Creating space for transformative conversations

Inter-cultural Dialogue

Two Ways of Knowing

Bridging the gap between circular and linear thinking

Project Objective

Two Ways of Knowing is led by Centre for Dialogue Fellow Kim Hudson. The objective is to design, implement and report on a novel negotiation and leadership tool that recognizes and incorporates two different ways of knowing that are common to the human experience: circular and linear thinking. This work will focus on relationships between First Nations and mineral extraction companies yet applies to a broad range of situations. The project will help participants to understand the value of both circular and linear thinking and develop strategies to move from one thinking style to the other.

About Circular and Linear Thinking

In the circular thinking process, there is trust that if all invested participants have been included and authentically share their views, the wisdom of the group will move them in a positive direction. After each step forward, reflection on the experience will guide the group in taking another step. The process is complete when there is a sense of balance among the expressed values of all the participants.

The linear process begins by defining a goal and designing a strategy that will move the group in incremental steps towards achieving that goal. Progress is tracked by measuring the completion of tasks in the plan against time. Focus is maintained by recognizing all impediments and distractions to progress as obstacles to be overcome. The process is complete when the goal is reached.

These are opposite drives of pulling in what you want more of and pushing back against what could be detrimental, and therefore function optimally when used separately. However, when used to complement each other, they create an essential balance.


Two Ways of Knowing research will include a review of existing literature and interviews with key representatives from First Nations, academics and the extraction industry. The results of this research will contribute to the development of a post-secondary course and the design and delivery of professional development workshops. The course will be aimed at the First Nations Governance and Policy Analysis Program and the Centre for Northern Innovations in Mining at Yukon College. The workshops will train participants from First Nations and the extraction industry, as well as other interested parties, to understand the value of both circular and linear thinking, and how this insight can be useful in development of corporate culture, social responsibility initiatives, communication strategies, structuring meetings, agreement negotiations and employment considerations.  

The combined results and feedback from classroom and workshop activities and literature research will contribute to the writing of a book that lays out the theoretical foundation and practical applications of the Two Ways of Knowing method. The book could be summarized as Getting to Yes meets Emotional Intelligence.