Table of contents

How this Book and Update Came to Be
Attributions and Gratitude

Origins of the Method

Part 1: Theory and Practice
   Ch. 1. Why Do Organizations Need Conversations?
   Ch. 2. Focused Conversation Method Overview
   Ch. 3. Underlying Structure of the Focused Conversation Method
   Ch. 4. How Science Supports Focused Conversations
   Ch. 5. Preparing a Conversation from Scratch
   Ch. 6. Leading a Conversation
   Ch. 7. Troubleshooting – Common Problems and Suggested Solutions

Part 2: Sample Conversations Introduction to the Sample Conversations
Section A. Preparing and Planning
   A1. Preparing a short presentation
   A2. Getting input into writing a response to a book or article
   A3. Preparing a group to write a progress report or status update
   A4. Preparing a strategic presentation on a new product.
   A5. Assessing marketplace trends
   A6. Preparing for the impact of government regulations on a product
   A7. Planning an organizational community of practice
   A8. Preparing the agenda for a meeting
   A9. Identifying key themes to be discussed at a subsequent meeting
   A10. Establishing priority of topics to be discussed
   A11. Planning an event
   A12. Working on a promotional piece
   A13. Selecting a theme for an upcoming conference
   A14. Preparing a symbol and slogan for a public campaign
   A15. Designing new customer service procedures
   A16. Preparing for strategic planning (through reflection)
   A17. Focusing a group on a shared problem
   A18. Introducing a new training topic
   A19. Assembling a budget
   A20. Redesigning office space
   A21. Organizing an in-house special interest group

Section B. Making Decisions
   B1. Deciding work priorities
   B2. Determining program priorities
   B3. Developing terms of reference for a major project evaluation.
   B4. Discussing a staff response to a consultant report
   B5. Implementing a new board policy
   B6. Reworking office operating guidelines
   B7. Making assignments within a team
   B8. Deciding on a trade show strategy
   B9. Reframing a team's mission
   B10. Helping a workmate think through a decision
   B11. Breaking up a decisional logjam in a group
   B12. Dealing with work environment issues
   B13. Identifying gaps between a future state and a current state.

Section C. Managing and Supervising
   C1. Canvassing employees
   C2. Reviewing a work description
   C3. Interviewing a job applicant
   C4. Conducting a performance appraisal
   C5. New managers' reflection on their leadership roles
   C6. Musing on a frustrating meeting
   C7. Reflecting on a chaotic meeting
   C8. Creating participation guidelines
   C9. Dealing with delegation issues
   C10. Interpreting a shop-floor grievance
   C11. Discussing an unexpected and disruptive impact
   C12. Discussing staff dissatisfaction
   C13. Naming market influences
   C14. Analyzing sales statistics
   C15. Highlighting the comparative profile of the firm
   C16. Reflecting on a transition
   C17. Assessing the impact of a training experience
   C18. Building phased timeline for a restructuring project
   C19. Reflecting on organizational change
   C20. Analyzing budget performance
   C21. Troubleshooting a stalled project
   C22. Collaborating on a supply program
   C23. Reflecting on a proposal for departmental reorganization
   C24. Reflecting on a recent decision

Section D. Evaluating and Reviewing
   D1. Reviewing a workshop
   D2. Reviewing the day with a group
   D3. Reviewing a planning event
   D4. Reviewing the year
   D5. Reviewing an organization's past
   D6. Reviewing a consultant's presentation
   D7: Reviewing a major report
   D8. Understanding the ongoing effects of a major event on individuals
   D9. Discussing an article
   D10. Evaluating a proposal
   D11. Evaluating a course
   D12. Evaluating a curriculum
   D13. Evaluating the progress of a project, or conducting a lessons learned
   D14. Evaluating a marketing campaign
   D15. Analyzing a product that failed to sell
   D16. Evaluating a service offering
   D17. Evaluating a new software package
   D18. Evaluating a conference
   D19. Understanding and applying expert recommendations
   D20. Evaluating the impact of world events

Section E. Coaching and Mentoring
   E1. Coaching a colleague
   E2. Talking through a job description
   E3. Mentoring a new employee
   E4. Holding an employee to account
   E5. Discussing a set of employee guidelines
   E6. Reflecting on evaluations with instructors
   E7. Meditating on a difficult situation
   E8. Mentoring a staff person about a family crisis affecting work #1
   E9. Mentoring a staff person about a family crisis affecting work #2
   E10. Processing a traumatic event with an employee
   E11.Inspiring the team with a story
   E12. Debriefing a training video
   E13. Creating a practice of journaling
   E14. Reflecting on one's life journey
   E15. Planning for personal growth

Section F. Supporting Diversity and Belonging
   F1. Assessing the diversity of the organization
   F2. Reviewing policies to strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion
   F3. Planning for internationally trained workers
   F4. Determining accommodation needs
   F5. Manager's reflection on an employee's challenge
   F6. Reflecting on a belittling (derogatory) experience
   F7. Support after derogatory comments
   F8. Becoming aware of micro-aggressions
   F9. Uncovering unconscious bias

Section G. Resolving Conflict
   G1. Resolving a personal conflict
   G2. Personal reflection on a conflict
   G3. Responding to a personal complaint
   G4. Calming an upset customer
   G5. Initiating dialogue to understand a conflict
   G6. Resolving a dispute
   G7. Solving a team conflict
   G8. Resolving a long-term misunderstanding

Section H. Guiding Personal and Celebrative Reflections
   H1. Reflecting on the day
   H2. Learning from a life event
   H3. Facilitators' internal reflection while leading a group
   H4. Appraising an additional assignment
   H5. Reflecting on a request to take on a new assignment
   H6. Celebrating a great victory
   H7. Interviewing the employee of the month
   H8. Celebrating a colleague's birthday
   H9. Celebrating a retirement: conversation with the individual
   H10. Celebrating a retirement: group reflection

Section I. Connecting Work and Life
   I1. The after-school conversation
   I2. Re-entry after a learning event
   I3. Internal reflection in a crisis
   I4. Resolving a family dispute
   I5. Processing a traumatic event with family

   Appendix 1. Possible Tangible Beginning Points
   Appendix 2. Sample Questions at Each Level
   Appendix 3. Visuals of the Flow of a Focused Conversation
   Appendix 4. Guide for Preparing a Conversation
   Appendix 5. Conversation Planning Worksheet
   Appendix 6. Example: A Plan using the Worksheet
   Appendix 7. Example: A Conversation with Typical Answers
   Appendix 8. Leading an Informal Conversation
   Appendix 9. Using Focused Conversation Method with Other ToP methods
   Appendix 10. Introduction to Image Change
   Appendix 11. Sample of Other Methods that Follow ORID

About ICA

The essential, bestselling guide to designing and leading useful and effective group conversations, now completely revised and updated.


The essential, bestselling guide to designing and leading useful and effective group conversations, now completely revised and updated.

The Art of Focused Conversation is the quintessential theoretical and practical guide to group communication and participatory decision-making. Incorporating over 60 years of meticulous research and collaborative development, this perennial, international bestseller is an indispensable addition to any facilitator's toolkit.

The Focused Conversation Method at the heart of The Art of Focused Conversation is a core component of the Technology of Participation (ToP) methodology developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs. The original book is widely regarded as a key resource for designing and leading useful and effective conversations and fostering consensus and collaboration. This fully updated and revised edition includes:

  • Preparation and guidelines for discussing challenging topics and facilitating a focused conversation
  • A comprehensive overview of the ORID framework, made up of Objective, Reflective, Interpretive, and Decisional questions which guide a group to wise decisions
  • In-depth analysis of how the underlying structure of ToP is based on applied phenomenology and is supported by the latest findings in neuroscience and social psychology
  • New sections on diversity, equity, and inclusion; work-life balance; conflict resolution; and guiding focused conversations online
  • 125 sample conversations that can be adapted to any situation.

Invigorate and elevate your group process with this invaluable resource—required reading for facilitators, leaders, educators, and anyone who wants to think clearly and guide thoughtful conversations.