I often listen to Ted Talks in the car while driving. It is a great way to feed and stimulate my mind as I travel back and forth to various locations. Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to Margaret Heffernan’s talk, “Dare to Disagree.” Her presentation resonated deeply within me.
Here are some highlights (but PLEASE do yourself a favour and make sure to watch the entire presentation… it’s only 13 minutes long!)
“(For constructive conflict) we have to resist the neurobiological drive which means that we really prefer people mostly like ourselves.”
“The truth won’t set us free — until we develop the skills and the habit and the talent and the moral courage to use it.”
“If we aren’t going to be afraid of conflict, we have to see it as thinking.”
“So how do organizations think? Well, for the most part, they don’t. And that isn’t because they don’t want to, it’s really because they can’t. And they can’t because the people inside of them are too afraid of conflict.”
“In surveys of European and American executives, fully 85% of them acknowledged that they had issues or concerns at work that they were afraid to raise. Afraid of the conflict that that would provoke, afraid to get embroiled in arguments that they did not know how to manage, and felt that they were bound to lose. Eighty-five percent is a really big number.”
“The fact is that most of the biggest catastrophes that we’ve witnessed rarely come from information that is secret or hidden. It comes from information that is freely available and out there, but that we are willfully blind to, because we can’t handle, don’t want to handle, the conflict that it provokes. But when we dare to break that silence, or when we dare to see, and we create conflict, we enable ourselves and the people around us to do our very best thinking.”
Margaret’s talk speaks to a problem that’s well-entrenched in most of us: our unwillingness to face the truth. In a recent blog post (“Can You Handle the Truth?”), I pointed out that many leaders are afraid to measure and track the results of their organization for fear of what they may find. Let’s face it, it’s much more comfortable to live with the devil we know than the devil we don’t know.
I am convinced that it is this very refusal to “SPEAK and HEAR the truth” that is limiting growth and impact in organizations the world over. As leaders, we must take a courageous stand to surround ourselves with true thinking partners (and not echo chambers who simply tell us what we want to hear). Regardless of the type of organization you lead, creating a culture that encourages its members to “dare to disagree” will foster smarter solutions, more creative collaborations, and ground-breaking innovations. In this kind of environment, industry influencers and game-changers are more likely to emerge.
What about you? Who challenges your thinking? Who challenges the status quo? Do you have a true thinking partner?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Let’s have a conversation…