Why do leaders surround themselves with “yes” people? Why do managers reward employees for thinking alike? Why do people tune into news that validates their existing beliefs? These statements beg the obvious question: Why do people need to confirm their own thinking? And what do they lose by limiting discussion and debate?
Some folks seek conformity because it’s easy and safe — they don’t want any surprises. Others restrict debate in the interest of time; they opt for the first answer rather than the best one to address a pressing issue. Yet other people suppress information, limit discussion, and restrict debate for a devious reason — to retain power and control.
When you suppress information, limit discussion, or restrict debate, you stifle personal growth, impede innovation, and cripple progress. If you want someone to agree with you all the time, get a bobblehead.
Are You Up for This Discussion?
In order for information to be useful, it must be factual, truthful, and error-free. Information must also be comprehensive, objective, relevant, timely, functional, and credible.
Discussion enables people with different backgrounds and experiences to participate in a rich exchange of thought. They listen to one another, hear each opinion, understand the underlying rationale, and determine if they’re in agreement. You’ll never know if your ideas are sound until they are challenged.
Debate encourages people to challenge viewpoints in a safe and open environment. This back-and-forth exchange exposes the strengths and weaknesses of an argument and emboldens everyone to either build on its merits or discard it. It also facilitates the understanding of opposing viewpoints and challenges everyone to consider various sides of an issue.
Knowledge Is the Lifeblood of Progress
How can you have a meaningful debate with people of similar backgrounds, experiences, and desires? How can you have a vigorous debate if participants lack objectivity and diversity of opinion? How can you come to meaningful conclusions if dissenting viewpoints are discouraged and frowned upon? The fact is, when you squelch discussion, silence opposing opinions, or shut off debate, conclusions are drawn from a limited perspective. Surrounding yourself with “yes” people is like talking to yourself.
If that’s the case, why do executives lock themselves behind closed doors rather than soliciting input from employees, since employees are the one’s closest to the customer? Why do politicians refuse to work across the aisle rather than seeking the best of both worlds? Why do universities bar those with divergent views from campus rather than facilitating the forum and letting students form their own opinions? And why do folks shout down, bully, and belittle those with whom they disagree — all in the name of progress? You don’t win a debate by suppressing discussion; you win it with a better argument.
If you want to stimulate innovation, encourage bold fresh ideas, or solve the world’s ills, it’s vital to venture outside your comfort zone by embracing vigorous discussion and debate. It encourages wide participation, enhances clarity, and leads to more effective solutions. Plus, you’ll discover that every new idea spawns additional ideas, which ultimately leads to progress. It’s exciting, it’s challenging, and it’s productive. If you’ve been listening only to those who agree with you, I have news for you: People thought the earth was flat for many years. Go out and explore new horizons.
Do You Encourage Debate?
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