Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Naysayer vs. the Devil's Advocate

This article, by Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón, offers some useful advice for how to deal with the naysayer in your company who puts up roadblocks at every turn. However, you must also keep in mind the difference between a dysfunctional naysayer and a constructive/useful devil's advocate. In my first book, I contrasted effective devil's advocacy with what Lou Gerstner described as the "culture of no" that he inherited at IBM - where very powerful individuals, acting as naysayers, could effectively torpedo any innovative idea. The bottom line is that you can benefit from devil's advocates who help insure a high level of critical thinking. However, devil's advocates must remember that their job is to spur more divergent thinking, to open up new lines of inquiry, and to generate new options. Their job is not simply to tear down every existing proposal on the table. The best devil's advocate is not closed-minded; he or she seeks to open other's minds up to new possibilities.

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