Socrates said. Or Plato said Socrates said. Socrates never wrote a word. He did not trust them. They were the left overs of thinking.
Socrates would not survive any of our corporate brainstorms, or post-it management on walls, or prioritization exercises, or the net-net- or the bottom line, or the executive summary, or the take home.
We run largely anti Socratic organizations where the thought of letting our destinations be decided by the winds of our discussions would be simply terrifying. We are so eager to close the argument and allocate an action that short-cutting reflection is almost a badge of honour.
Fortunately those winds of discussion take place in corridors, canteens, and coffee machine corners,. They act as a cognitive pressure cooker valves, open to decompress some trains of thought that could not see the light otherwise. The informal organization provides the oxygen. The formal organization the structure and one or two straight jackets.
In conferences, the good discussion takes place at the breaks. Running a conference ( and perhaps running the entire company) as a long-long coffee break makes a lot of sense.
Yet, the trick for productive conversations, with oxygen, and the ‘letting of our destination being decided by the winds of our discussion’, maybe simple. Declare the spaces: for the next 45 minutes we will meander unapologetically with no clear harbour in mind; let’s us sail and see, maybe smell, certainly hear each other. And, in the next 45 minutes we will discuss X in order to make a decision on how to fix Y, which will be decided before we all go home.
Borders. High fences make good neighbours. Fenced spaces.
Don’t forget Socrates.