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Leaders and managers can stifle the productivity of groups or spark creativity

Chapter 4 Disagreement needs to be ingrained in the culture of organizations


The behavior of people within organizations can stifle the effective interaction within groups, particularly the behavior of the leaders and managers:

  • Conflict avoidance: organizations that avoid conflict in general, tend to hire, reward and promote people who think alike. New ideas are rare because only familiar ideas survive.
  • Hands-off management of diverse groups: organizations that fail to recognize that a diverse group can get locked into disagreement if not handled in the right way.

A diverse group will have diverse styles of working and communicating. For these people to work productively together, they need clear rules of engagement .

Ed Catmull Share this expert EC Ed Catmull believes that managers need to loosen controls, accept risks, trust the team, break down barriers, eliminate anything that creates fear. He tells the story of the long boardroom table at Pixar, which he believes created ingroup in the center, while people on the outside felt more like spectators to the conversation. Needless to say, the table was replaced.

A manager must provide a safe environment for disagreement, but also ensure disagreements don’t get ugly. Some methods for achieving this:

  • Safe: Exploration of differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment.
  • Diversity: Include people with opposing views in the team.
  • Framing: Set the context as one of uncertainty where challenge and debate are required to find the best answers.
  • Openness: Acknowledge that your ideas and opinions can be wrong and demonstrate a willingness to change your mind.
  • Curiosity: Asking a lot of questions creates a necessity for people to speak up.
  • Rules of Engagement: Clear ground rules on how to participates and expectations of what it takes to win the argument.
  • Communicate: the reasons for the decision, so the “losers” are not disappointed and can get behind the decision to help implement it.
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