Consider the Alternatives

A former boss of mine was fond of saying, “Controversy creates better decisions.”  She was fond of having someone play the “devil’s advocate” role in meetings.  That person was empowered to challenge whomever was championing something.  The key rule for the devil’s advocate was the challenge had to be based on facts or possible outcomes from the decision, not emotions or personal biases.

As my career has progressed, I have come to understand, more and more, how leaders begin to believe in their own infallibility.  I have written about confirmation bias before.  We look for information that supports our decisions.  We do not like to be wrong.  We certainly do not like to be questioned, let alone proven wrong, by someone below us in the hierarchy.

The Kavanaugh saga of the last few weeks illustrates the inability of our media and politicians to consider alternatives.  David Brooks wrote a compelling editorial in the New York Times.

I pulled out my favorite line:

People who don’t have regular contact with people they disagree with become intellectually dishonest quickly.

I would add “civilized” before contact to make this statement even more powerful.

We witnessed a lot of intellectual dishonesty in the last few weeks by both political sides.  Use their mistakes as a lesson.  When you are making decisions, ask someone for an alternative view.  You’ll end up making better decisions.

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