I’ts been a while since I’ve done Word of the Day. Today’s word is dissent.
I think dissent is pretty important. It’s baked into the democratic system, sure, but I think it’s just as important as a business concept. In business school we talked a lot about alignment, about getting everybody moving in the same (right) direction, and about brand, about getting everybody telling the same story in the same way. But how do organizations determine the right direction and the right story in the first place?
I think dissent – productive dissent – is one way. If you don’t experiment, you’ll never discover new ways of doing things, and if you don’t make space for dissent in your organization, I think you’re a lot less likely to innovate or find creative solutions to problems. If nobody asks the inconvenient questions like “why are we doing this?” or “what would happen if we stopped doing this?” how will an organization advance? Dissent must have a logical end, at which point an organization comes to agreement or consensus and has to bind together to get things done, but it must never go away for long.
Organizations with strong cultures and organizations that are mission-based can be more effective for having those attributes, but they also risk groupthink and hiring people who are too like-minded, even those that have “challenge assumptions” up on their mission statement. As the definition says, dissent is voicing opinions contrary to those “previously, commonly or officially held.”
Just as dissent makes democracy stronger, I think it’s vital to organizations. Nothing is too obvious not to be discussed, explored or tested. A lot can be accomplished and discovered when smart people engage in respectful but otherwise unrestrained debate. I for one, welcome it.