Monday, 3 October 2016

Rhetoric - a much need skill for knowledge workers

Rhetoric seems to have negative connotations these days. That's a shame, as Aristotle's approach to 'the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing' is a skill that anyone effecting change in organizations must have. Female staffers at the White House have proactively employed rhetoric in a very innovative and specific way to get their voices heard.
Whilst we're talking philosophers, the most effective masterclass technique that I train facilitators in is Socratic knowledge transfer. Too often deep experts reach for their Powerpoint slides and simply impart their wisdom, without demanding critical thinking. Much better to have a dialogue based on seeded 'judgement call questions' and elicit personal insights or experience from all those participating. Getting the 'expert' to hold off imparting their solution or answer until the end of the discussion is tricky!
The process involves a carefully selected and rehearsed case-study that gives plenty of context and has two or three decision points which relied on judgement. The 'expert' pauses at the judgement calls and asks, for example, 'what would you do?' or 'what else do we need to know?' or 'what do you think happened next?'. On several occasions an entirely novel approach or solution has emerged that the 'expert' had not considered.
One vital component is getting the right participants. Everyone invited should potentially have something to contribute to the topic. In that way there is not just one 'expert' in the room.
The process is particularly effective in generating new insights and conveying complex ideas, but needs careful coaching and facilitation. 

Post a Comment