Leaders Must Dare to Disagree

Conflicting Ways

There is almost always more than one way to accomplish a task, solve a problem or create a product.  Do you seek alternative ideas that disagree with your approach?  Do you dare to disagree with others?

Below is a link to a TED Talk by Margaret Heffernan on the ability to pull the best from those around us.  She uses the example of a woman doctor, Alice Stewart, in the 1950’s that discovered a link between x-rays of pregnant women and childhood cancer.  This was radical thinking for the time and was not welcomed or acted on for years.  Margaret goes on to show how Alice worked to prove she was right by having someone prove she was wrong.  Alice welcomed disagreement and actively sought it so that she would have confidence in her theory.

The idea of asking people to disagree is shocking and uncomfortable to most of us.  It’s conflict on a very personal level.  However, if everyone agrees then how do we minimize risk, reduce errors or find a better way to solve a problem.  When no one challenges decisions or ideas flaws become ingrained and are harder to eliminate later.  Disagreement can spark creative thinking and new solutions.  As leaders we should be asking those around us for ideas and suggestions about what can be done better/ differently.  Group think is mediocre at best but creative disagreement leads to superior results.

To get this going in your organization ask your team:

  • What could go wrong if we do this?
  • Do you see potential problems?
  • How can this be better?
  • What are the risks associated with this?
  • Do you see room for error / mistakes?
  • How would you do this differently?
  • What is unclear to you about this?
  • Can we make this easier or simpler to do?

These are just some of the possible questions that will help open the door to new ideas and improving projects and/or products.  Give your team the permission to disagree with you and each other.  The result will be better options and reduced risks.  Make sure that the environment for disagreement is professional and respectful of each person’s contribution so that everyone feels valued not judged.

Dare to disagree and see where it will take you and your team.

Margaret Heffernan – Dare to Disagree

How do you spark the creative process in your team?

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Filed under Leadership, Team Building

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