The power of “long-form conversations” to take schools on a journey to new learning

Dennis Sparks

Twitter founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone and PBS interview-hour host Charlie Rose had a conversation about “creative conversations” that was published in the February 2013 issue of Fast Company 

Here is part of that conversation:

Stone: The long-form conversation, long-form of journalism, deeper dives, more meaningful and relevant approaches to what’s happening in the world – that’s what’s really important…

Rose: I think it’s important for who we are, to be able to have a conversation that has a beginning and a middle and an end, a conversation that will take you on a ride, on a journey. That’s what the best conversations do

Williams: There is a word that comes to mind when I think of the word conversation, and that is engagement. When you’re having a good conversation, you become engaged with that other person. And once you become engaged, you can learn something. That’s difficult to recreate in our business.

Rose: A second word that I use in terms of conversation is that it needs a certain clarity. Also, you need to listen. You need to prepare, listen, and engage. Engagement is a crucial element. I mean, it’s not a casual thing…

Williams: Even though the truth is absolutely out there, it’s not necessarily what people pay attention to. So our ultimate goal is to shift the discourse and decisions of society so that it’s not just about attention, or popularity, or page views, or clicks…

Rose: You know, conversation unleashes you into a place that you don’t expect to go necessarily…

My “take away”: School communities benefit when they have frequent, sustained conversations that take them on a journey of discovery to new insights and learning. Engagement, clarity, and exquisite listening are hallmarks of such conversations.

Question: What are your “take aways”?


6 Responses to “The power of “long-form conversations” to take schools on a journey to new learning”

  1. 1 Ann Marie Luce February 18, 2013 at 9:16 am

    My take away relates to my new mentor/mentee relationship. These meetings are meant to be long form conversations with deep listening. A challenge at times in the midst of our busy days at school but energizing, transforming and valuable for growth and clarity for both mentor and mentee.

    • 2 Dennis Sparks February 18, 2013 at 9:25 am

      Thank you for reminding us of the importance of long-form conversations in the critically important mentor/mentee relationship. While making the time for such conversations can be challenging, they are essential in strengthening the relationship and in promoting meaningful professional learning.

  2. 3 Anne Davies February 18, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    Thanks for sharing this powerful conversation. Recently Sandra Herbst posted a blog on listening ( It is interesting to me that you both have chosen to highlight the power of conversation and listening… right now… at this time… I recall a quote from a card… All we need is a good listening to:-) It is so true. Please know I am listening.

    • 4 Dennis Sparks February 18, 2013 at 9:44 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Anne. I share your belief in and commitment to the importance of what I call “committed listening.” It strengthens relationships and deepens learning.

  3. 5 Mark Dodge February 18, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    My take away is that we all seem to have millions of ideas dilating around in our mind. Some have the potential to be great, while other may need to “float some more.” It is when we engage in thoughtful conversation that the true identity of our ideas became known as great

  4. 6 Dennis Sparks February 18, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Well said, Mark! Through good conversations we not only learn about others, but come to understand ourselves better as well. I often discover my own clarity—as well as that of others—through conversation.

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