Classic on Bohmian Dialogue

Richard Burg and The Centre for Group Learning have assembled a resource on Bohmian Dialogue that includes the classic paper, “Dialogue: A Proposal” by David Bohm, Donald Factor, and Peter Garrett, as well as a letter from Donald Factor to Bill Isaacs and Margaret Wheatley discussing the main differences he sees between their approach and Bohmian dialogue. Contains thought-provoking material for what we experience in Open Space events. Here are a few short excerpts:

Dialogue, as we are choosing to use the word, is a way of exploring the roots of the many crises that face humanity today. It enables inquiry into, and understanding of, the sorts of processes that fragment and interfere with real communication between individuals, nations and even different parts of the same organization. In our modern culture men and women are able to interact with one another in many ways: they can sing, dance, or play together with little difficulty but their ability to talk together about subjects that matter deeply to them seems invariably to lead to dispute, division and often to violence. In our view this condition points to a deep and pervasive defect in the process of human thought.

Because the nature of Dialogue is exploratory, its meaning and its methods continue to unfold. No firm rules can be laid down for conducting a Dialogue because its essence is learning – not as the result of consuming a body of information or doctrine imparted by an authority, nor as a means of examining or criticizing a particular theory or programme, but rather as part of an unfolding process of creative participation between peers.

A Dialogue works best with between twenty and forty people seated facing one another in a single circle. A group of this size allows for the emergence and observation of different subgroups or subcultures that can help to reveal some of the ways in which thought operatives collectively., This is important because the differences between such subcultures are often an unrecognized cause of failed communication and conflict.


Thanks for this, Wendy! I am just reading Joe Jaworski’s Synchronicity (meaning to, for a long while, finally getting around to it because of the recent little flurry of recommendations on the List)–he also references Bohm’s deep exploration of dialogue, which very much influenced and expanded Jaworski’s understanding of his own amazing work.