When Working Together Works

fortunecookieToday’s post is brought to you by a fortune cookie. No joke. Just recently, I visited a new Asian-themed restaurant in town, and as you might expect, I had my fortune told to me by a cookie.

My fortune?

Working Together Works

Okay, sure. I guess. Not really a fortune, per se, but certainly a nice idea. Yet, as I drove home from dinner, my “fortune” safely tucked away in my pocket, I pondered this bit of fortune-cookie-wisdom and found myself actually disagreeing, thinking of all the reasons why working together does not, in fact, work.

Not sure why my dial was turned to negative thoughts this particular evening. Maybe I was annoyed at being gypped out of an actual fortune by my cookie. Or, more likely, perhaps it was because I’d recently encountered a number of team situations that simply did not work.

What happened?

When Working Together Does Not Work

There are many barriers to teams working effectively, but one particular idea comes to mind: Working together does not work when everyone agrees.

I’ll admit, this seems counter-intuitive. I mean, don’t we want people to agree? Is agreement not important for moving a project forward? Sure, except when that agreement results in a less-than-great decision.

We’ve all seen it. The first idea thrown out by the most vocal, assertive, and confident team member is selected. Either because the other team members are still chewing on their own ideas and not ready to throw them into the mix, or because they are afraid of creating conflict by lobbing a second or third idea, implying the first one was not good.

Of course, by agreeing too quickly we run the risk of leaving new, innovative and possibly better ideas uncovered and unexplored.

So, how can we avoid agreement? Simple.

When Working Together Works


Some call it a “Devil’s Advocate.” Others, a “Dedicated Dissenter”, or “Challenger.” Whatever you call it, the idea is to publicly assign someone the job of disagreeing.

Their role is to, no matter what, disallow any kind of agreement. Only for a reasonable period of time, of course. They can’t go on disagreeing forever; nothing would ever get done.

By assigning this role you free everyone up from hard feelings.This certainly requires that everyone knows about it; no secrets here. Because when the challenger gets going everyone will think, “Okay, she’s just doing her job. Cool.”

The benefit of this dedicated dissenter is it forces the team members to think of more ideas and it invites multiple perspectives. Encouraging disagreement inspires critical thinkingFurther, it forces individuals to put forth and fight for their own ideas, yet also consider them from all angles.

By the time this period of “invited disagreement” ends (let’s say 20 minutes, for example), you should expect to find multiple thoughtful ideas on the table. And you can feel confident that a great idea is ripe for the picking.

Give it a try. Or don’t, if you don’t agree.

Okay fortune cookie, you win. I agree, after all. Working together does work, as long as we first agree to disagree.

[Images: lauramarcella.blogspot.com, hemeningilizce.com]

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