Friday, October 13, 2006

In our day to day conversations, how do we “talk the walk”?

We’ve all heard of “walking the talk” – but what of “talking the walk”?

Googling this just now I came across a report Talk the Walk - Advancing Sustainable Lifestyles through Marketing and Communications ( by Utopies, UNEP and UNGC. However I don’t want to talk now about “design, development, branding, packaging, pricing, distribution, personal selling, advertising and sales promotion” (see the foreword). Rather I want to refer back to an earlier entry and ask: In our day to day conversations, how do we “talk the walk” and reflect the core values employed in our work?

During the coffee break at a recent external networking meeting - where I was a newcomer in the community - another participant approached me; “Of course the discussion about the Wilbur model would have gone over your head”, he began the conversation. This completely surprised me. Only minutes before the break the group had been affirming the importance of respect and trust, as conditions for successful efforts to bring together diverse people and organizations in exploring sustainable solutions to complex, multi-stakeholder challenges!

Our conversations can serve to enforce or discredit our messages and ourselves in powerful and lasting ways. Walking the talk is imperative. Talking the walk is so important too. People notice.

Are we having conversations that matter?

We have conversations everyday. How many of these conversations matter? When did we last have a conversation that mattered? And what was it that made it matter? What defines a conversation that matters from the multitude of conversations that so often fill our world?

We’ve all come away from conversations that have mattered and to some extent (whether we recognize it at the time or not) shaped our lives - conversations that have changed the nature of our relationships, the way we think and the way we behave. Similarly we’ve come away from conversations which have made little (or no) impression on us, and following which business continues as usual.

Having just returned from some wonderful conversations with the Generative Dialogue Project (, I got to wondering: How are the conversations our organization is having changing the nature of relationships and the way people, groups and societies around the world are thinking and behaving? In other words, to what extent are our conversations bringing about the change we seek and helping achieve our objectives? And how can we continue to improve the quality of our conversations to better ensure that they matter?

As yet I don’t have the answers to these questions. I do think that sparking some conversations about them in our organization would be very worthwhile – enabling us to further reflect on and learn from our own conversational practices.