Successful agencies are shaped by effective disagreements.
We’re learning to argue smarter. Newsflash: It’s hard.
As users, how we get information and why we make our decisions is a fluid, non-linear, constantly changing process. As an agency, our clients’ challenges adapt in response to their customers, shifting business priorities around constantly.
Flexibility isn’t always pretty…
Adaptation is the hallmark of fluid, flexible systems, not rigid, sequential assembly lines, demanding collaboration, contributions, and points of view from multiple departments and disciplines at almost every stage of projects and partnerships. We’re blurring the lines of when, where, and how colleagues contribute to our work, whatever their title might be.
Fluidity among disciplines can create, if we’re doing it right, truly inspired work that reflects the sum of our individual skills and intelligence. But it also fundamentally challenges every individual in our agency.
Much of our projects’ successes depend on how effectively we disagree. True collaboration starts when we stop treating different points of view as threats.
…Neither is zero-sum thinking
Zero-sum thinking hurts our project teams, agency, work, our partners. We have to challenge our tendencies to treat different points of view as threats, treating our interactions as a zero-sum-game. My point of view has to win, therefore your point of view has to lose. For my perspective to be valid, yours must be wrong. Rather than actively listening and trying to learn from your point of view, I am actually mentally sharpening my argument to defend my position, as you’re explaining your own. We “listen” for our chance to talk. Dominant personalities often “win” at the expense of critical learnings from alternate points of view as our group decision making becomes a series win/lose conversations.
How we’re learning to argue (a shortlist)
- Disagreements are opportunities.
- We can consciously recognize and address our need to be right, to win, both in conversation and group dynamics.
- We can intentionally listen, rather than wait for chances to speak.
- By building complementary ideas on top of complementary ideas, we can explore different ways of thinking.
- Training for effective disagreement creates thoughtful outcomes and more successful businesses, agencies, and people.