JS Tip 424: Dissent and Decision-making, Part Two

From the Leadership Workshops: Dissent and Decision-making, Part Two

We began this discussion last week. Recent events in the United States demonstrate the relationship between dissent—disagreement—and authority in decision-making. 

This is an edited reprint of a Jefferson Smith Newsletter article from the summer of 2008.

According to Garry Emmons in “Encouraging Dissent in Decision-making,” our “natural tendency to maintain silence and not rock the boat, a flaw at once personal and organizational, results in bad—sometimes deadly—decisions.”


Emmons stresses four concepts:

  1. All organized human groups are susceptible to suppression of views deemed contentious or disruptive to an organization’s foundational beliefs.
  2. Decisions are seldom better for silence, and overcoming that [silence] is a key task for the leader of any organization.
  3. Candor should be rewarded and incentives designed to encourage opposing points of view.
  4. An aware, open, and inquiring senior team is critical to sound decision-making.*

Different ideas are not insubordinate ideas. Dissent—and the arguments that answer dissenting opinions—strengthen decision-making.

What are your questions? 

What are your disagreements? 

We love this stuff.

*The list is a direct quote from Emmons. His article was published in Working Knowledge, the Harvard Business School newsletter, on October 1st, 2007. It’s available on the internet.

Mark Brooks