Learning Through Disagreement

by Mike Shipulski

Learning Through DisagreementIt’s a little-known fact that you can disagree and still be a team player. (Really, it’s true.) It’s okay to disagree, but it should be done effectively. (Disagreement is not argument.) And disagreement can be a great source for learning. I learn most deeply from smart people I disagree with.

As a self-declared smart person, I hold my thinking in high regard. (To advance a cause confidence in your thinking is needed.) However, like with most things, there should be balance: confidence in your thinking tempered with healthy self-examination and respect for others’ thinking. There are a lot of smart people out there, people with different life experience, training, and education. Just the folks to learn from. (Different is not inferior or incorrect, it’s just different.)

It’s a struggle to get the balance right. Hold fast? Give a little ground? Change your thinking altogether? There’s no right answer, just the conviction that it’s best to move toward balance.

Trust and mutual respect are keys to our migration toward balance. Trust helps us start deep dialog. It feels safe to initiate when there’s confidence the disagreement comes from a thoughtful, unselfish place. Mutual respect keeps the dialog going – no low blows, just shared thoughts, experiences, and data.

With trust and mutual respect, healthy disagreement has time to blossom into fuller, deeper understanding – a credit to you and the important people in your life.

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Mike ShipulskiDr. Mike Shipulski (certfied TRIZ practioner) brings together the best of TRIZ, Axiomatic Design, Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (2006 DFMA Contributor of the Year), and lean to develop new products and technologies. His blog can be found at Shipulski On Design.

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  1. Different opinions lead to different ideas, which is why it is always a good thing to have disagreements.But a lot of people in a position of power manage to (unconsciously) surround themselves with yes-men, cheerleaders so to speak, because they dislike being disagreed with. When such is the case, there is no room for other opinions (valid or invalid). Hence it is important to create an environment that allows people to express themselves freely (in a civil manner, of course, and within the rules of office decorum!)

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