Monday, June 06, 2005

Are You Right Every Time?

In the movie Lion King Pumbaa, Timon, and Simba are stretched out in the grass gazing at the night sky.
Pumbaa: Ever wonder what those sparkly dots are up there?
: Pumbaa. I don't wonder; I know.
Pumbaa: Oh. What are they?
Timon: They're fireflies. Fireflies that uh... got stuck up in that big... bluish-black... thing.
Pumbaa: Oh. Gee. I always thought that they were balls of gas burning billions of miles away.
Timon: Pumbaa, wit' you, everything's gas.
Truth matters little when we are certain of what we believe. At HBS Working Knowledge this article by Martha Lagace tells us to "start an argument" when we hear "yes" too often. That's a tough challenge... to seek out disagreement.

Partners at professional services firms become partners because they know the right answers. I'VE experienced success because I have good answers. We get used to being "right". Over time we become less able to learn new things simply because we are absolutely certain about what we believe we already know.

In the HBS article Martha states that we are creating our own limits by only listening for "yes". Disagreement sparks ideas, broadens our knowledge, and stimulates growth. Both for the individual and for the company (or firm).

Of course, this is not a call for people to be disagreeable. It's just a warning to all of us that hearing "yes" too often has its own set of traps. Maybe, from now on when I hear a "yes", I am going to ask, "why?"