Whether or not we are aware of it, there are three main types of conversation that take place in an environment where working with others plays a significant role:
- Conversation for Relationship
- Conversation for Possibility
- Conversation for Action
Let’s look at what we know about each of these conversational types.*
A Conversation for Relationship answers the question, “Why should we work together now?”
The Conversation for Relationship establishes whether there is any reason to collaborate. This type of conversation lays the groundwork for collaboration by identifying shared interests. Shared interests can take shape as common purpose, stakeholders, concerns, or commitments; shared interests can also center around an area of competence, a level of engagement, the willingness to work together, or a sense of the sincerity or reliability of others. It is helpful to think of this type of conversation as supplying the “why” behind any work effort or project. (You can also think about this conversation as the place where problem identification occurs.)
A Conversation for Possibility answers the question, “What are we going to do to achieve the shared purpose we have identified?”
The Conversation for Possibility takes place once shared interests have been established through a Conversation for Relationship (described above). Conversation for Possibility is used to brainstorm, to generate or expand upon the available options for addressing the purpose for which you are going to collaborate, and to begin to get into weighing of the options. In this conversation, we want to see as much (relevant) creativity and resourcefulness as the team has to offer brought to bear on the particular problem at hand. It can be useful to think of the Conversation for Possibility as having to do with the “what.”
A Conversation for Action answers the question, “How will we go about doing what we said we would do to achieve the purpose that brought us together in the first place?”
The Conversation for Action is necessary for the purpose of coordinating action, or taking the relationship of shared interests that was established with the Conversation for Relationship and the possibilities that were created during the Conversation for Possibility and moving toward creating something in the observable world. In other words, Conversation for Action is about getting stuff done. We use this type of conversation when we are ready to move into execution mode. It can be useful to think of this type of conversation as the “how.” (You might think of this conversation type as the place where weighing options continues and solution prototyping might take place.)
- These conversations are the vehicles of collaboration; we can use them to address the Clarity Checklist and thus, to establish that the building blocks for working successfully with others are in place.
Keep reading to learn how to work with the conversation types.
*Conversation type theory originates with the speech acts scholarship of Fernando Flores, a leader in business process design, cognition, and workflow management theory, among other things. Much of what is discussed here draws on Flores’ work and the long line of study to which it gave birth. References are listed in the final topic of this lesson.