When we are convinced that we are right then we close ourselves off to criticism or to dissenting voices and opinions.
The results can be devastating.
A report on the Fukushima nuclear disaster has stated that the crisis was caused by
““Our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with program’; our groupism; and our insularity”
For the full article see the Fukushima Crisis “Made in Japan” from the Financial Times.
What does this teach us?
Organisations which do not allow dissenting views run the risk of crisis.
Dissenting views can serve to test strategy and decision making. They do not, of themselves, question authority although closed authorities can easily perceive dissent in such a light. When permitted dissenting views can support and assist authority and leadership.
There is often a general reluctance to question or to call out issues that we may perceive. This can fall under conflict avoidance – not wanting to rock the boat or to be seen as a troublemaker or insubordinate.
Speaking out and stepping into these conflicted spaces takes courage. We need to be able to raise our hands and say “You know what, I’m not so sure about this…”
Instead, “sticking with program and groupism” proves to be much more alluring.
It can feel safer to stay with the herd, even as it runs itself off the cliff. We assume that they know what they are doing. They could not all be wrong after all, could they? And out of all of us, surely someone else has already raised the question that has sprung to my own mind.
The danger of this self destructive, conflict avoidant compliance is perhaps increased in these current times of perceived scarcity.
If we perceive a scarcity of jobs and a threat, no matter how slight of cuts or redundancies, then it is natural perhaps that we should look to be even more quiet and compliant. After all, if we were to highlight a critical flaw in process or regulation and call it out, would we not be marking ourselves as troublemaker?
Organisations need debate. They need to address the opposing views and invite them out, explicitly, as a means of testing and refining policy. As long as we allow ourselves to be deluded that we are right, then we run the risk of being blindly, catastrophically, wrong.
Doubt, debate and dissent could well be your best leadership allies.