diversity of thought, of opinion (i.e. not sameness), that you have the possibility of ‘movement in thought’ and this is when something interesting might happen.

    This does not require any kind of prescription, in fact quite the opposite. What it requires is the possibility of conflict and difference of opinion to get taken up in conversations between people in existing power configurations that may (or may not) allow this.

    How best can we do this?


  6. Ari-Pekka Skarp

    I just ran into an excellent article by Mark McKergow & G.Miller:

    They look at Solution Focused therapy from different angles, including complexity theory. In their view the solution focused / problem focused dialogues are language games:

    “The idea that problems and solutions are language games has profound implications for therapists’ orientations to therapy. It shifts attention away from such questions as, ‘Does this client really suffer from a significant problem?’, ‘What kind of problem are we dealing with?’, and‘What can I do to solve the client’s problem?’ Rather, the issues of concern center in clients’ use of language, particularly how therapists might help clients to leave problem talk and enter the discourse of solutions. This shift involves more than getting clients to use different words, because the logics of the problems and solutions language games are fundamentally different. Language games are homes for meaning because they are contexts of inference”

    The conversations are seen to be complex, not because there would be lots of moving parts but because the interactions are so rich, full of possibilities and different overlapping “systems” that might affect the path of the dialogue:
    “The relationships among the elements often appear to be simple, but the multiple, self-referential, and rich nature of the interactions leads to behavior that is both sensitive to small disturbances and yet robust to large infractions”

    McKergow & Miller also refer to Stacey (2007) do take into account the possibility that also problem focused talk can lead to emergence of new knowledge:
    “This gives expression to the idea that no special kind of language is necessary for the emergence of new knowledge. Rather, the fluidity, spontaneity, and ‘good enough holding of anxiety’ of the conversational interaction itself (Stacey 2007 p 285) seem important in encouraging potentially transforming themes. The deliberate utilization of the clients’ everyday language in solution-focused brief therapy and the conversational focus on small details, as will be seen from the case study below, show how this emergence of knowledge is encouraged without every referring to it in such terms.”

    I think that this article tries to make a point that solution focused therapy has many elements that are aligned with e.g. complex responsive processes perspective, but for me this is not the point. It doesn’t matter what kind of language games people are playing in their interactions, it is the skills and capability what matter. The skills in solution focused language games can be powerful asset to lead the discussion towards certain paths, similarly to the skills in problem focused language games. What happens as a result will always be somewhat unpredictable.

  7. Phil Lawson

    Thanks for the link to the article Ari-Pekka, guided narration is a very powerful tool.

    The key for individuals and organizations to meet the challenges faced in our increasingly interconnected, rapidly changing, complex world is the integration of multiple disciplines.

    Complexity science (turbulence, self-organization, emergence etc.) when coupled with neuroscience and psychology (narrative, bi-hemispheric integration and enhancement of working memory) and I will propose the recognition of the concepts of fusion and the release of energy when separate “parts” are fused into a coherent functional “whole” all play a vital role in dealing with the complex challenges faced in business and life.

  8. Pingback: The Paradox of Consensus and Conflict in Organisational Life « Knowledge Team

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