Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Looking for an honest debate?


Are you looking for an honest debate? It's actually not a rhetorical question. Sometimes, we want to play with loaded dice, and we don't want the other guy to know.

But, for now, let's say you want to get an honest debate on some trade you have to make in the project. And so, you put up the trade space and ask for the debate.

How to proceed?

Michael Schrage, writing in the HBR Blog Review, posits this:
If your organization is having an important argument that gets everybody hot and bothered, don’t encourage compromise or collaboration. Insist that the most passionate and articulate advocates from each side make the other’s case.

Force the best and the brightest to publicly demonstrate just how well they understand the other.  
Does this really work? Schrage gives us Gladwell as an example:
Malcolm Gladwell of bestselling Tipping Point and Outliers fame proposed a delightfully provocative way to begin his onstage debate with Sports Gene author David Epstein about whether practice or genetics is the better guarantor of professional success.

But instead of launching directly into argument, said Gladwell, they’d start by summarizing their opponent’s best arguments. The exceedingly careful, precise and thoughtful characterizations of each other’s position that followed proved remarkably entertaining and informative.
And finally, Schrage tells us:
Managers and executives confronting serious strategic, operational or cultural disagreements on issues that matter should insist that their people be able to convincingly make their opponents’ case. This is not a joke, a gimmick or an intellectual exercise. It’s a public declaration of integrity: Fairly presenting a 360-degree view — both sides of a polarizing argument or wedge issue — is essential to honest and honorable discussion.

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