Last week’s events at The Capitol in Washington DC were both shocking and entirely predictable in roughly equal measure. I believe the riot was stoked by Donald Trump’s words and direct encouragement, both on the day and over the past few months. But mob’s actions reflect a broader malaise: we are increasingly unable to engage with people with different points of view.
Social media, in particular, has developed homogeneous echo chambers where like-minded people build one-sided and prejudiced views of the world. It’s not just online where this happens, though. Creating safe spaces at universities, so that people who feel marginalized can share their thoughts, simply leads to a reduction in free speech and an inability to robustly debate different ideas and points of view.
The result of these trends is that people with a different perspective are increasingly seen as a threat. They are viewed as evil and dangerous – they are an enemy. In this environment debate is impossible, compromise is a weakness and any change of position is a betrayal.
Yet different points of view are critical to the development of great ideas. Indeed, the US constitution – so freely quoted by The Capitol’s rioters – was the result of decisions and compromises that were developed over several years of rigorous debate and argument by the founding fathers.
It’s the same in business; the best decisions and innovations are created in the crucible of transparent testing, analysis and examination. While leaders need to make clear decisions, and avoid fudging the big calls, they rarely achieve the best outcome without first encouraging different perspectives and managing healthy levels of conflict.
Walt Disney’s creative vision, for example, was only made real as a result of his collaborative conflicts with Roy, his down-to-earth brother and partner. More recently, Google has found that ‘harnessing the power of diverse ideas’ is the most important dynamic in creating effective teams.
The mob’s behaviour at The Capitol is a warning to us about the dangers of one-sided thinking and tribal loyalties. Avoiding genuine debate and disagreement is anathema to both political and business progress and success.
How well does your organization enable, encourage and manage diverse opinions so that you can achieve the best possible results?
Off The Record: We Can Work It Out by The Beatles
Think of what you’re saying
You can get it wrong and still you think that it’s alright
Think of what I’m saying
We can work it out and get it straight, or say good-night
We can work it out! We can work it out!
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© Stuart Cross 2021. All rights reserved.