Saturday, June 11, 2005

HBS Working Knowledge: Leadership: Don't Listen to "Yes"

If people smile, nod, and say 'yes' at your company, maybe it's time to start an argument. According to HBS professor Michael Roberto, the lack of good, constructive conflict within an organization makes it that much harder to accurately evaluate business ideas and make important decisions.

"Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer: Managing for Conflict and Consensus (Wharton School Publishing)" looks at the results of not creating an atmosphere where disagreement is encouraged and explored. On the premise that constructive conflict, when leveraged well, surfaces more information, Roberto outlines steps to spark positive conflict (emphasis always on "positive"), hear all views and then make decisions. 'Keeping conflict constructive helps to build decision commitment, and therefore facilitates implementation,' says Roberto.

Hmmm...we know that inclusion, encourages participation and participation builds commitment. Exclusion creates resistance and unconstructive criticism - imagine all those left out people standing on the side lines, arms folded and yelling at the referee.

In the context of the "Wisdom of the Crowd", maybe there is a role for a caring devils advocate who's sole job is to make sure that "group think" means that the group is really thinking? Maybe uncontested concensus is a slippery slope to complacency and on to entropy...hmmm.


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