A conversation tool for civility and knowledge integration: ‘a conversation model that combines dialogue and (self)facilitation for civility and creativity in a fragmented world.’


  • Katrina Pugh Director, Blue Standard, Oceanic Global, USA https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8455-6273
  • Nara Altmann School of Professional Studies Information and Knowledge Strategy (IKNS), Columbia University, USA


conversation, dialogue, methods, civilty, knowledge integration, knowledge co-creation, polarization, facilitation


Conversation can be a vehicle for human flourishing, with its ability to invite expression, generate and translate ideas, and build enduring relationships. On the other hand, conversation can be filled with the rancor so prevalent in our media and civic arenas. While unconscious bias, conversation-fears and time-pressures may lead us to prefer the act of fleeing over engaging, certain ways of thinking and communicating can help us improve our conversations’ productivity and knowledge integration. This is good for the group, and for our own mental health. The Five Discussion Disciplines (5DDs), derived from the sciences of dialogue, facilitation and traditional wisdom, equip participants to converse with respect and impact. The 5DDs are also easy to learn and observe. In this article, we observe the common gaps in conversation skills and self-confidence, we describe the 5DD model for productive conversation, we illustrate conversation impacts through examples, dos and don’ts, and case studies; and we provide action strategies for individuals and leaders. We end the article with a plea for further research. Finally, we invite the reader to join a community committed to improving conversation for civility and knowledge integration.

Author Biographies

Katrina Pugh, Director, Blue Standard, Oceanic Global, USA

Katrina Pugh PhD is a conversation and natural language processing (NLP) researcher and consultant. She is the Director of the Blue Standard at Oceanic Global. Katrina has worked in the sustainability, international development, healthcare, energy, information technology, and financial services sectors. She held knowledge management-related leadership positions with Intel Corporation, JPMorgan, and Fidelity Investments. As President of AlignConsulting, she specializes in business planning and network strategy. In addition to AlignConsulting, Katrina consulted as part of EY, Monitor-Deloitte, Oliver Wyman, PwC, and Dialogos, Inc. Katrina has been an adjunct faculty member with the Information and Knowledge Strategy (IKNS) program at Columbia University School of Professional Studies since 2011. She teaches ‘the Science of Communities and Networks’ and volunteers extensively in the work of students and alumni. She was Academic Director for the IKNS program from 2012-2017. She has a BA in economics from Williams College, an SM/MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a PhD in ecology and environmental science from University of Maine, USA.

Nara Altmann, School of Professional Studies Information and Knowledge Strategy (IKNS), Columbia University, USA

Nara Altmann PhD is a knowledge strategist who merges collaboration, data integration, and analysis to cultivate knowledge sharing and drive process improvement, innovation, and transformative change. She serves as a lecturer in the Columbia University School of Professional Studies Information and Knowledge Strategy (IKNS) program, focusing on collaboration concepts. Nara initiated her career as a chemical engineer in the petrochemical industry in Brazil, later working as researcher of rheologically complex fluids in Australia, executive managing director and partner for an engineering services company in Chile and Brazil, and project manager in engineering design in the US. Beyond her engineering roles, she co-founded a grassroots group striving for equity and inclusion in schools and actively participated in a coalition for youth health in Douglas County, Colorado, USA. She currently serves on the committee for the Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education Program in Colorado. She holds a BSc in Chemical Engineering from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, a PhD in Chemical Engineering from The University of Queensland, Australia, and a Master’s in Information and Knowledge Strategy from Columbia University School of Professional Studies.


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