Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., famed chairman of General Motors in its heyday, has been attributed with saying the following at a top committee meeting:
‘Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here.’ Everyone around the table nodded in assent. ‘Then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.’
Unanimity is overrated. Dissent is an essential ingredient in developing thoughts and ideas. Disagreement will present alternatives to the obvious solution. It will challenge the conventional thinking, and force people to carefully consider and examine their position. If you don’t believe that your ideas, plans, arguments, briefs, etc. are able to handle the internal disagreement within your own office, then how are they going to react when they hit the real world?
Organize dissent. Nurture it, develop it. Certainly there is a time when dissent is to be put aside and a plan of action moves forward. However, to move forward without ever having faced dissent within your own office is fool-hardy.