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Dialog versus Discussion

by James McGovern  |  April 5, 2017  |  Submit a Comment

There are subtle differences between a dialog and a discussion that many enterprise architecture and technology professionals may not fully appreciate. For purposes of this discussion, I have included a table that should help provide clarity on their distinction.

Dialog Discussion
 Starts with listening  Starts with speaking
 Is about speaking with  Is about speaking to
 Focuses on insights  Focuses on differences
 Is collaborative  Is adversarial
 Generates ideas  Generates conflicts
 Encourages reflection  Encourages quick thinking
 Encourages emergence  Encourages lock-in

Why is this important? I humbly believe that many enterprise architecture practitioners use discussion when dialog is more important with the inverse also being true. In a dialog, a group of people can explore the individual and collective presuppositions, ideas, beliefs and feelings that subtly control their interactions. It provides an opportunity to participate in a process that displays communication successes and failures.

I have come to appreciate the usage of dialog is more important during strategy while discussion is more important during execution. Technology innovation and improving business outcomes really requires an Enterprise Architect to start conversations via dialog. On the other hand, Architecture governance trends towards discussion.

Best in class practitioners don’t play in the land of extremes and will borrow from both categories depending on the context. Having the ability to recognize when you need one over the other is important, but what is more important is adaptability and equal skill in both.


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Tags: architecture-governance  enterprise-architecture  

James McGovern
Research Director
1 years at Gartner
28 years IT Industry

James McGovern is a Research Director responsible for conducting research in the Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation areas. James is specifically focused on how organizations can use business-outcome-driven EA to respond to disruptive trends and leverage technology to deliver successful business outcomes. Read Full Bio

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