Dialogic regulation : the talking cure for corporations


University of British Columbia

Date Issued


Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy - PhD




The corporations of our future will be whatever we can collectively imagine and work together to make a reality. Dialogic law and regulation is a generative tool that can build the bridge between the present and an imagined future. Regulators keep people on the bridge by identifying the kinds of dialogues we want corporate actors to have and by encouraging, coaching, and sometimes assisting them to have those dialogues. This approach works because small changes in the way corporate actors talk to and interact with each other can have dramatic effects on the emergent corporate culture. This thesis develops and tests a theory of Dialogic Regulation. The theory assumes that corporate law and regulation is about attaining or maintaining a desired corporate behaviour, the best way to change behaviour is to learn a new one, and learning is a social process that involves dialogue. The model was tested using an experimental game where the rules of the game were treated as proxies for the “law” and the authority figure directing the experiment was treated as a proxy for the corporate “regulator”. The game was called the “Pay-Off” game. Half-way through the game the rules were changed using one of three different regulatory techniques: 1) Rules: a simple rule change, 2) Audit: a rule change combined with an audit and punishment procedure for infractions, and 3) Dialogic: a rule change combined with a dialogic intervention about the rules. Participants were tested not only for their behavioural reactions to the interventions (Compliance to the rules) but also to determine if they learned anything about the rules (Adherence to the rules). The games experiment showed that for simply behavioural outcomes the Audit Based Regulation approach was the most effective. The experiment also showed that there is significant promise in a Dialogic Regulation approach if the regulatory desire is to have participants learn. While Dialogic Regulation shows promise, a lot more work needs to be done to refine the application of the theory before it is used in real-life regulatory settings.

Date Available



Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada




Law, Faculty of