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Business needs the rough as well as the smooth

Nissan had the innovative idea of hiring people in pairs. These are not similar pairs, but chalk and cheese. An example is a design pair, where one has the broad sweep approach and envisions the final result, while the other is a stickler for details. They might argue, and probably will, but the dual input has impact. Whereas one has the vision for something revolutionary in car design, the other points out what won't work. The creative one says Why not?" and the stickler for details thinks again. Sometimes, the boundaries of technology are stretched. Sometimes, the creative one has to accept more realism. Between them, they get an idea on paper into a car on the road. It gets developed because those designing it say No to each other.

Imagine two clones trying to move things forward. They nod at each other at each suggestion. It's quick, harmonious, and stays like that forever. It's stultifying. We actually need disagreement to make progress - but it's uncomfortable. People prefer to have their own views confirmed.

There are two bad ways of dealing with disagreement – pouring scorn, and bottling it up. Bottling up often comes to explosion in the end, and then the focus is on the fury. People rarely look for underlying causes in the midst of battle.
Most of our daily lives stem from things that were once vague and unusual ideas. Probably, the wheel was initially dismissed as a silly gimmick, but somebody carried on trying out different logs till they got it right. It's been the same for most of what we take for granted. We'd have no trains, phones, aeroplanes, cars or computers, if the early workers had been quelled by the cries of "it won't work."

Dealing with disagreement can be as important as dealing with the nuts and bolts. It takes an emotionally intelligent team to do this effectively. They feel the same tension as anyone else when they're contradicted, but they know it's just discomfort from being led away from the old familiar ideas. They can also see the excitement of the unfamiliar, even if it seems strange or downright quirky. They have confidence in each other, not just so that they can disagree, but also so they can listen to opposing views without feeling threatened.

Open disagreement can be a sign of good relationships.

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© Copyright 2003 Trans4mation. Reproduced with permission. Any opinions or views contained in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Training Reference.

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