Organizations across the country have started drawing on that knowledge. They are saying, “No” to town halls where only a few can talk; saying “No” retreats that are just one speech after another; saying “No” to meetings held to sell the new vision. 

They are saying “Yes” to creating a shared vision; to all voices being heard! 

We have developed a set of nine guidelines that leaders can use to create meetings that make use of all the knowledge in the room.  Two of those guidelines are:

1. Connection before content 
Participants in a meeting need to get connected to each other before they try to construct new ideas together. Leaders need to start the meeting with processes that help participant learn: 
   a. who is in the room
   b. what knowledge others have
   c. how others think about the issue of the meeting, and 
   d. the human side of others, something about the others they can identify with 

Tips and Guidelines

If you’ve already made an attempt to be more participative without getting the results you want, let’s set up a time to talk about how Common Knowledge Associates might help you turn that around.​

"Nancy pulled off a great feat at the US Army KM conference. She got the whole room talking, all 200 of them! It broke the mold of presentation after presentation. The feedback was overwhelmingly, "Let's do more of this at the next conference."
- COL Charles Burnett - Deputy Director, Center for Army Lessons Learned, Fort Leavenworth, KS

One of the most powerful tools a leader has is the power to convene the tough conversations that need to happen in an organization – to focus a group of people on an issue that matters. To convene that kind of meeting, the leader needs to be a “conversation architect*” designing ways to leverage the collective knowledge of his or her unit or of the whole organization, when either is faced with complex issues. (see the case studies in Tips and Guidelines)

But this is not an easy task for managers. Those who have tried to involve employees in thinking about a difficult problem, often find that they get little response, or worse yet, an argument erupts.  Common Knowledge Associates works with managers gain the skills to create “many to many” meetings, by first modeling the processes and then coaching managers to proficiency.   

There is a new social contract that is developing between companies and workers, driving a major shift in the employer-employee relationship. It is from parent-child to adult-adult. Inherent in this shift is the need for employers to engage in constructive dialogue with their employees. 

When employees fully join in problem solving and planning you get greater employee engagement, more collaboration, and innovation new solutions! 
“Having worked with Nancy Dixon at NASA and as part of Babson College's Working Knowledge program, I know that she understands as well as anyone the difference between mere talking and real communication. She is expert at helping groups of people speak and listen authentically and intelligently as an important step toward shared understanding, effective problem solving, and innovative thinking.”

- Don Cohen, Managing Editor, NASA ASK Magazine 

“At our organization we all agreed that working with Nancy was one of the best investments we had ever made. During the two days that she spent with us we became aware of and got to practice new ways of thinking and meeting together, not only within our company but with outside customers and stakeholders. New and more effective ways of using our combined knowledge have become incorporated in our daily work, opening up new possibilities for engagement.”

- Greg E. Simmons, President and CEO, MetaStar, Inc., 2909 Landmark Place, Madison, WI. 53713 - 

Designing Meetings and Retreats That Mobilize Employee Knowledge
What could the future look like if your organization could use all of its collective knowledge to address the difficult problems it’s facing? 

2. Small groups as the unit of learning 
We learn and create new ideas through our conversation with others in small groups. A small group is 3-5 members. This is the size that produces the richest and most in-depth thinking. It is large enough to contain diverse views yet small enough for members to engage each other. Then the learning in the small groups must be integrated for the whole.

Please email me at if you would like to receive a copy of all 9 guidelines.