Book Club – In Defense of Troublemakers: The Power of Dissent in Life and Business

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I’ll admit I bought In Defense of Troublemakers to find validation for advocates. Our job is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” But the book goes much farther. It makes the case that dissent is critical to good decision-making. Our society values consensus – it makes people happy and gets to decisions far quicker. But the book uses studies and real-world evidence to demonstrate that suppressing different opinions comes with a cost. Examples include the Bay of Pigs disaster, plane crashes, and doctors who don’t seek out or tolerate different diagnoses. Dissent improves the quality of decisions, even when the dissenter is wrong. It must be authentic dissent, voiced by someone who truly believes in a divergent opinion, and the process must allow a full and respectful consideration of their position.  The author argues for decision-makers everywhere to welcome, even seek out dissenting opinions. He also recommends that we all stop prioritizing appeasing others and get comfortable with respectfully disagreeing. Sure, sometimes someone will be annoyed, but you will all be better for it. Mark Twain said, “Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform – (or pause and reflect).”