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  • Writer's pictureRobert Stevenson

The Contrarian

Robert Stevenson Blog - Disagreement is healthy

A contrarian is a person who takes an opposing view, especially one who rejects the majority opinion.  A contrarian can also serve as a very useful tool when it comes to making decisions. At every management meeting, I would suggest you assign at least one person to be The Contrarian; even if they agree with your idea, make them try to shoot holes in it, find fault, or consider alternatives.

Challenges keep companies healthy. At each meeting you have, pick a different person to serve in the post of The Contrarian, because people have a tendency to start disliking a person if they are always the one trying to shoot down ideas.

Some managers / bosses / CEOs have instilled such an environment of fear that they seldom, if ever, have anyone question their ideas, policies, procedures, or methods. If no one is disagreeing, adding their two cents, or giving any “real” input at your meetings, you don’t need to have a meeting. You probably won’t be in business long either, if that’s the way you run a company.

Here are two examples of things that should have been challenged: (Source: Great Government Goofs by Leland Gregory)

  • One year, efficiency experts saved the Department of Defense $27 million; the efficiency experts charged the DOD $150 million for their work.

  • The El Paso, Texas, City Council approved $112,000 to retain a private security firm – to guard the city’s POLICE STATION. 

Someone should have stood up in those meetings and said – “Wait a minute"...

“We have better things to do with our money.”“This makes no sense.”“This is ridiculous.”“You’ve got to be kidding.”“Why?”

Never take offense from someone who is challenging your idea. Simple words like “Why” or “What if” can save a company, if asked at the right time. Great leaders see challenges as an invitation for the group to test, justify, explain, and prove the idea. They welcome vigorous dialogue and debate. They see argument and disagreement as catalysts to better solutions.

Always remember, when it’s not their own money, attitudes are more accepting of stupid ideas. Personally, I will take one Contrarian over a room full of “Yes” people; at least the Contrarian will force me to think.

One last point I would like to make: Once a decision is made, do everything you can to make it work, because only through a unified commitment can success be obtained.


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