In every professional practice people share experiences in various formal meetings within organizations. There are also moments when one reflects upon what takes place informally: during a coffee break with colleagues, coming home and sharing success or frustration with one's family and friends. These kinds of conversations are often not looked upon as generators of knowledge because they are usually coloured by emotions. In the previous section I elaborated upon the fact that emotions contain important information for survival and well-being. This is precisely why they are necessary in processes of contextual reflexivity. To generate knowledge, conversation must take place and the emotions that form part of these conversations need to be contextualized. How to deal with new situations, with changed conditions and how to build knowledge from the variety of experiences, are questions that are a part of conversation in many places. Also, in what seems a standard procedure, situations change: new policies and accountability procedures are implemented, clients change, markets develop, organizations are reorganized.
On a basic level, in a large organization, a small company or in personal lives, the work of an actor is dependent upon the work of other actors. The success of an actor's work, which is the accomplishment of an act, is also dependent upon how one is capable as an actor of dealing with other actors. Other actors have other expertise, other working conditions, other authorities, other understanding of what has to be achieved. When connecting in mediated presence other actors may also live in a different culture, place and time. Actors regularly do not have attention for the situation that other actors are in. Ignorance, boredom, frustration, self-indulgence, humiliation, exploitation and other things can be the result of not devoting attention to the situation in which other actors are required to accomplish their tasks. Not acknowledging the situation in which another actor has to act can potentially seriously jeopardize the collaboration and the act itself. It may also block the thinking of all of the actors involved, and result in useless disagreements. Communication in such cases is seriously damaged. Here I understand the situation that an actor is in as a constellation of expertise, language use, working conditions, power and the inter-relations surrounding an act that one has to perform.
Where different practices collaborate, the different ways of thinking surface and this can easily lead to miscommunication. In disciplines where collaboration between different practices is needed, a great deal of the potential problems can be dealt with by a clear formulation of hierarchical and differentiated roles, results and responsibilities. In architecture, in film, in healthcare and many other areas of society these issues are solved by specialization, a clear division of labour that defines when who is meant to do what. Judicial systems have also formulated responsibilities and liabilities for many sectors. The moment that real trouble develops, collaboration becomes crucial for success. In such moments people are needed who understand each other's ways of working and thinking and can anticipate each other's skills, behaviour and solutions. One has to have an understanding of each other's ways of thinking. And each participant has to be willing to accept or to adapt to the evolving shared insights. In these processes constructive conversation is the vehicle that makes collaborations flourish or not. To better understand 'constructive' conversation, I will discuss the notion of contextual reflexivity below.