Guided Dialogue (Strategic Planning)

Guided Dialogue, the WLS incarnation of Structured Dialogic Design or SDD, is designed to help groups completely think through problems and situations in a democratic and thoughtful manner. WLS is a licensee of  21st Century Agoras and is fully utilizing the Cogniscope II software in its work.


Guided Dialogue utilizes a set of principles that insures that all participants have an opportunity for meaningful input, that sufficient time is allotted to develop full understanding of the suggestions, that voting occurs in an orderly structured manner leading to a viable conclusion.  The Cogniscope II software guides the process to help insure process integrity. At the end of the process participants know where the group needs to go next. More importantly the group knows how it arrived at that final point and fully supports the conclusion.


Traditional group facilitation falls victim to a variety of pitfalls including brainstorm overload, "Big Talker" domination or never getting to the plan. Too often the brainstorming phase overwhelms the process thus paralyzing the group into inaction.  So many ideas are generated  that the group cannot see the 'forest for the trees' to make a decision. Being overwhelmed the group fails to take action. 


If the brainstorming does not confound the group then the "Big Talkers" take control of the process. Big Talkers are the persuasive articulate members of the group who can dominate the conversation with their verbal prowess.  Because the Big Talkers dominate the conversation to the point where their ideas become the main focus of the discussion and to the exclusion of other equally viable ideas.


Finally, traditional group facilitation frequently results in never getting to the plan.  How many times have participants arrived at the voting stage of a facilitation only to vote and never do anything with the results. One favorite example:  "How many times have you put the green sticky dots on the chart paper suggestions, which are taped to the wall, only to walk away without knowing what the actual next step would be?" The meeting ends with the participants walking away not knowing the next step. This ambiguity  causes confusion which translates into a lack of support for any future plan.


The Guided Dialogue Process avoids all of the above.


The Guided Dialogue Process occurs in one of two venues referred to as Co-Laboratories, both are effective and each is intended to develop the same end products.


In Person.  The in person venue occurs on the site of your choosing. The intensity of this venue will require multiple days of bringing all of your stakeholders together.  To preserve integrity stakeholders must make a commitment to participate in as many sessions as possible. In a perfect world 100% participation at each session is expected although it is understood that is not always possible.


Virtual Co-Labs. In this venue stakeholders participate in a three (3) stage process. In stage one participants are brought together for an orientation and to launch the project. During stage two (2) for a specified amount of time  participants will engage each other on-line or virtually utilizing a Wiki Format. At the end of the Wiki portion of the process stakeholders will come together again to complete the final stage of the process. Again participation on a regular basis by all participants is  expected to insure success and integrity. The obvious benefit to the Virtual Co-Labs lies in its respect for everyone's busy schedule and the ability to interact in a more leisurely manner.


Guided Dialogue is based on the works of Dr. Alexander Christakis PhD who is one of the pioneers of Structured Dialogic Design (SDD).  Dr. Christakis has authored several books and articles on the science behind SDD and is one of the founders of the 21st Century Agoras which are dedicated to promoting human connectedness while simultaneously promoting the democratic solution of problems.


Recently Dr. Christakis has co-authored two (2) books which fully detail the SDD process and the science behind it:  "Talking Point: Creating an Environment for Exploring Complex Meaning", and "How People harness their Collective Wisdom and Power."  Additionally he has collaborated in developing a piece of software known as the Cogniscope II which supports, guides and enhances the decisions people/groups make.