Putting something in the middle is a powerful way to learn dialogue and increase its effectiveness. The technique is simple: a tangible object is placed in the middle of your group and dialogue is focused on it. The object may stand for an idea but should be something participants can actually look at and touch. Objects that have been used include a video of a visit to a customer site, a product prototype, a competitor's product, and personal items such as mementos from learning episodes in people's careers.

Why an object? Objects focus attention in a positive way. In describing observations of an object rather than an abstraction, people become less polarized and argumentative. Objects also help people make personal connections, ...

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