How Do You Build a Culture of Healthy Debate?
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If you want to shift a culture the most effective way to do it is to change who you hire.
It’s far easier to hire for traits you need than to try to transform a person who doesn’t have them into someone that does. The more people in an organization that successfully demonstrate a trait, the easier it is for others to emulate and adopt it.
Healthy debate is easy if no one is taking the results personally.
Most heated debates involve people who have trouble separating their opinions from their identity. If I draw what turns out to be a bad idea on a whiteboard, in a healthy culture it’s reinforced that the idea is lame, but I’m not. I can still be smart and valuable.
Some people ask more questions, have more doubts, and are willing to act on them. They are harder to manage since they naturally challenge authority, but if you want assumptions challenged that includes the assumption of hierarchy.
If healthy debate is encouraged the results will be the best synthesis of different assumptions.
If you as the manager continually demonstrate that you are comfortable being challenged, or yielding your idea to a superior one suggested by a colleague or subordinate, everyone who works for you will emulate that behavior.
If you dismiss challenges or yell at people who challenge you, the culture of fear your behavior creates will dominate no matter who you hire or how great you proclaim it is to challenge assumptions.
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