Part 1 of 2, First published in November 2015…
Who challenges in organizations?
- People who have nothing to lose
- People who know that the art of challenging, equals not infuriating, annoying or putting people off.
- People who have the intellectual and/or moral power, credibility, and standing.
- Corporate useful idiots (mavericks, non conformists, radicals, rebels and self-appointed ‘different’, who are publicly exhibited by a non maverick, very conformist and non-radical-at-all organization as a sign of ‘diversity’ and open-minded innovation, although the activity of these fellows is always well under control and within reasonable non dangerous borders).
- Professional challengers, specialty not required (also known as Yes But gene carriers)
- People who want to improve things, get away from ‘the way things have always been done here’; usually passionate about the ‘surely, it must be a better way’. Gems, really.
- People ( and that includes consultants) who are not afraid to say what authorities may not want to hear.
- People who enjoy the intellectual discourse per se and play Chess with ideas. Full stop.
- People who have bosses who genuinely ask to be challenged, pushed back and who look for alternative world views.
- Combination and ‘others ‘ (so that my classification is complete)
The art of dissenting should be taught in management education. When we are asking for dissent or challenge, we don’t realise that our minds are saying don’t do it, conform, it is less risk, less anxiety, it’s survival.
Also too strong narratives tend to shut down the opposite, or simply alternative ones. People either conform or self-censor before daring to challenge. More to come on this.
To create a climate of openness and challenge we must go beyond words. Even beyond the ability to challenge itself. It has to do with understanding the consequences of challenging, positive or negatives.
Organizations sit somewhere in a cultural spectrum: discourage or forbid, accept, expect and promote. Where they say they are may not be where they actually are. Promoting challenge and dissent must come with a safe environment, a very visibly safe one.
Next: shutting down the opposites