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herBusiness - The Australian Businesswomen's Network Blog

Differing Perspectives: 3 Tips Towards a Creative Business Debate

By Janet Sernack

29 May 2012 | No Comments

sharing creative business ideas

One of the key comfort zone points that I developed as a result of spending most of my adult life in Australia, is to not ‘rock the boat’, or ‘make waves.’

Let’s take a moment to consider the whole subject of ‘debate’, and how it gets typically gets played out in Australia. In high school, debate tends to be perceived as a ‘contest’, or a ‘competition’, with ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. Each team represents a point of view and elegantly puts forward their case ‘for it’ or ‘against it’, the team with the ‘best’ or most convincing case, according to the judging panel, wins!

Even Australian governments debate their laws and policies, with each political party taking ‘sides’, playing this ‘win/lose’ and ‘denial/blame’ games. Even the language, ‘in opposition’ supports what is considered to be a very limited ‘right/wrong’ way of seeing the world.

In most organisations I have consulted to, in my 30 plus years of corporate experience, where ‘right/wrong’ perspectives thrive, it has now become culturally incorrect to be challenging, argumentative or ‘oppositional’. Conflict is avoided at all costs, and debates have become very polite and even tempered conversations. I have noticed that very few people seem to have the energy, confidence and the courage to really challenge the status quo.

The problem with this approach is that it eliminates possibilities, breakthroughs and creative ideas and inhibits innovation.

It seems that we no longer know how to be appropriately assertive and challenging in our communications. This hesitation and politeness creates a range of passive, frustrated and conventional responses to the questions that get asked. What is needed for innovation to occur is an active debate process that generates higher level ideas, not one which seeks to make one party ‘wrong’ and the other ‘right’.

Some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs deal with threats, instability and uncertainty, by taking a position of being consciously ‘in opposition’; to the organisation, its identity and deeply resisted complacency.

Successful entrepreneurs have developed unique ways of doing this that stimulates and generates ‘out of the box’ answers and unconventional solutions. They do this in ways that do not cause aggressive or passive defensive responses. Ideas and perspectives get challenged, dismissed and reinvented until high levels of ‘meta thinking’ are achieved.

Finally, generative debating has the power to be intentionally ‘disruptive’, which creates mindset shifts and generates innovative solutions, ideas and perspectives to problems that may have previously seemed impossible and insolvable.

So, if you would like to get the ball rolling to include more debate into your business: ask more questions, especially open and exploratory ones that don’t minimise and disengage the person you are interacting with:

  1. What would happen if...............? Pause and listen for their response. Keep on repeating the question until Meta thinking levels are achieved.
  2. Accept every suggestion someone presents, even if you don’t agree by stating “yes......... and....” Pause and listen for their response.
  3. When someone makes a suggestion, reply with “I like ...............and what if we....................” Pause and listen for their response. Repeat first question.

You may be surprised by the possibilities and opportunities that get generated when you accept differing perspectives!

Janet Sernack, ImagineNation

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Janet Sernack, ImagineNation

Janet Sernack

Janet has recently created an exciting new start-up company called ImagineNation, an imaginative, deviant and disruptive global learning consultancy that allows coaches, leaders, and organisations to dance in dis-equilibrium that occurs at the edge of chaos. At ImagineNation, we make innovation ever...


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