Fred Dust on Making Conversation: Seven Essential Elements of Meaningful Communication

Fred Dust

Thanks to Screencastify for supporting this episode of the Getting Smart Podcast. 

On this episode of the Getting Smart Podcast, Tom is joined by Fred Dust, author of the new book Making Conversation: Seven Essential Elements of Meaningful Communication.

Fred is a former Senior Partner and Global Managing Director at the legendary design firm IDEO and in his new book he shows how to design conversations and meetings that are creative and impactful.

Let’s listen in as Tom and Fred discuss why design thinking is more important than ever, how to listen and what this means for schools.

We kicked off the conversation with “Why is design thinking more important than ever?” To which Fred said “I’m not interested in raising resilient children, I’m interested in creating courageous and creative children […] at the core of every conversation is thinking about making it a creative act […] At its simplest level: design is just thinking carefully about the things you put into the world. Something we should be doing more and more every day.”

He also said the following on how to make your way towards empathy, one of the first steps of the design thinking process: “If you get to love, you might get to empathy. If you get to empathy, you might get to understanding.

In the book, Fred highlights the “pillars of conversation.” We walked through a number of them during the podcast. They are:

  • Commitment
  • Creative Listening
  • Clarity
  • Context
  • Constraints
  • Change
  • Create

A huge part of conversation is authenticity: “Embrace all of the yous that are there […] What I’d rather be teaching our kids is authentically showing up.”

Fred also provided some tips for having difficult conversations with a partner who has a difference of opinion. He recommends saying “I have the power I’m going to pass it to you. What are some things you don’t want me to touch? What do you want to work on? Then pass the power back to me.” He also advised to not have conversations when you are hungry or tired and made the case for paying more attention to indigenous texts, wisdom and governance.

When asked how this should show up in class and curriculum, he said that oftentimes “little kids are already pretty good at this kind of dialogue.” Some skills that leaders and people can try to practice are implementing peaceful interruptions, getting familiar with your own voice and identifying with courage.

On how Fred keeps learning he says that he has an abundance mindset — meeting people, reading things. His mission is to tell the stories of people who have gotten through the hardest conversations of their lives creatively.

Key Takeaways:

[:08] About today’s episode with Fred Dust.
[:40] Tom welcomes Fred to the podcast and congratulates him on his terrific new book!
[:56] Fred shares his thoughts on why design thinking is now more important than ever before.
[2:55] Would Fred agree that almost every step of design-thinking involves a conversation or a set of conversations?
[5:58] Fred shares what prompted him to write his book, Making Conversation.
[9:58] Why does a good and clear conversation start with commitment?
[11:30] The second chapter of Making Conversation is on clarity. Fred elaborates on the importance of being metacognitive about what, how, and to whom you’re communicating.
[15:31] Fred gives his take on code-switching and whether or not it should be something that we’re teaching.
[19:32] The importance of being context-aware.
[20:55] What constraints have to do with conversations.
[23:24] About Screencastify, the leading K-12 screen recording solution.
[24:09] How education can teach conversations and real dialogue in high school.
[27:39] In writing, formative feedback is quite important. Is the same true for conversation? And if so, where and how should learners be getting formal or informal feedback on the way that they engage in dialogue?
[30:15] The most important place to learn the art of dialogue at the secondary level.
[32:15] Fred shares his thoughts on how we can educate the primary grades on dialogue.
[34:31] Fred discusses how we can approach reconnecting with kids as fall approaches.
[36:23] One conversation every kid should be having right now.
[36:42] How Valor’s Powered by Compass program engages students around the country in thoughtful dialogue.
[37:09] Tough conversations: how to have them.
[40:20] Fred shares his personal mission and how he continues his learning.
[41:52] Who should read Fred’s book, Making Conversation.
[42:40] Tom thanks Fred for joining the Getting Smart Podcast.

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Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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