Deep monologue on dialogue
Is Peter Nixon this year’s supernova of the business-titles section? On the evidence of Dialogue Gap – his second book – it’s beginning to look that way.
When publisher Wiley unleashed Mastering Business in Asia: Negotiation in 2005, a buzz radiated out around the region. This follow-up covers much of the same ground, but is a more self-assured and even cleverer work.
Nixon, a Canadian business guru who hails from Montreal, works with senior executives and public figures around the world and specialises in the facilitation, negotiation and implementation of change through dialogue. Having moved to Hong Kong in 1989, his clients include leaders and teams from financial institutions, telecommunications companies, hotels, airlines, charities, manufacturers, IT players, education, schools, universities, and property, spiritual, environmental and youth groups.
Through his workshops, Nixon has made a considerable impact on both corporate Hong Kong and on the wider society of his adopted city.
Nick Deal, head of people development, Cathay Pacific, goes so far as to say: “In his latest book, Peter once again helps us to make sense of the complex dance that is dialogue.
His insights are brought to life by stories and examples from his years of experience in his chosen field, particularly here in Asia where it takes both time and commitment for employers to close the talent-management dialogue gap.”
Dialogue Gap is, at 376 pages, a hefty tome. But every page works for its living, so to speak. This is quality, and the content bridges the chasm between communication and understanding in negotiations by means of three well-presented sections: “Dialogue gap”, “Dialogue solutions” and “Dialogue leadership”.
Nixon asserts that, over the years, one salient point has become apparent to him concerning the realm of negotiation. He’s come to see that the issue of vexation is not so much negotiation itself, but the nature of the dialogue between parties.
We have become whizz-kids at sending information using every method of communication available: e-mail, text messages, social-networking sites and smartphones. While this is communicating, is it not engaging, and certainly not nurturing active dialogue characterised by collaborative thinking.
In Dialogue Gap, Nixon explores this growing disconnect and its significance in today’s world, where the ability to engage with others has become, because of increasing globalisation, an area of concern and confusion.
Firstly, he illustrates the difference between communication and dialogue, a more complex matter than one might assume.
Then he explores the make-up and causes of the “dialogue gap” and what constitutes effective dialogue, which he sees as “the right people talking about the right issues in the right way at the right time and in the right place”.
Nixon identifies the most common reasons people don’t engage effectively in dialogue, and shows the way forward on how to generate dialogues that are both more productive and time- and cost-efficient.
Effective dialogue is vital for success, as it ensures that all key stakeholders get what they want in the most efficient, productive and profitable manner possible.
Drawing on Nixon’s experiences observing both successful and failed dialogues and endeavours in Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East, Dialogue Gap provides essential real-world instruction for getting the best out of your business-like interactions with others.
Dialogue Gap is looking like it will join recent works like Tim Hartford’s Adapt and Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point on the list of the best business titles penned this century.
Lest you fear your reviewer has got a bit ahead of himself, I believe Nixon has found the crux of what is causing many businesses and organisations to fail in our skittish times. This, therefore, is a profound and timely work, whose importance – in my view – cannot be overstated.
I highly recommended this book to everyone from job-seekers trying to wring a decent contract out of a prospective employer, to the CEO whose Gulfstream G650 has just arrived at Chek Lap Kok after another outrageously successful business meeting at the loftiest five-star hotel in Tokyo.