Conversation Design is Product Management

Daniel Stillman, conversation design facilitator and author of Good Talk, discusses what conversations are made of, and how organizations can design productive and collaborative conversations that help leaders, teams, and people work better together.

People engage in conversation all day long, at work and in life, from big meetings to small interactions.

Daniel Stillman, author of Good Talk, designs conversations for a living—but he insists we all do too, whether we know it or not.

“I quote my mom all the time. She’s like, ‘Daniel, I don’t want to always design my conversations.’ And I’m like, ‘Mom, not designing is a design choice.’ It is a choice to not design the conversation,” Daniel says. “We are always designing the conversation. We're living out the patterns that someone else has given us, either thoughtfully or not. Every good pattern we've learned from someone else.”

Daniel works to break people out of those patterns, helping leaders, teams, and organizations design productive and collaborative conversations that matter. And in an era where most teams are working remote and connecting over Zoom rather than in person, it’s exactly the moment that it’s needed the most.

“That’s one of the things I’m excited about right now. Many people are realizing that our default designs don’t work very well in this new place, this digital place where we have to be all the time,” Daniel says. “And we have to be so much more intentional in this new place. And isn't that great? An opportunity to do things on purpose and to think about why we're doing them.”

According to Daniel, there are nine elements that make up a good conversation—invitation, interface, cadence, people, threading, goals, power, turn-taking, and error and repair—and those fundamental principles are the difference between connection and friction.

“I think conversations are important. I want people to be reflective practitioners of conversations, both at work and at home,” Daniel says.

In this episode, you’ll learn a lot about collaboration, communication, and conversation design.

Here are the highlights: 

  • What is conversation design? (5:49)
  • How to approach conversation design in an organization (8:43)
  • The difference between conversation design and facilitation (12:43)
  • Advice for having productive conversations while working remote (18:52)
  • How to use “Conversation OS” to shift the direction of conversations (30:07)

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