Friday, December 3, 2010

Disagree and Build

I have got over the discomfort of agreeing.  There are times I disagree.  I needed to find a way to disagree without creating bad feeling.  If the disagreements are handled poorly, I felt that I will be judged as not supportive.  I wanted them to know I disagree but will continue to find a way to meet the objective.
I observed the participants and their interactions in many meetings.  Everyone was focused on the topic.  There were times when an idea is attacked.  But the presenter of the idea did not feel attacked.  I looked upon this exchange with wonder.  My culture indicated to me that an attack is an attack.  If you attack my idea, you attack me.  Participants in these meetings can discredit an idea and debate to great length the merits of the disagreement.  At the end of the meeting after all the argument, the parties that were on opposite side of the issue were chatting and laughing together.  It amazes me that there were no ill feelings.

I learned much observing them.  At the end of their debate the original idea evolved into a stronger one.  The original idea was built into one that everyone accepted.  This was wonderful.  It looks like I am painting a rosy picture.  There were times when things don’t go well.  Usually it is when the proposer felt attacked and did not want to budge from the proposed idea. 

The key is Building an idea.  I started with agreeing.  Now I learned how to agree and build.  I learned to make statements like, “That is a wonderful idea and should work well in Asia.  It will work even better if that is translated into local languages.  Thus, providing a budget for translation will ensure a successful implementation.”  After a short discussion on translation, the conversation moved to which languages and amount to budget.  It is not a debate of the need for translation.

So how do we DISAGREE?  For me, Build is again the key ingredient.  My observations led to conclude that I cannot just disagree and stop at that.  People expect an alternative – a build.  If you can’t find a build, then you may have to drop the disagreement.  It could mean that your knowledge of the topic is not deep enough or your conviction is not strong enough.

In a meeting on a development of a learning program that will be rolled out globally, there was a discussion of what motivates a person to act.  The case example was that both the TV set and the fridge broke down at the same time.  To make matters worse, the Super Bowl is televised live the next evening.  You had enough money to replace one.  Which one would you?  I disagreed with the example to be used.  I said something like, “I think a case study to force a person to a difficult decision is important to the program but to the audience in most countries in Asia, Super Bowl has no significance and an overwhelming number will select replacing the fridge over the TV.  This defeats the intent of making a difficult decision and a deeper understanding of the person’s need.  I suggest that we redesign this portion to enable local customization.  For instance, we may use a situation of a fridge and buying tickets home for the Spring Festival family reunion. In another country, we may use the World Cup with the fridge.

This conversation turns out to be more pleasant than just saying it doesn’t work without offering an alternative.  So, to DISAGREE, I learned to AGREE; then AGREE and BUILD; and finally DISAGREE and BUILD.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for reading this post. I appreciate your comments, reactions and suggestions.