This book is a very impressive book with a quiet narrative. However, the words will be firmly engraved in the reader's mind. I presume that this is because the author's experience of dealing with many business people oozes out in the text.
The cover page is engraved with "Dialogue and Narrative". Narrative in this book is an "interpretation framework" based on business expertise, professional ethics, organizational culture, and so on. The "incomprehensible" and "troublesome problems" that occur in an organization are often problems in which know-how and skills do not apply. And there is a high possibility that there is a gap between the narratives between the parties, and that they are not aware of it.
Therefore, the author recommends that you set your narrative aside and observe the other's narrative. Cross the ditch, jump into your opponent's narrative, and take a look at this side. Through such things, it becomes possible to "build a new relationship" between the parties, and things are going to be resolved. This series of processes is called dialogue or dialogue.
It can be said that the essence of dialogue is "accept that even if you think in the other person's body, you cannot become the other person's body." The innovation of this book is that it is presented as a highly reproducible method backed by practice, not at the level of attitude.
This is a must-have approach to avoid unnecessary conflicts and brighten the future of your organization.
The main points of this book
Many of the problems that remain awkward in the business are the “adaptation challenges” that arise in relationships. The adaptation task arises from the gap between each other's "narratives."
Narrative is an "interpretation framework" created by position, role, specialty, etc. The author proposes to bridge the narrative ditch through dialogue.
Dialogue refers to the process of "building new relationships" in four steps: preparation, observation, interpretation, and intervention. The first step is to set your narrative aside.
Technical issues and adaptation challenges
There are two types of challenges that arise in the field of business. The first is a "technical problem" that can be solved by existing methods. The other is a complex and difficult “adaptive challenge” that cannot be solved by existing methods. Adaptation issues refer to problems for which no solution can be found, such as when it is difficult to obtain cooperation from other departments.
For example, even if you explain the merits of the proposal logically, it will be refused again for some other reason. Moreover, the reason is not clear. When we repeat these things, we know that it is an adaptive task.
Adaptation issues lie behind the "incomprehensible" and "troublesome things" that we are holding in our organization. Adaptation issues are problems that are difficult to face and problems that cannot be solved with know-how and skills.
4 adaptation challenges
There are four types of adaptation tasks as follows. The first "gap type" is a case where there is a gap between the "values" that we value and the actual "behavior." For example, while accepting the value that women need to advance into society, the actual behavior in the workplace is still male-centered.
The second "conflict type" is the case where each other's "commitments" conflict. An easy-to-understand example is the conflict between the sales department and the development department within the company. The former aims to achieve short-term business results, while the latter prioritizes that there are no flaws in the contract. These differences in framework create conflict.
The third "repressive type" is the case of "do not say difficult things". Even if you know that a business is unlikely to have a future, it is difficult to withdraw. For this reason, this is the case where we continue to put in a lot of things.
The fourth "avoidance type" is the case where tackling an essential problem is painful and fearful, and you try to avoid it or switch to another action. This is the case when a person with a mental illness comes out in the workplace and is given stress tolerance training even if it turns out to be useless.
Neither type can be solved by existing techniques or individual skills alone. This is because it is essentially a problem that arises in the "relationship" between people and organizations. In the field of business, problems are often complicated by the intertwining of multiple types.
The adaptation task is a matter of relationships, and relationships must be revised. The first step is not to change the opponent, but to change the narrative on this side.
"Narrative" is often translated as "narrative," but in this book it refers to the "framework of interpretation." It is based on "specialty", "professional ethics", "organizational culture", etc. in our business.
Especially in the case of confrontational adaptation tasks, it is considered that there is a "groove" between the narrative on this side and the narrative on the other side. The point is that when you stand on this side of the narrative, the other person looks wrong, while from the other person's narrative, you look wrong.[Must read point!] 4 processes to cross the narrative groove
Dialogue and relationships
Find that there is a ditch between this narrative and that narrative, and "build a bridge over the ditch." This is the "dialogue". Dialogue here does not mean a method of communication, but "building a new relationship." This dialogue is the method for facing and solving adaptation issues.
According to philosopher Martin Buber, relationships between humans can be divided into two categories. The relationship between "me and it" and the relationship between "me and you". The former sees the person they face as if they were their own "tool." The latter, on the other hand, sees the existence of the other party as an irreplaceable one. It can be said that dialogue encourages the transition from the relationship between "me and it" to the relationship between "me and you".
Process 1: Preparation (notice the groove)
From here, I will introduce the four processes of "dialogue" that bridge the gap between relationships. This process consists of preparation, observation, interpretation and intervention.
The first is "preparation". It is the stage where you realize that there is a gap between your opponent and your narrative, that is, an adaptation task.
Let's say you're faced with a situation where the other person isn't moving or you can't communicate, even if you try to do various things. At that time, take a bird's eye view of the situation and put your narrative aside. Then, the circumstances and situations unique to the other party that I did not notice when I was trapped in my narrative appear. Eventually, you will notice that there is a big groove between your opponent and this side.
Playwright Oriza Hirata explains that dialogue is unlikely to occur in Japan because she thinks that "they are based on the same premise." "Acknowledging that they do not understand each other" is essential for dialogue. It can be said that this is the state in which the groove is noticed and accepted.
Process 2: Observation (looking beyond the ditch)
After the preparatory stage, the next step is the "observation" process. Find out exactly what is causing the narrative ditch. For that purpose, it is necessary to search for the position of the groove and the narrative of the opponent. You must carefully observe the behavior of the other party and the situation surrounding the other party.
What is the pressure on the other person, what is the responsibility of the other person, and what is your business interest? What are you cherishing and what are you afraid of? Observe these points closely.
There are some reasons why adaptation challenges arise. Once you understand the reason, you can get a clue as to how you can approach the other party.
Process 3: Interpretation (designing a bridge across the ditch)
"Interpretation" is the process of designing where and what kind of bridge should be built in order to build a bridge from the information obtained by observation.
First, cross the ditch, cross the opposite bank, and jump into the opponent's narrative. Let's simulate what kind of situation the other person is working in. Next, take a closer look at what your words and actions look like to the other party.
Through these efforts, we can see the path of how to approach new relationships.
Process 4: Intervention (bridge the ditch)
Finally, "intervention" is the process of actually acting on what is visible from the interpretation. Build a "new relationship" called a bridge. When you actually act, the bridge may or may not be built well. It is also important to check if the bridge is really built and if there are any problems.
Once we have a new relationship, we will continue to make further observations, reinforce the bridge, build another new bridge, and so on, through the new relationship.
The important thing is that the process of dialogue goes back and forth. For example, it cannot be observed well if the preparation stage is insufficient. In addition, if the interpretation is incorrect, intervention may not be effective. In such a case, it is necessary to think about the stage at which you stumbled and start over. It's a good idea to run the four processes frequently as an agile process, where if things go wrong, you'll fix them accordingly.
To anti-vulnerable organizations
By turning the process of dialogue consisting of "preparation-observation-interpretation-intervention", a bridge is built in the narrative groove of the organization and a new relationship is built. It should turn the organization into an anti-vulnerable organization.
“Anti-fragility” refers to the property of becoming stronger the more you face various problems and difficulties. By consciously turning through the four processes of dialogue, it is possible to change into a person and an organization that becomes stronger as unexpected things happen.
Also, the merit of dialogue is that even unauthorized people can work on it. In that sense, it can be said to be an extremely realistic and effective method for moving an organization regardless of its position or authority.
Practice of dialogue
How do you work with your boss who doesn't accept your proposal?
Dialogue is an action to avoid unnecessary conflicts. There is no reason not to use this dialogue when making new proposals in an organization.
Your immediate boss rejects your new proposal because it's just on hold and doesn't work, or because it's unprecedented. How can we resolve this situation? The aim is to create a situation where the boss can positively judge "Let's do it".
As a preparation, set aside your dissatisfied and distrustful narrative, such as "Why does your boss not accept your proposal?" Then, observe and interpret the boss's narrative closely and try to intervene to create a situation where the boss can move easily. It is neither a refutation nor a sontaku. It's about getting into the narrative of the other person and building a new relationship.
One thing to keep in mind is that the weaker side tends to fall into the trap of "narrative justice," which unilaterally makes the person above the position a bad guy. What is needed is not to justify oneself, but to create a correct theory for both parties.
Face your own narrative bias
Another important thing in working with seniors is to look back on your efforts from the perspective of consistency with the company's business strategy. How does what I try to do contribute to the business of the company? Ignoring this point, even if the proposal goes through, sustainability is not guaranteed.
I often hear criticisms that the company does not cooperate with my boss. From the perspective of subordinates, the policies of the boss and the company may seem biased. On the other hand, from the perspective of the boss, the subordinates should look biased.
Perhaps the subordinates may realize that their proposal cannot contribute to the future of the company during the dialogue. This is the moment when you notice the bias of your narrative.
If we can correct the trajectory from there, we will gain the trust of those around us, which is most important as a business person.
Recommendation of reading
In this book, in addition to practical examples such as "the groove for and against the general opinion", "the groove that the correct theory does not reach", and "the groove created by power", there are also chapters such as "five traps that prevent dialogue". It may be mentioned that it is important to listen to the feelings of "discomfort," "discomfort," and "uncomfortableness." It is likely to be part of a significant adaptation challenge.
The author's words, born from practice and research, have deep implications. From the "Conclusion" of this book, which describes the author's personal experience, we can learn more deeply about the importance of continuing to challenge dialogue even in the face of adversity. And it will permeate the hearts of many readers. This book should be read by anyone who wants to open up a better future.