Wisdom comes from scholarship and application, that is why I am a scholar practitioner

Wisdom comes from scholarship and application, that is why I am a scholar practitioner


I have selected resources to inform, challenge, and engage based on the theoretical foundation for John Inman Dialogue. Where papers are not publicly distributed, I will provide the details on where the paper can be sourced but will not provide a copy on the site. I want to honor those authors who have invested in research and application in their fields. If a resource is recommended and not referenced on this site, and there will be potentially thousands, please go to contact and drop me a note and I will explore adding to the site as well as reading myself. And of course, my practice is based on applying the scholarship to practice to help you move your organization forward in this complex world of ours. So let me know if I can help you achieve your objectives in your organization. Happy reading.

Process-based organizational studies

A rather lengthy but outstanding description of process-based organization theory comes from the call for papers for the 4th International Symposium on Process Organization Studies (http://www.process-symposium.com).

Process Organization Studies (PROS) is a way of studying organizations that unfolds from process metaphysics – the worldview that sees processes, rather than substances, as the basic forms of the universe. A process view rests on an anti-dualist and relational ontology, namely the recognition that everything that is has no existence apart from its relation to other things. A process orientation prioritizes activity over product, change over persistence, novelty over continuity, expression over determination. Becoming, change, flux as well as creativity, disruption, and indeterminism are the main themes of a process worldview. Seeing process as fundamental, such an approach does not deny the existence of states, events, and entities, but insists on unpacking them to reveal the complex processes – sequences of activities and transactions – that are involved in and contribute to their constitution. As process philosopher Nicholas Rescher notes, “the idea of discrete “events” dissolves into a manifold of processes which themselves dissolve into further processes”.

A process point of view invites us to acknowledge, rather than reduce, the complexity of the world and, in that sense, it is animated by what philosopher Stephen Toulmin calls an “ecological style” of thinking.

Organization as communication process

As an organization is a socially constructed entity, looking at how it organizes from a human perspective moves us toward the view of the organization as communication process. As we co-create organization in conversation, organization as communication process is pivotal to culture change. Effective change leadership starts with the mindset that organization is co-created through conversation, not through top down dictates.

Humans are social creatures and our social behaviors are how we communicate. Bringing people into conversations where they can construct new meanings together in a network of conversation is the foundation of a social system and the foundation for an organization as communication process. To play off of the rationalist model, this is the only rational way to view a human system. Putting the human back into the organization is the key to organizations as communication process.

Dialogue and deliberation

The following definitions come from the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (http://www.ncdd.org). This is an outstanding site for resources. The John Inman Dialogue model, is to use dialogue then deliberation to improve the ability of teams and leaders to respond effectively to constant change.

Dialogue is a process that allows people, usually in small groups, to share their perspectives and experiences with one another about difficult issues we tend to just debate about or avoid entirely. Issues like racial disparities, youth violence and gay marriage.

Dialogue is not about winning an argument or coming to an agreement, but about understanding and learning. Dialogue dispels stereotypes, builds trust and enables people to be open to perspectives that are very different from their own. Dialogue can, and often does, lead to both personal and collaborative action.

Deliberation is a closely related process with a different emphasis. Deliberation emphasizes the importance of examining options and trade-offs to make better decisions. Decisions about important public issues like health care and immigration are too often made through the use of power or coercion rather than a sound decision-making process that involves all parties and explores all options.

Dialogic OD (The John Inman Dialogue field of practice)

The following definition comes from a paper written by Gervase Bushe and Bob Marshak. The paper will be referenced on the resource page for Dialogic OD.

Dialogic OD places increased emphasis on socially constructed realities, transforming mindsets and consciousness, operating from multicultural realities, exploring different images and assumptions about change, and forging common social agreement from the multiple realities held by key constituencies. There is a greater emphasis placed on transformational change achieved through shifts individual and system consciousness, based in part on constructionist assumptions. Instead of attempting to solely leverage techno-structural or human processes for change, they implicitly focus on meaning making, language and discursive phenomena as the central medium and target for changing mindsets and consciousness.

Success of Dialogic OD largely rests on the ability to shape the dialogue among participants. This is done by carefully choosing the topic to focus on and the questions to be asked. The primary way to effect change in social systems is by changing the prevailing discourse. Changing the discourse involves changing the narrative, texts, and conversations that create, sustain, and provide the enabling content and context(s) for the way things are.

Generational studies

Over the last ten years, the issue of Generations in the workforce has become a topic of conversation, policy, and training in organizations. One can hear the chorus of voices asking “What can we do with the Millennials? And How do we manage the Millennials?” A substantial industry has sprung up to address these questions. It is by no means as large as the diversity industry but it is growing. A quick Google search found 5,860 results for “Generational Training” and 1,090,000 results for “Diversity Training”. In the popular press, the topic of how to work with Millennials has captured the imagination of many with numerous articles published in newspapers, magazines, and trade journals. With all of this attention, one wonders if the right questions are being asked.

One of the artifacts of the existing training and development industry that should be questioned is the notion of older leaders developing younger leaders by bringing forth knowledge and experience of leading in a world that no longer exists. John Inman Dialogue suggests that older leaders stand to learn just as much from younger leaders as younger leaders can learn from them. Our practice transforms leaders by bringing leaders of all ages together in multi-generational dialogue to address the pressing questions that people, organizations, and societies face now and in the years to come.

Conversational leadership

The following definition of conversational leadership comes from a paper written by Tom Hurley and Juanita Brown in The Systems Thinker. This will be referenced on the conversational leadership page.

As defined by educator Carolyn Baldwin, conversational leadership is “the leader’s intentional use of conversation as a cor process to cultivate the collective intelligence needed to create business and social value.” It encompasses a way of seeing, a pattern of thinking, and a set of practices that are particularly important today, when the most important questions we face are complex ones that require us to develop new ways of thinking together to foster positive change.

Coaching as dialogue

Karen Armstrong provides an excellent summary of coaching as dialogue. Her paper will be referenced on the coaching page. When contracted to be a coach, John Inman Dialogue uses a coaching as dialogue framework. When consulting, expertise is integral to the interaction.

In our increasingly rational-scientific culture there is always some powerful “outsider knowledge” ready to capture and control local embodied experience and meaning. In many contexts this knowledge is appropriate and useful. In the coaching dialogue the problem with externally imposed frameworks is that they are often accompanied by cultural power that silences other (often less scientifically valid) ways of knowing. When this happens, the flow of events between coach and coachee is obstructed. More significantly, when our coachee‟s experience is negated, he gives up, overpowered by the coach-expert‟s superior role and status.

The purpose of the coaching dialogue is to generate new meanings around the dilemma or anomaly that is brought to the session. In a dialogue with the coachee, questions are introduced that encourage the development of new meaning around the coachee‟s experience. Once new meaning is generated, new pathways for action can be identified.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a research-based set of principles to guide the design of learning environments that are accessible and effective for all. It is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn. UDL is an overriding philosophy welcoming all strategies on moving the focus in schools from the teacher to the student. Every student has the right to learn how they learn, not just be talked at in a lecture.

There are a variety of strategies included within UDL, too many to be listed. But all of them have in common the focus on providing educational environments where every child has an opportunity to learn the way the learn best. Some strategies from my research include traditional Indigenous learning, andragogy, flipped classrooms, cognitive processes design, green inspired classrooms (SEED), systems thinking, multi-tiered classrooms, technology assisted learning, situated learning, and scenario based learning.

Conversational learning

Conversational learning is an experiential learning approach to knowledge creation. Learning in conversation is how John Inman Dialogue approaches the design of learning communities. Conversational strategies, both dialogue and deliberation, are woven together to create shifts in mindsets of participants. This approach is in opposition to the “behavior change” models that focus on behavior change. In experiential learning, mindsets are transformed in experience with others. Once a mindset shifts, then decisions, behaviors, and attitudes shift creating a sustainable change in results.

Consultative Sales

Consultative sales was originally developed by Larry Wilson in 1965 and rolled out to the world when Wilson Learning was launched. Larry is the founder of the work and all other work is based off of his groundbreaking research into the field of sale. Consultative sales is a conversational approach to sales focusing on developing trust and rapport through dialogue and has been the foundation of my consulting, coaching, and sales work since the early 80’s.


Contact Dr. Inman at john@johninmandialogue.com or 541-497-3774 to learn how these solutions can help you accelerate performance in your organization!