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Deep Structure - Metaphor to Buildings

Dialogue Mapping and Issue Mapping are techniques for getting at the deep structure of the conversations we inhabit. The process gives individuals, groups, and organizations a coherent container for the important and complex multi-stakeholder conversations that are so often stalled or avoided. Having a coherent container leads naturally to shared understanding and effective action while making sense of conflicting points of view and contradictory information.

People in organizations inhabit a set of conversations about their collective work, but they don't have any way to visualize and design the structure of those conversations. As a result the conversations are much less effective and coherent than they could be. What is missing is the ability to discern and visualize deep structure.

Just as buildings have a surface structure (walls, floors, doors, windows, etc.) with which the inhabitants casually interact, buildings also have a deep structure (wiring, plumbing, loads, ductwork, etc.) which determines how functional they are. Similarly, conversations have a surface structure—the sequence of sentences being made by the participants over time—and a deep structure—the underlying logical connections between the ideas being expressed.

An issue map describes the deep structure of an issue, just as a blueprint describes the deep structure of a building.

When you have access to the deep structure of an issue you can literally see how the pieces fit together. You can instantly see if an idea is new, redundant, or a shift in topic. You can see the questions that are being asked … and the ones that are missing. You can spot the proposals that make the most sense, and those that are weak, ill founded, or have hidden consequences.

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