Today's Reading

In addition, the research in neuroscience, neurophysiology, and positive psychology has continued to grow, adding to the grounded evidence for the efficacy of Conversations Worth Having, for individuals, families, organizations, and communities. We have added current research to chapter 7. Finally, we added a discussion guide to support book clubs and teams wishing to take their communication to the next level.

From our vantage point, one of the most exciting things about life is the power of a single conversation to make a significant, positive difference. We invite you to join us in creating a positive change in your life and work by engaging in conversations worth having.

We are on a mission as conversation change agents to share how simple it is to foster conversations that help all people thrive. We are especially grateful to be working with Berrett-Koehler, whose mission is connecting people and ideas to create a world that works for all, and that will happen through conversation. We hope that our contribution to BK's important work will help influence positive change and wellness on the planet. We invite you to be one of many agents who are stimulating conversations to support a world that works for all.

 Jacqueline (Jackie) Stavros Brighton, Michigan

Cheri Tor Asheville, North Carol
 
P.S. Please join our growing community of practice on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.


INTRODUCTION

We live in worlds our conversations create.

—David L. Cooperrider

"I am struck by the simple fact that my impact as a leader, and even my whole day, goes better when I share my amazement, when we open minds, live into deeper and better questions, and interdependently emerge new things in every conversation.

Life worth living...must be made of affirmation."

These are the words of one of the most remarkable chief executive officers I've ever worked with, arguably one of the greatest, most thoughtful corporate leaders of modern times. In one of its classic cover stories, Fast Company called him the Trillion Dollar Man. The article featured Dee Hock's leadership theory and his founding of Visa, one of the largest, most innovative, and most successful organizations of the past half-century. Today, Visa has a market value of some $446 billion and annual financial transactions approaching $11 trillion. During Dee's tenure as CEO, the corporation increased its profits by 10,000 percent, but more importantly it reinvented the very concept of organization itself. In many ways, it was an early prototype, not a final model, for the more fully human organization we are seeking and even seeing emerge today. The exciting story in Dee's career is his belief in people, which he expresses this way: "The truth is that, given the right circumstances, from no more than dreams, determination, and the liberty to try, quite ordinary people consistently do extraordinary things."
 
I had the privilege to work with Dee for more than five years. We were uniting the positive power of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) with his concepts of the more fully human organization—a collaborative, intrinsically motivating system capable of liberating the human spirit without reverting to tired, old command-and-control forms of bureaucracy. After years of working with Dee, I began to search for the core of his success. Yes, he was courageous. True, he was tireless. Right, he was an amazing learner. For example, when I visited his home he had just turned his dining room into a massive library spanning the fields of complexity science through the new biology of living systems to the humanities, including many of the classics in art, history, and literature. There were well over eight thousand titles in that "dining room" library, and each one had his underlines, exclamation points, and margin notes. His insatiable love of learning, of course, was a signature strength. And yes, he was skilled as a CEO, with talents in global finance, negotiations, and the future of digital technologies. Yet I still could not put my finger on his mystery. What was that unique difference, that "something more," that made all the difference and made Dee so extraordinary?

It was not until I opened this very special and graceful book, by Jackie Stavros and Cheri Torres, that I understood the secret to that CEO's exceptional career and success. Dee Hock had a gift: a Jeffersonian belief in "we the people" and the idea of "organization as community," which I would summarize as this:

Our organizational lives and the lives of others flourish or flounder, one conversation at a time.

For Dee, the difference between success and failure in leadership was all about the art of the "conversation worth having"—precisely the kind that this book describes with such clarity and practicality. Peter Senge, commenting on how Visa was conceived and co-created through literally thousands of conversations and dozens of disciplines, said that the early days of the company "may simply be the best business example of an emerging revolution in organizing.
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