Dancing a change tango in a dialogue 2: Is there a toolbox for a successful dialogue?
This is the second episode of the pod cast series Dancing a change tango in a dialogue. In the first episode we discussed about the in-house support service for enabling dialogue in the working community of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.
The service called Parru. In this episode we discuss more in detail about the dialogue services. The focus is on how to build a successful dialogue.
Heidi Rontu [00:00:27]: This is the second episode in our podcast series Dancing a Change Tango in a Dialogue. My name is Heidi Rontu and I work as the director of Lifelong learning at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. And today, discussing with me here is Anne-Mari Raivio!
Anne-Mari Raivio [00:00:52]: Hi Heidi and everybody! Thank you for having me here! As I said my name is Anne-Mari Raivio, I also work here at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. My background is senior lecturing in business communication in English at our school of business. But for the past few years I have been dancing the tango in dialogue or whatever it was! It was a fancy name of your podcast series! As I’ve been working in a team called Parru and Parru is a group of creative minded people who aim to support our joined understanding on joined dialogue together here at Metropolia. When we are developing things, when we are getting things done, when we are constantly improving the way we are doing things. So you can actually see maybe facilitating dialogues or facilitating workshops or facilitating different projects!
Heidi Rontu [00:01:56]: I know because I’ve seen you and I’ve experienced you! And as I said, this is the second episode. In the first one we discussed actually with Minna Kaihovirta who is also been working in this Parru team. Now, this second episode the idea here is that I would rather ask you Anne-Mari – how would you build a tool box for a successful dialogue?
Anne-Mari Raivio [00:02:28]: Well, if we think about dialogues, in essence I don’t think that they can be a tool box. Dialogues is something to happen between us here and when we start using methods or tools I’m not sure if that’s a dialogue in its purest form! Having said that though, I do believe that methods and tools can help us become better at dialogue or at facilitating dialogue when we are starting. It is very difficult to facilitate a proper dialogue I think because it requires such presence for you. It requires such sort of state not knowing from each participant. We need to be so awake when we are together and sometimes that can be a bit tricky! So I think that sort of methods can help us but at some points we need to say goodbye to the methods and tools and just sort of be here for each other.
Heidi Rontu [00:03:36]: Yes, be present if I understand you correctly. When I was talking to Minna she did refer to a tool box or perhaps method as you said. And if I remember correctly we were then also talking about situations that you perhaps have experienced that have not always been so easy actually to get the dialogue going. And maybe also sometimes challenging situations and in these situations the methods or tools, if you would call them tools, can actually be very useful and helpful. Could you give an example of what your experience is?
Anne-Mari Raivio [00:04:15]: Certainly, yes! I think that you are absolutely right that we can use methods to help us especially in triggered situations. And I am not saying no to methods or tools at all but I think when we are talking about dialogue it is important to understand what we mean by dialogue and then we are talking about facilitating for example workshops where we want to get people together, think together and then maybe produce ideas or solutions to a problem or challenge or develop something new. Then certainly we need and we can refer to a box of tools or methods that we can use. And for that purpose at Parru we have created a sort of different type of services I would say. So what we do is that we might help you figure out how to get your people to work together and support your own way of facilitating a workshop or a meeting or whatever it is that you will facilitate. Then you might ask us to facilitate a workshop for you or we support you in longer processes where we sort of think how to include other staff members in this development. I mean, in that sentence I think that tools really help and we have different types of facilitation methods and tools that we use and these can be easily found online. I don’t think we come up with anything particular ourselves, we are just recycling things that we know and see what works best!
Heidi Rontu [00:05:49]: Well, that’s the thing actually with Parru as I’ve experienced you! So you do use methods that I also recognize from previous experiences that I’ve had in workshops and when I’ve had people facilitating for instance. But I think the magic that you do there is that you actually get people to work together. You actually bring about this dialogue, you can enhance the dialogue and this is something that I would be curious about hearing your view on that. How do you do that? Do you recognize what I say? Because of course, you can facilitate and you can use these known methods and then actually at the end of the day people haven’t actually been talking to each other or with each other. They’ve been channeling through these methods and that’s it. And as I said, my experience is that you actually enable this dialogue by using these methods. Would you yourself recognize? Would you see that it’s magic or how would you describe what is happening?
Anne-Mari Raivio [00:07:10]: Thank you Heidi for giving that feedback! It’s nice to hear that at least at its best it feels like it’s something extra! There’s something more than just channeling through the methods or the phases of the workshop. It’s not necessarily something that we ourselves even realize, that’s always nice to hear so thank you for saying that! But I think, now when I start thinking about it, what is it and how do we make it happen? I think that the most important thing is that we are ourselves. We work with our personalities, we work with our imperfect personalities! I think that’s really at the core of Parru in a way! We don’t need to be 100 % sure of things, we don’t need to know how to do things! We can be sort of… I don’t know what’s the word! Maybe unfinished? We can be uncertain, we can be incomplete in a way and that’s something maybe that we try to sort of channel through the parties as well. This is the place where you can say whatever is on your mind and you don’t have to be 100 % sure that that’s what you’re thinking! It’s okay to try and find because we are here together and work together. It’s not about you, it’s not about me – it’s about the thing that we are doing!
Heidi Rontu [00:08:47]: Exactly! Because I now remember, I think that what you are talking about is that you are 100 % present in that situation as yourself! You are there and I remember now, I don’t know if you remember Anne-Mari but I remember we were having workshops a couple of months ago and if I remember correctly you had made a plan with your colleague for the workshop! Everything was beautifully planned how we would do it and we started the workshop and had the initial introductions. What we were going to do and we had some discussions. And then, if I remember correctly, you sort of swapped the whole thing and did something new from scratch again! Could you perhaps tell us more about that? That I think is an example of being present in the situation!
Anne-Mari Raivio [00:09:37]: Yes! I know exactly what you are talking about because that’s also for me and my colleague Elina Ala-Nikkola who was with us…
Heidi Rontu [00:09:44]: Elina was there then with you, yes!
Anne-Mari Raivio [00:09:46]: And that’s still something for us where we feel that we succeeded really well! We felt that we were at the core of facilitation or at the core of maybe dialogue or at the core of at least sort of encountering each other and being there together. What happened was as you said, we had a beautiful plan and beautiful slides! Everything was well prepared and done and we were very pleased with that. But when we started we heard what people were saying. We started to listen to them and we realized that what we wanted to do is not the thing to do right now. These people need something more, they need something different. And then we swapped the whole thing in five or 10 minutes when we had a coffee break! I remember I told you that ”hold your horses, we are doing something completely different! Do you trust us? Good, let’s go!” and it was something! I still look back at that, maybe we knew what we were doing. At least that was my feeling, I don’t know how people felt but somehow reacting to what happens!
Heidi Rontu [00:11:05]: I remember, you were very professional! I think nobody understood, not us either! The other ones who were there with you in the workshop, we just thought ”okay, yes! Sure, do something differently!” and I realized first afterwards that you had actually made everything new! Everything that you had planned you just threw away and did it from the scratch! This is what I mean being present and having the interest and the dedication also. But not only that, you were able to hear and then sort of react to what you were hearing and quickly produce something new that actually that I remember that workshop – it worked beautifully! We had really good discussions and I think that we went really deep! I feel that people were happy, they sort of felt that we had actually discussed properly the issue that we had. That was being present I would say!
Anne-Mari Raivio [00:12:12]: I think so and I am really happy to see that at least we were able to do that, we were able to be present! And a thing that we often think about is that how we do the same sort of ability, not ability but permission to be present for all the people who participate in the workshops that we facilitate or in the encounters that we facilitates. How do we give the permission to do that? I think that’s not just us, it has to come also from the surrounding culture and there is a lot of work to be done there! Nobody is ready at any point but I think that we need to give permission for people to be present, to be uncertain and to be able to react to what’s emerging in the situation.
Heidi Rontu [00:13:16]: And I also hear what you are saying, I hear that you are able to actually create a safe environment, a safe context for people. Because to be able to show that you are not perfect and you don’t know and you are insecure in that situation and the surroundings. That context has to be very safe! I think that’s also your strength, that you’re able to create that kind of a context I think!
Anne-Mari Raivio [00:13:43]: Well, that’s also interesting! I was talking with my teammates this Monday when I said I had this podcast coming up and these are the themes that we are discussing. What would you like me to say? Because Parru has an identity of itself, it’s almost like it’s a person! So when one speaks of Parru – then it’s the whole Parru that speaks I think and that’s what we want to somehow convey. But we were talking about how to create this atmosphere of trust in workshops and I think that one very sort of key element is that we are all of us there just with our first names. We forget the titels or the positions in the organization. At least that’s what we want to happen! It doesn’t always happen, not all workshops work like that but in the best ones we are there you and me and us colleagues here. Not the director or the whatever. It is just us and we have this common goal and we want to work towards it.
Heidi Rontu [00:15:02]: You are actually working also with the strong emphasis of creating the trust and safety within your Parru team! That is kind of the starting point perhaps?
Anne-Mari Raivio [00:15:13]: That’s what we’ve valued from day one! We’ve worked so hard to get to know each other, to understand each other and understand diversity. That’s been very important to us, and then also trying to reflect that on everything that we do. That same sort of caring.
Heidi Rontu [00:15:37]: I would say that you’ve really succeeded in that!
Anne-Mari Raivio [00:15:39]: That’s good to hear!
Heidi Rontu [00:15:41]: My final question to you would be: what has Parru and working as a Parru member brought to you our taught you personally?
Anne-Mari Raivio [00:15:56]: Many things! It has been such a learning these past few years! It’s been mind blowingly eye opening and all that! I think that it has maybe taught or at least enhanced my understanding that sort of development or developing things or developing yourself, improving yourself – it doesn’t happen in a cocoon on your own! You need other people! And that’s something that I think is so relevant! Not only for me as a person, as a person who seeks to get better all the time but also as an organization and as a learning organization. We really need to value the expertise and that we bring together expertise when we are working together! It’s more than individual expertise, when we get together it’s something more and we have to really continue working towards that! I think that’s maybe the most important thing! At least that comes to my mind right now!
Heidi Rontu [00:17:09]: Yes, that sounds very good because what I hear is that basically you’re saying that one plus one is not two, it’s always more! So bringing people together, talking and doing things together and charing actually! I really like that! And I think what we are sort of heading towards when we think about the next episode and the next session – the idea is actually to talk a little bit more about dialogue and the importance of dialogue in a working community! And what does it mean when we say that we are working in a dialogue or in a dialogue way? So stay tuned for our next episode! Thank you Anne-Mari for today!
Anne-Mari Raivio [00:18:07]: And thank you to all the listeners!
Heidi Rontu [00:18:09]: Yes, thank you for listening to us! Stay tuned!