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Why we need to design dialogue… now

4 min readFeb 1, 2022


It’s been a little over a year since I published my book, Making Conversation. I made a lot of conversations this year — I’ve written a lot, I’ve gone on a bunch of great podcasts, and I’ve lectured on the idea of using design to get creative about our hardest conversations.

Over the last 18 months, we’ve designed dialogue that has launched multi-billion dollar endeavors. We’ve hosted many intimate conversations that have explored issues of race and class in board contexts. Some days we’ve designed high-level policy conversations that included politicians and children affected by previous policies made; other days, we’ve worked on community conversations around religion and death. Whether it’s been helping corporate cultures get simpler and more succinct or helping organizations figure out how to have conversations with their consumers, members or constituents. It’s been a lot, it’s never been dull and it’s almost always… been fun.

Oh right — and I announced the launch of my new business.

So I thought I’d kick off the New Year (in more ways than one) the right way: by sharing what I’ve learned about designing dialogue in the last year.

First, it works — like, always.

Nothing works all the time. I know that. But designing dialogue formats and structures for the organization or community we’re engaging with to address the realities they’re grappling with goes a long way to solving problems and breaking through barriers. The combination of collective ownership of the problem, rules, and structures that make a conversation safe combined with the joy of a creative approach leads to people engaging deeper and taking on the practice and solutions more actively.

After all, it’s their conversation, their community, and ultimately, their solutions.

Difference matters.

In my book, I wrote about how we are innately afraid of difference in the room. As I’ve been building my team, I’ve actively sought out differences — my practice is made up of mostly wild card hires.

These super hybrids make the work more robust, the tools we have at our disposal more unique –and the day just far more fun.

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Founder of Dust&Co, senior design advisor for Rockefeller Foundation & former global managing partner of IDEO — fan of words and good conversation.