In praise of genuine dissenters – (instead of “fake dissenters” – devil’s advocates, playing a role) – Insight from Adam Grant, Originals


Adam-Grant-cover-OriginalsThe easiest way to encourage non-conformity is to introduce a single dissenter.
Adam Grant, Originals

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When I read a book that I plan to present at the First Friday Book Synopsis, I see ideas for blog posts jumping out from nearly every page. This has been especially true for Originals: How Non-conformists Move the World by Adam Grant. I’ve already written a few posts prompted by my reading of this book. Here’s another.

When someone says something, or proposes something – especially someone in power, especially someone at the top of the organization (like the CEO), people are prone to accept what is said without much question. In fact, this is true even if the statement or idea comes from a peer. We all crave acceptance, and we fear that dissenting will lead to rejection (even complete rejection, like losing our job).

But, if someone says or proposes something that is off-base, or wrong, or you suspect could turn out to be wrong, it is time to raise your voice in dissent. Dissenters make us think twice; dissenters can save us from some pretty big mistakes, even disasters.

At Bridgewater, the CEO Ray Dalio demands that people who think a dissenting thought speak up with that dissenting thought. Even if – especially if – that dissenting thought is aimed at him. He knows that he can be wrong like the rest of us.

In other words, watching someone’s back means speaking up in dissent when doing so might make the right kind of difference in avoiding a really wrong move.

So… this lesson from Mr. Grant’s Originals is this – learn to speak up in dissent. It might be the most valuable speaking up you can offer.

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I will present my synopsis of Originals this Friday, at the April 1 First Friday Book Synopsis.

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