Stimulating Conversation – Jeffer London

It is timely to publish this particular podcast this weekend. If ever we need a stimulating conversation.  When I recorded it with Jeffer it was the morning of the Trump Presidential Election win. A result driven by extreme polarisation and fragmentation of the US people.

And as we have seen not more than 24 hours after the inauguration with the #womensmarch, huge numbers globally have a hunger to come together and unite against the values that drive division and marginalization. People of all colours, backgrounds, sexual identities, religions, men, women, and children have united. There is a way forward, positive change is possible.

Jeffer’s TEDxTalk is called Better Conversations for a Better World. There’s never been a better time to listen to how to drive stimulating conversations of change.


What is a dialogue experiment?

Good change was noted for good conversations. Which raised the question – How do you make good conversations happen? This was the origin of dialogue experiments. Jeffer started bringing groups together to discuss a topic and then analyse the conversation itself – and asked “what did we learn about conversation through this conversation?”

Hallmarks of a good conversation?

  • Energy – when something new is emerging out of it.
  • When we are thrown together with different people and we get insights we can’t get alone

Where do you see the role of conversations in change (informal v formal)

We see repetition in the questions that keep coming up when we do things like roadshows. We need to look at the intention within the conversation.

What is the mix of instrumental and constructive intent in conversations?

Conversations feel flat and hollow when they think they know the outcome of the conversation. When you see the spark in people’s eyes and we are off balance – there’s been an genuine unanswerable question, and this is what generates change.

How do you keep conversations open and flowing?

Dialogue events are usually strategic events with leadership teams, being offsite and in the wilderness. If the events are too cerebral it can go very flat. Use structures that mix it up and invite activity (like walks in pair to reflect on the themes).

How do we deal with silence in conversations?

Silence can be unnerving – but when we use silence in the walks it’s not seen as silence, it’s a pilgrimage. Things happen in the action of reflection (eg doodling, walking). Incorporate the silence in the conversation. People need silence to reflect and absorb in change – we need to incorporate space in the change programs for people to absorb the change.

Introverts and extroverts in dialogue experiments – any differences?

Yes, the groups that are very introverted need a lot of time prior to the experiments to think about the topic. Even on the day, we need to put air into the program so they can digest what has been said and think about their position. As Susan Cain wrote, “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”

What makes somebody a good conversationalist?

At first, the hypothesis in our experiment was that we could each be a better conversationalist by embodying some archetypal roles – the listener, the emphatic one, the provocateur, the meaning maker, or the facilitator. But after looking at those profiles, we’ve moved away to universal skills that we all already have, but do not always demonstrate. We simply have to have the intention to be a good conversationalist.”

The qualities of a conversationalist

  • Inviting – having the intention to engage
  • Listening – fully present for the other
  • Expressing – being a good talker
  • Challenging – positively shaking up a conversation
  • Investigating – Asking questions and being curious
  • Empathizing – Being compassionate and understanding others
  • Making meaning – pulling out the insights
  • Harvesting – making ideas visible and sharing

Stimulating Conversations – What’s the scoop?

A book that is being designed to create a space for conversation, instil more desire for intent of conversations, identify good questions for conversation, invitations for conversation, how you stay open to conversation.

A lot of online tools for design – eg divergent and convergent conversations, the GROW models, the Six Sigma processes.

Jeffer London website

Jeffer London Linkedin

Jeffer London twitter #stimulatingconversations

Stimulating Conversations




Dr Jen Frahm – Author of Conversations of Change: A guide to implementing workplace change.

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