Blog Post

Ted Talk Tuesday | Why You Should Dare to Disagree

Jeff Miller

Chief Learning Officer and Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness, Cornerstone OnDemand

This post is part of our monthly TED Talk Tuesday series, spotlighting can't-miss TED Talks and their key takeaways. You can learn more about our partnership with TED here.

According to Margaret Heffernan, it's only human to want to avoid disagreement and conflict. But the blogger, former CEO and television producer encourages you to do just the opposite in her two books. Heffernan challenges readers to push against their comfort zones for the sake of sparking important conversations and inciting positive change.

In her TED Talk, Heffernan discusses why inviting objection into our work can be a game changer. While we are biologically drawn to people who think like us, Heffernan questions the value of surrounding ourselves with liked-minded peers.

Watch the video below and read on for three key takeaways from her talk.

"It's a fantastic model of collaboration — thinking partners who aren't echo chambers."

Collaborators who challenge us and find the flaws in our methodology are crucial to doing good work. These are the working relationships that allow us and our work to grow and strengthen, but all too often we seek out people who we know will agree with us.

Organizations are even worse culprits of "group think" than individuals. When is the last time you were recruiting for a role, and actively sought out candidates who might not "fit the mold" of the job they were applying for? Bringing diversity of thought into an organization is the first step to creating a company culture where people are comfortable speaking up when they have a new different idea or see a flaw in an existing system or product.

"We have to be prepared to change our minds."

Part of seeking out opposition is being open to accepting it. Growth stems from listening to conflicting viewpoints and the flaws that they may highlight in our own arguments.

The biggest catastrophes that we've witnessed rarely come from information that is secret or hidden, Heffernan explains. In situations that go horribly wrong, we often have already been told the information we needed to to stop the problem, but we remained what she calls "willfully blind" to it all because we don't want to create conflict.

"Open information is fantastic, open networks are essential."

Our common fear of conflict also impacts speaking up in the workplace when something is wrong.

"In surveys of European and American executives, fully 85 percent of them acknowledge that they had issues or concerns at work that they were afraid to raise," Heffernan cites. People who have worked to find the best talent for their organizations will have difficulty engaging or retaining them if they don't question suspicious issues.

Creating an open network of communication that welcomes opposition makes for a functional and efficient work environment. Heffernan explains that this all takes practice to develop these skills—access to information alone isn't enough, it needs to be shared, accepted and discussed.

Photo: TED

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