The Semco Style 5 Principles to transform the way we work
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Having A Dilemma Conversation

A Socratic Dialogue

Human nature demands recognition. Without it, people lose their sense of purpose and become dissatisfied, restless, and unproductive– Ricardo Semler

In a Nutshell

When a small group of people, aided by a facilitator, get together to reflect upon universal dilemmas, like ‘what is happiness?’ or, ‘what is integrity?’ they’ve entered into a Socratic dialogue or a dilemma conversation. It is important not to confuse this with the philosophy of Socrates or Plato. Instead, the idea is to turn the gaze inward, onto the particular experiences of people, and to arrive at universal answers and truths.

A dilemma conversation might happen in a group, but it is far removed from the mechanics of group discussion. It isn’t a debate where witty, clever things are said for the sake of argument; and neither is it a contest to see whose opinion wins or is more popular. Instead, it’s a conscious deliberation on certain dilemmas, with the group striving towards decisions with clarity that eventually leads to consensus.

People who enter a dilemma conversation expect disagreements and over a period of time emerge into consensus. Since the dialogue is bound by time, the group may or may not arrive at a conclusion within the set time, but every insight shared, every question raised, every objection or observation made is deliberated upon by the whole group, until there’s consensus.

We don’t always have to get consensus. It would be nice, sure, but it isn’t necessary. What we need is understanding. So, that we can all at least agree to disagree, after we’ve all understood what exactly we’re disagreeing about. For, when we understand things better, we’re able to manage our disagreements better. And when the disagreement is really big, we know we have to say goodbye to each other – but in a respectful and loving way.

Such conversations on universal dilemmas are aimed at creating accord between people. It’s implied that participants need to be attentive, tolerant, respectful and patient towards others in the group. Emotions are allowed to wax and wane without judgement. And over time, participants begin to realize that they have safety, trust, love and encouragement from their peers and become brave enough to be vulnerable.



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