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Books of General Interest Regarding Organizational Learning and Dialogue

This list was compiled by Patrick Parker-Roach and will be updated as he keeps reading! The hyperlinks point to places where you can read more about the book &/or make a purchase.

Dialogue and The Art of Thinking Together

By William Isaacs

Much of the material presented in our workshops is based upon the work presented in this book. It is probably the most thorough and thoughtful book on the subject of dialogue and its application in organizations.

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization

By Peter M. Senge

This book introduces the five disciplines of personal mastery, shared vision, mental models, team learning, and systems thinking. Dialogue is at the core of all of these disciplines.

Human Dynamics: A New Framework for Understanding People and Realizing the Potential in Our Organizations

By Sandra Seagal & David Horne

From the jacket cover: “A systemic approach to the complexities and wonders of how we process information, learn, communicate, maintain well-being, respond to stress, and develop as unique human beings… individually and collectively.”

Personally, I consider Human Dynamics the most powerful tool that I have in my personal and professional toolbox.

A Path With Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life

By Jack Kornfield

This book deals with meditation and the Buddhist approach to spirituality. The reason that I include it in this context is that many of the techniques that Jack introduces have direct application in the “how one holds themselves in dialogic conversation”; i.e., the concepts of respect, listening in the moment, suspension of judgment, and honesty.

Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership

By Joseph Jaworski

From the jacket cover: “We’ve all had moments when things come together in an almost unbelievable way, when events that could never have been predicted seem remarkably to guide us along our path. Carl Jung called this “synchronicity.” In the middle of his adult life, Jaworski became intrigued by these experiences in both his business and personal life. His journey of self-discovery began when his father, special Watergate prosecutor Leon Jaworski, turned to his attorney son to discuss how moral and ethical standards could be lacking at such a high level. Disturbed by these issues and the questions they raised, Joe was sparked to reexamine his own life path.”

Personally, I think that this book documents one man’s use of reflection to gain deep insights into his own mental models and how they steered his life.

Process Consultation Revisited: Building Helping Relationships

By Edgar H. Schein

Ed Schein is the Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus and Senior Lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. This book is about consulting, but is has direct parallels to dialogic conversation. Ed believes that every interaction that a consultant has with a client is an intervention. Every statement made, every question asked, has an affect on the way the client thinks about themselves and their organization. This puts a demand upon the consultant to ‘hold’ themselves with a helping intent at all times. How one holds themselves in dialogue is a very similar thing.

The Dance of Change: The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations

By Peter Senge, et al

Changing the nature of discourse in an organization (dialogue) can trigger profound change. It can also trigger a lot of other things like organizational immune systems! This book is full of case studies detailing challenges to profound change and strategies that have been used to try and work around them.

Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education

By Peter M. Senge, et al

From the jacket cover: “Peter Senge and his team have written SCHOOLS THAT LEARN because educators demanded it. Educators, who have comprised as much as twenty-five percent of the audience for the Fifth Discipline books, have regularly requested a book that focuses specifically on schools and education, and that can help reclaim schools even in depressed or ill-managed districts. The book brings together practices that are being tried across the country, as schools attempt to learn, grow, and reinvent themselves using learning organization principles. Featuring articles and case studies from over seventy-five contributors in the education field, from prominent educators such as Howard Gardner, Jay Forrester, and 1999 “Superintendent of the Year” Gerry House, the book offers a wealth of practical tools, anecdotes, and advice parents and educators can use to make schools better.” 

The Path of Least Resistance: Learning to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life

By Robert Fritz

From the jacket cover: “We may not know it, but most of us long to create something in our lives. It may not be a painting, a novel, or a musical composition, the products we usually associate with “creativity.” It may be a beautiful, functional kitchen, a computer program, or good health. Yet achieving these ends requires the same skills that the painter, novelist, or musician would use in completing their masterpieces.”

I think that this book is a great resource for teachers who try and instill a passion for creating and learning in their students. Additionally, Robert's insights are at the core of the Personal Mastery Discipline of Peter Senge's 5 Disciplines.

King Warrior Magician Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Lover

By Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette

The book provides some insights into the Jungian archetypes. There are direct correlations between each of these archetypes and the 4 aspects of how one can hold themselves in dialogic conversation and the four player model; King/Voice/Move, Lover/Listen in the moment/Follow, Warrior/Respect/ Oppose, and Magician/Suspend Judgment/Bystander. Food for thought…

The Timeless Way of Building

By Christopher Alexander

The concepts that this architect presents on design are applicable to any design project. The book is beautifully written and can touch one deeply. I found myself bringing it to dinner parties and reading chapters to my friends.

Leadership and the New Science: Learning about Organization from an Orderly Universe

By Margaret J. Wheatley

The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations

By Stephen Denning

From a commentary I wrote for fall 2001 edition Reflections: The SoL Journal on Knowledge, Learning, and Change published by MIT Press…

“The love of a good story, and the art of crafting one, is as old as language itself. Until the invention of the printing press, oral history was the primary tool for passing down the collective wisdom of the tribe from generation to generation. In crisis, the selection of just the right story for a given situation and the ability of the teller to inspire could result in continued tribal evolution or extinction. Although storytelling is still immensely powerful, the art form of oral history has diminished since the advent of the printing press. Stephen Denning provides a great service in sharing his experiences in bringing storytelling into the corporate setting.

As I see it, the power of a well-spun story lies in its imprecision. A story that is loose enough allows listeners to engage their imaginations to fit the story to their personal reality. This gives mobility to the story’s message. Unlike a good Powerpoint presentation that may work well when delivered to targeted audiences up and down the organizational chart, a well-crafted story can organically traverse the important informal social networks of the organization finding just the right ears. The essence can sprint from boardroom to lunchrooms as each person inspired by it molds it to their reality and passes it on to others whom they feel need to hear it. If the story puts fire in the listener’s belly, they retell it with passion to light the fire in others. The moral of the story remains, while the emphasis changes to bridge the needs of both teller and audience.

In today’s era of shattered loyalties, a well-told story may just hold that critical spark needed to ignite and align untapped wisdom and energies trapped in our modern organizational tribes that are crucial for continued evolution.”

5th Generation Management: Integrating Enterprises through Human Networking

By Charles M. Savage

“Book of the Year. This year’s honors go to Charles Savage for “5th Generation Management” [Digital Press]. Savage joins a select few (Charles Handy, “The Age of Unreason”, Quinn Mills, “The Rebirth of the Corporation”, Stan Davis, “Future Perfect) who exquisitely explain tomorrow’s bizarre organizational arrangements, where hierarchies are leveled and the imagery of networks and spider webs butts out yesterday’s pyramids.” - Tom Peters

The Ken Awakening: Innovation Strategy for the Knowledge Economy

By Debra M. Amidon

A seminal work on knowledge management. 

The Living Company: Habits for survival in a turbulent business environment

By Arie de Geus

Business Week, July 14, 1997
"Biology is turning up in the strangest places. Just consider Arie de Geus' THE LIVING COMPANY. With a light touch and an interesting variety of examples, de Geus employs biological metaphors in order to analyze corporate management. His provocative stories also draw upon experiences from his nearly 40-year career at Royal Dutch/Shell Group.... de Geus provides an interesting challenge to basic assumptions about the way companies work."