Two heads are better than one, and many heads are even better, especially when everyone is willing to share their expertise and opinions.

Conflict isn't the reason companies fail; they fail because of “organizational silence” that stems from the fear of conflict. This is the same reason that, if you’re looking for signs that a romantic couple is about to split, “not talking” is a better leading indicator than “fighting a lot.”

While different thinking and disagreements can be uncomfortable, they are more likely to lead to making progress and breakthrough solutions than consensus and “nice” conversations in which people hold back what they think.

The trick is to not get sucked into trying to “win” so we look good, which leads us to ignore logic and evidence that go against our beliefs. Change this dynamic by debating diverse ideas and arguing honestly for and against the merits of ideas.

Debates fall into one of three categories:

  1. The kind where the goal is to persuade people you are right.
  2. The kind where the goal is to look better than your opponent.
  3. The kind where the goal is to find better solutions together.

The third is the one that helps us get the most out of a group’s cognitive diversity. Kick off discussions with a shared goal, and remember, the key to breakthrough problem solving isn’t getting along well. It’s not getting along — well.


Inspired by: Harvard Business Review - How to Debate Ideas Productively at Work, by Shane Snow