Courage of Dissent — The Lost Art of Constructive Dissent in Workplaces: Encourage Honest Open Disagreement…

Dissent plays an important role in any organization, it’s an expression of disagreement or contradictory opinions about all sorts of issues, e.g.; practices, policies, people, decisions… However, dissent can also lead to conflict, and as a result many organizations send a clear message that dissent is discouraged… According to John T. Garner; there’s only one problem with dissent; many people don’t want to hear it, and others worry that expressing dissent will cause them to be seen as negative, or that it simply won’t make a difference…

However, recent studies show that dissent serves as an important monitoring force in organizations… According to Jacob Bronowski; organizations never die from dissent, but many die from  conformity… Every organization should have their own dedicated ‘dissenter-ist’; a person(s) who boldly criticize things, which others don’t feel empowered to speak-up about. According to Amy Edmondson; the mantras, ‘don’t rock the boat’ or ‘you get along by going along’… seem very outdated in the sophistication of modern workplaces, yet they are still considered sound advice… Authentic dissenters, people who truly believe in their dissenting opinions are crucial to promote different ways of thinking…

In the article Constructive Dissent by Dennis F. Strigl writes: An open-workplace environment is one in which all employees can speak their minds without fear of reprisal. An open environment is crucial for building trust in organizations… Employees must not only feel free to express their ‘real’ thoughts but also encouraged to do so– all voices must be heard and leaders must consider all opinions especially from dissenters… One approach in creating an open-work environment is the concept of the ‘obligation of constructive dissent’, which means that all employees not only have right to disagree but obligated to do so…

In other words, when someone in the organization has a different opinion that person is required to say so… When leaders encourage ‘constructive dissent’, employees understand that their opinions are valued. They know the leader wants to hear their ideas. They know the leader wants to do the right things for right reasons. When employees have ‘obligation to constructively dissent’, the organization is more effective and better able to work as a team… It benefits the entire organization– customers, employees, shareholders…

In the article Importance of Dissent by Brit Meredith writes: Today’s workforce is about teamwork, group work, collaboration… With such strong emphasis on working in groups and being a team player, it can be difficult to voice dissent or disagreements with the direction a project is taking– no one wants to rock the boat, be perceived as out of step with the group, be labeled ‘difficult,’ or become disliked… However, voicing dissent can be crucial to group’s overall success… It can keep the project on course and yield creative and unique results. After all, the purpose of any group is to come up with the best solution– not just an adequate or mediocre solution…

Anyone who has ever worked as member of a group or team (which is pretty much everyone in today’s workforce) knows how easy it can be to keep quiet and not voice concerns or disagreements with direction that a project is taking… Keeping quiet is easy and it’s safe– you don’t risk drawing anyone’s ire, and you don’t lengthen an already interminably long meeting, and you don’t make yourself easy target… Many people think of dissent and disagreement as being antithetical to the group, and mistakenly believe that disagreement is same as discord or negative relationships among group members; but that’s not the case…

Group work is about each member bringing their own unique approach to a situation or project– each member brings something different to the table and, by necessity, that means there will be differences. These differences and disagreements in approach are vital to crafting a truly creative solution– it’s essential not to confuse dissent and disagreement with discord and failure… Ultimately, dissent and disagreement are integral to the success of group work…

Clearly, voicing dissent and disagreement is important– it’s an essential part of any group work, but how it’s done is equally important. As a member of a group, you must be conscious of how your actions and behaviors affect your coworkers… So when you voice dissent– which you should– be sure that you do it in a way that is respectful of the efforts of the group, but also highlights potential problems at hand… Voicing dissent (appropriately) is about creating a group dynamic that allows for uninhibited exchange of ideas and opinions– the results of which can enhance and achieve a more successful outcome…

Organizations needs not less, but more opposition and dissent… According to Dan Sanchez; dissent is a virtue, and ‘No’ is a beautiful and profoundly important word; ‘No’ as in ‘No’ means ‘No’… Dissent is righteous resistance, it’s not a disorder or even a vice, but a virtue and necessary for achievement... According to Nasrin Shahinpoor; when organizations oppose dissent, they create a difficult and toxic work environment… Hence, leaders must distinguish between principled dissent from other forms of critical opposition… but they must also perceive a dissenter as an important organizational voice and valued employee… 

The dissenter, like the whistle-blower, is often highly motivated and desires to contribute to an organization’s well-being. Recognizing and protecting dissent is critical for success of an organization, and valuable part of leadership. When dissent is managed well, it permits different voices to be heard and evaluated in interest of doing what is right for the organization…

When dissent is mismanaged, it’s a lever for enemies to destroy each other and in process to harm the team and organization… Strong and open two-way communication can facilitate dissent, and by channeling it in a constructive direction it can be the difference between success and failure… Dissent is good but it also debilitating– non-constructive dissent can destroy an organization, especially when it’s not managed properly…

Corner Office to Oval Office– CEO to Politician to U.S. President: How Do Lessons of Business Apply to Running Government?

CEOs who build corporations often think they can master anything, including the maelstrom of modern politics… According to Economist; the skills demanded in politics and business are different. Politicians need to seek consensus; bosses can demand it. Politicians need to woo their foes… Executives can get them fired… Running a large company is complicated, but not as complex as overseeing a government in which diversity, competing interests, and many other factors… must be weighed and reconciled for the public good… But how do lessons of business– from deal-making to large-scale management– apply to the work of government?

Ross Perot in 1992, who perfectly encapsulated the pro-business argument in the presidential debates with George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton said (n reply to his opponents’ observation that he lacked political experience): Well they have a point; I don’t have experience in running up a $4 trillion debt (now it’s about $20 trillion)… I don’t have experience in gridlock where no one takes responsibility for anything and everyone blames everyone else… But I do have much experience in getting things done…

According to Jon Meacham; business leaders often go to Washington thinking that focus on results produces shareholder value for taxpayers. The problem, of course, is that government is not a business. The public sphere is far less accountable to market measures than it is to the amorphous but real incentives and vicissitudes of politics… The main goal of business is– profitability, growth, productivity… And,  government’s main goal, in the words of John Locke, is nothing less than the good of mankind… However that’s not to say that experience in running large, complicated companies isn’t valuable in preparation for running large, complicated government…

In the article CEOs in Politics by David Brooks writes: At first blush, business success would seem to be good preparation for political success. A CEO learns to set priorities, manage organizations and hone analytic skills… However when you look back over history, there’s little correlation between business success and political success. The traits that correlate with successful presidents have deeper roots…

According to Richard Neustadt; many leaders who come from a hierarchical environment, such as; military, business… find it hard to make the transition to be an effective political deal-maker, where the premium is on persuasive ability… Bullying people who have their own independent constituencies is not really effective governing technique.

In the article Do CEO’s Make Good Presidents? by hxv112 writes: Political leadership has a set of challenges unique to public office because there is a formalized balance of power. In other words, a president is not able to do much without the other two branches of the federal government agreeing… Whereas in business, CEOs worry less about hurting feelings or being politically correct, as long as the company produces favorable results… According to Mickey Edwards; being a CEO from business is not a dis-qualifier to holding public office but it’s not a qualifier, either…

In the article Myths That Government Should Be Run Like Business by Philip Joyce writes: Some consensus has developed among scholars about the fundamental ways that running a government is different from running a business. It’s important to know that government, particularly large ones are complex organizations to manage, much more so than any business… Here are a few reasons:

  • Government is about serving the public interest:  Business care about stakeholders and customers; they do not generally care about people who do not invest in their company or buy things from them. Thus, accountability is by necessity much broader in government; it’s much more difficult to ignore particular groups or people…
  • Business performance is measured by profitability: Government performance must focus on the achievement of outcomes. And the lifeblood of business is profitability…
  • Compromise is fundamental to success in government: No one owns controlling share of the government… The notion of a separation of powers is anathema to an effective business. But it’s central to the design of government…
  • Government must constantly confront competing values: Efficiency in business is value number one… and in government, it’s just one of many values. In fact, efficient solution may disadvantage some groups, trample on individual constitutional rights of others…
  • Government actions take place in public: In government there is the watchful eye of– press, groups, public… In business, leaders do not find it necessary to explain their every decision to anyone except stakeholders…

In the article CEOs as Effective Political Leaders by David Davenport writes: Leaders in business are accountable for well-defined goals, e.g.; profit, growth, productivity… By contrast political leaders often have ill-defined, unclear goals… They have multiple constituencies and plethora of responsibilities measured primarily by vagaries of political polls, elections. They have much responsibility but unlike business CEOs, relatively little authority to get things done; it’s the realm of persuasion, not power. They only get things done when they can convince congress and others to join in…

According to Milton Friedman; business leaders must be pragmatic, they must make things work, they are responsible for the bottom line, and rarely are they philosophers… As a consequence, when you look at great presidents you don’t see many business leaders on the list. According to William W. Campbell; majority of U.S. presidents were lawyers or career politicians; there were eight generals, some engineers and professors, an actor, and a smattering from other professions… but none were CEOs from business…

In the article Pitfalls of a CEO President  by Susan Milligan writes: Some experts say that being a CEO in the business world doesn’t prepare one for government…. Being the boss in business, they say, simply does not translate into being the boss in government with over 300 million-plus citizens and lower ranking co-workers… who they can easily push around, let alone fire… According to Marie McKendall; most business people don’t understand how government works, e.g.; They must share power. They must collaborate. They must be sensitive to interests of people… Government is a regulatory maze with checks and balance… Whereas CEOs are accustomed to making things happen, quickly; well that doesn’t often happen in government.

CEOs are often motivated to run for political office because they share the frustration of many citizens– that the government is not working effectively or efficiently… According to Susan McManus; CEOs see government as a financial mess and they think they can fix it… But very nature of government is dramatically different from business…

Business exists to produce products/services and generate a profitable return for stakeholders investment… Government exists to take care of its citizens by doing tasks that are by definition not profitable, such as; caring for poor and elderly, fighting terrorist and wars, fixing roads and bridges… Although there are overlap in skill-sets, there are personality traits that are required when running a country that are different when running a business…

To Tariff or Not To Tariff– The Balance is Shifting: Global Trade Conflict– Free Trade, Fair Trade, Balance Trade, No Trade…

One of the most debated issues in global trade is protectionism; use of tariff, non-tariff measures, currency manipulation… On one hand, most nations believe that certain amount of protectionism is necessary to protect their industries, jobs… On the other, protectionism also invites retaliation from trading partners, blocks free trade. Tariff is essentially a tax; it raises price of imported goods making them more expensive than similar domestic goods…

In most developed countries, average tariffs are less than 10% and often less than 5%… while in lesser-developed countries tariff rates are much higher; ranging from 10% to over 25%, and in Iran at about 28%… In U.S., about 96% of merchandise imports are industrial (non-agricultural) goods, with a weighted average tariff rate of 1.5%… One-half of all industrial goods entering the U. S. enter duty-free… However, tariffs are not the whole story, there are also ‘non-tariff’ measures that countries use to restrict trade…

According to Brent Radcliffe; countries use combination of tariff and non-tariff measures to regulate imports… the non-tariff trade barriers restrict trade through mechanisms, such as; quotas, subsidies, customs delays, technical barriers, other systems preventing or impeding trade... Classical economists like David Ricardo and Adam Smith suggest that since a nation is not a homogenized whole; that free trade, from a political standpoint, actually creates two classes; beneficiaries and victims, i.e.; winners and losers…

In the article Free Trade vs. Protectionism by George Friedman writes: The question of free trade is a pivotal issue and one that transcends ideology… The idea that free trade (trade without tariffs, regulation) is better than protectionism has dominated since WWII… An argument for free trade was made by David Ricardo in early 19th Century– It was based on the theory of comparative advantages… It assumed that every nation has at least one industry in which it has an advantage over other nation;. and with focus on its industry it would maximize the nation’s income…

However, there is no simple solution to the free (non-free) trade debate; each side views trade based on its own interests. Each side shapes the economic landscape for its own benefits… The argument that there is an overall free trade benefit has little value, e.g.; a CEO would oppose a shift in trade policy if it hurt his business, no matter the national good… Also, individuals take the same stand…

In the article Currency Manipulation And Impact On Free Trade by Art Laffer writes: A prosperous economy is created by good economic policy– then just get-out-of-the-way and let companies and citizens work, produce, invest… The perfect pro-growth agenda includes: a low rate tax, spending restraint, sound money, minimal regulation, free trade. The gains from trade come from– differences between countries, not similarities– and greater the differences the larger the potential gains… When a country is not constrained in making products and services to only match domestic demand, then both consumers and producers win…

This is an idea that goes back to Adam Smith, one of the earliest advocates for free, unrestricted trade. As such, Smith was an ardent foe of mercantilism, a system under which the goal of a state was to stockpile gold by exporting as many goods as possible and importing as little as possible… Smith argued that this policy deprived nations of benefiting from skills and abilities found in other nations. Instead he argued, nations benefit better from free and open, not managed, trade.  All nations have unique set of skills and resources that enable them to produce certain goods/services better than others, which is the foundation of trade– taking advantage of unique skill, capabilities, resources…

Smith’s core beliefs remain true but, due to the complexity of today’s interconnected global world, sometimes it creates challenges for a market-based approach; for example, currency manipulation– it’s a potent tool that tempts nations to improve their trade balances, while exporting domestic unemployment to countries that do not manipulate their currencies… According to Peterson Institute for International Economics; more than 20 nations have used currency manipulation policies to keep currencies substantially undervalued, thus boosting their international competitiveness and trade advantage…

In the article Free Trade, Fair Trade, Race to the Bottom by Madeline Madison writes: The free movement of global resources, especially labor… presents serious issues that can potentially devastate not only an economy, but the environment as well– it’s the ‘race to the bottom’ theory, which states; companies are constantly searching for– cheaper wages, lower taxes, weaker environmental regulations… and the theory is that this can produce downward spiral in socio-economic conditions in countries around the world…

A basic view of this theory is that when there are no regulations on trade and no regulatory standards, companies move from country-to-country searching for cheaper resources with less environmental regulations… and over-time this quest for cost-cutting will devastate the economies and the environment of many countries around the world… However, this phenomenon can only occur in the absence of strong trade regulations and restriction on the actions that companies can legally take to lower operating costs… ‘Races to the bottom’ can also occur between administrative regions within nations…

In its early stages a ‘race to the bottom’ can appear to be beneficial to the parties involved as one country sees the benefit of lowered costs and others sees benefit of increased foreign investment… However, the competitive process involved in ‘race to the bottom’ can serves to undermine the ability of governments to improve living and working conditions… and the enforcement of humane labor standards, and funding for social services… The main way to avoid ‘race to the bottom’ is through a policy of ‘fair trade’ with strong regulations and controls that protect an economy and encourage global trade…

Economists say that ‘free trade’ allows countries to take advantage of the ‘comparative advantages’ offered by each country… The ‘comparative advantage’ exists when one country can do something better than another country, e.g.; Central and South America grows bananas better than U.S., and U.S. grows wheat better than them; so trading wheat for bananas makes sense… But, economists also say that low-labor costs and low-environmental protection costs are a ‘comparative advantage’, as well…

They say it’s good for companies to take advantage of countries with governments that exploit labor and the environment, because they offer lower-costs for making things… According to Dave Johnson; buying goods from countries that are low-wage, low-environmental protection means other countries are impacted with trade imbalance; hence, factories close, people laid-off, wages stagnate… In world of free trade– this is a ‘comparative disadvantage’…

Hypocrisy Is Deep-Rooted in Most Organizations: Its the Greatest Threat to Effective Leadership…

In many organizations, hypocrisy is deeply rooted and entrenched as acceptable behavior… According to Jim Clemmer; hypocrisy is the practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness... The word has roots in part from a Greek word meaning, ‘to play a part, pretend’… I have come to believe that there are two types of hypocrisy: 1. Deceiving or being untrue to others… 2. Deceiving or being untrue to oneself… The first type of hypocrisy is detestable: It’s an intentional attempt to fool others… The second type is sad: it’s an unintentional to fool oneself…

Hypocrisy has been called; the compliment that vice pays to virtue… According Francois de La Rochefoucauld; this means that when you are being hypocritical you are in essence acknowledging that a virtue is worthy of emulating, and you want to appear virtuous, even though you aren’t actually acting virtuously… This seemly innocent connection accepts hypocrisy as a necessary part of social exchange that takes place in workplaces… According to Ken Byler; most people are quick to recognize the empty talk of hypocritical leaders: Do as I say, not as I do! Research suggests that many organizations encourage hypocrisy not only as a pragmatic virtue, but as a prescriptive one…

In the article Hypocrisy and Business by Bob MacDonald writes: Hypocrisy has become ingrained in business because it’s such a handy tool that makes one appear to be honest, fair, high-minded and moral without having to make the effort to be so. Those who practice this intellectual dishonesty fight hard to hide it, because when the contradiction between what was professed and what is performed is exposed, it becomes a cauldron of humiliation…

So why is so little of it exposed? For one thing, the reward for those in business who attempt to resist or expose hypocrisy is to end up on the ‘outs’ with the ‘ins’. Sure, exposing hypocrisy is easy, but if you want to keep your job or earn a promotion, it’s easier and certainly better to keep your mouth shut; to go along to get along, regardless of the kind of hypocrisy being practiced…

In the article Hypocritical Leadership by Art Markman writes: Hypocrisy doesn’t just undermine a leader’s authority, it can also directly threaten how the group functions. Psychologically, people need to trust that the organizations they belong to have their long-term interests at heart… Otherwise they become unwilling to make an effort on the group’s behalf… When employees feel an organization doesn’t value their contributions or isn’t committed to their growth or well-being, they start to distance themselves from it… Anyone who’s been in a toxic work culture knows what this feels like… And it isn’t always apparent when leaders are part of the toxicity– especially the most hypocritical of them…

In the article Don’t Be Hypocrite About Failure by Justin Brady writes: If you’re interested in human creativity and the invention process, you’ve heard it a thousand times, e.g.; fail fast to learn faster, failure is necessary to innovate, you must fail to succeed, blah blah blah... It’s time for leaders to open up about failure; act now, and don’t fail at failure… The truth is that majority of leaders are failure hypocrites; consider:

  • If you can’t admit failure, you cannot connect with your teamWhile it’s true that employees won’t want to discuss their own failures, they are more likely to connect with leaders who do… After all, a leader who has never failed is either a human anomaly or a liar…
  • If you can’t admit failure, you won’t learn from it: Failure is only positive when you learn something important from it and then make the necessary adjustments…
  • If you can’t admit failure, you won’t tolerate it from others: As much as leaders will openly say that failure must happen for innovation to be present… many will get upset at staff who fail or struggle…
  • If you can’t admit failure, you’ll find your own future failures tough to handle: Ignoring past failures makes moving on so much harder, when your next failure comes (and you know it will)…

In the article The Hypocrisy by Chuck Gallagher writes: Ordinary decency is boring; it’s more entertaining when hypocrites on moral pedestals fall from grace. Who doesn’t giggle when a moral authority gets caught? But you ought not to laugh too long. The smug satisfaction people get from watching hypocrites fall is just a short-step away from hypocrisy… Even members of the decent majority have moral blind spots…

According to Robert Kurzban; we readily detect hypocrisy in others but rarely see it in ourselves. We excuse our own moral failings while we condemn others. Moral self-deception is a coping mechanism and moral blame of others is a fun social activity… Most of people never commit felony, but many are guilty of indiscretions and busy judging others, e.g.; harbor unspoken animosities and minor lusts, let grudges fester, nurse secret resentments, turn blind eye to the needy, often laugh at those who need compassion… Hypocrites are those who are so busy judging others that they ignore their own moral failings… 

Genesis for corporate hypocrisy is the ubiquitous ‘mission statement’…   Full of lofty ideals, principles and objectives, the mission statement sounds wonderful and promises inviolate ethics, fairness and value for both customers and employees… According to Bob MacDonald; mission statements are hypocritical, and rarely do most managements adhere to their basic ideals and promises… More often than not, leaders tend to freelance the organization’s mission and just do what they feel is in best interests of the organization, irrespective of a mission statement.

Far too often corporate management embraces hypocrisy as a virtue and not a vice, because most managers lack courage to trust honesty or to exhibit real openness… Hypocrisy allows them to say one thing, knowing full well that they will do something else when it’s in their best interests to do so…  According to Jim Clemmer; it’s too easy to get confused by the images and appearances of leadership…

Too often we see leadership as doing and having. At that level, we can easily become leadership hypocrites… True leadership is being and becoming. Authentic leadership is from the inside out. When we are true to ourselves and actively blaze your own leadership pathway, it’s impossible to be a leadership hypocrite– despite how others think…

Changing World of Think Tank Firms– Think Tanking is Billion Dollar Industry in Decline: Aged Business Model, Strategy…

Most citizens have no concept on what a ‘think tank’ is, or its purpose. In simple terms; think tank is an ‘ideas industry’, and like other ‘ideas industries’, i.e.; journalism, entertainment, academia… these industries are changing… The original purpose of think tank firms were to offer nonpartisan, independent analysis– they were ‘ideas factories’ that perform research, analysis, made expert recommendations on topics such as; social policy, strategy, economics, technology, military…

Most think tanks are 501(c)3 non-profit tax-exempt organizations, and at last count there are about 6,800 think tanks worldwide, and about 1,984 in U.S… According to study by Transparify; in 2013, the total annual revenue for largest 21 think tanks amounts to US$1.077 billion, employed total of 7,333 people, including part-time employees, and their total net assets grew 8% to US$ 2.65 billion… The median think tank had a revenue of US$39 million, expenditures of US$32 million, assets worth US$ 87 million, and 211 employees…

In the article Think Tank: New Brand of Lobbying by Alan Crawford writes: Think tanks are losing their intellectual independence and integrity… According to James McGann; role of many think tanks is global where they are engaged in critical transnational policy-makers issues, such as; global warming, pandemics, terrorism, education… Although what constitutes a think tank varies by country, some governments create so-called think tanks, which are designed to appear as independent research organizations, but they are in fact just another propaganda arm of the government…

Also, the traditional function of think tanks is changing due to the emergence of the Internet, social media, increase in social activism… Which means that more organizations and private foundations are limiting their funding to think tanks, since they have access to other expertise… and individual donors are moving the support from analysis to activism, and from think tank to advocacy groups…

In the article Devaluing the Think Tank by Tevi Troy writes: Think tanks were highly influential in politics and social issues, and their research and scholars were heavily consulted and relied on by many leaders…  But in these times with daunting policy challenges and highly polarized political debates– think tanks, especially the new and more advocacy-oriented institutions founded in the past decade or so, risk becoming both more conventional and less valuable… At a moment when there is too much noise in politics and too few constructive ideas, these organizations are simply become part of the intellectual echo chamber of politics, rather than providing alternative sources of policy analysis and intellectual innovation…

The proliferation and politicization of new think tanks has, perhaps ironically, tended to weaken the ability of all think tanks to influence policy debates… According to Andrew Rich; the known ideological proclivities of many think tanks, especially the newer ones and their aggressive efforts to obtain high profiles have come to undermine the credibility with which think tanks are generally viewed by many public officials… According to Karlyn Bowman; politicization of think tanks limits their ability both to provide new and innovative policy solutions and to get them implemented…

It ‘s important not to overstate the independence and the value of the original think-tank model… The value of the original model came from its ability to bring serious, original, expert research to the task of analyzing policy issues and proposing creative solutions… It sought to expand the range of options under debate, and to ground that debate in hard facts and figures… Instead, many of these organizations avoid the difficult task of pursuing creative policy ideas and solutions, and are giving politician and others different ways to persist in failed courses… There are exceptions in the think-tank world but these are increasingly have trouble being heard over the din…

In the article Virtues of Virtuality by Enrique Mendizabal, Stephen Yeo writes: Changing global realities are causing some think tanks to consider reshaping themselves as ‘think-nets’ or ‘virtual think tanks’, which are cheaper to run and more conducive to open innovation... Think tanks are under increasing pressure to reinvent themselves in the age of technology, and to secure new forms of funding… Many are exploring different strategies and one such paths is recreating themselves as ‘think-nets’ or’ virtual think tank’…

A think-net is an Internet-based, collaborative business model where human capital is a network, e.g., individual researchers, supporting resources… that focus on policy-specific issues… Here the traditional think tank model remains the same– independent, original, quality research and analysis, that create spaces for nonpartisan political and scientific debate… key advantages of think-net are; learning from others, more flexibility, and more adaptable to rapid policy changes…

In the article Rethink the Think Tank by Anne-Marie Slaughter and Ben Scott writes: Objective research from think tanks can still play an important role in social and political policy-making. But the think tank as a policy organization has not adapted fast enough to escape the dysfunction of the political environment… Even superb policy analysis seldom results in policy change. One reason is that expert positions in many debates are alien to the mobilized bases of both parties…

Another is that the desire to score partisan points trumps the effort to get something done irrespective of whether the ‘right answer’ is served up on a silver platter. Meanwhile, a plethora of specialized research organizations funded by trade associations, corporations, and partisan donors on both right and left have led many to question the objectivity of the policy positions adopted… It’s time to rethink the think tank to meet the evolving challenges. The central mission is the same– to help solve public issues– but the form and function of the work must adapt… Today, that model is too elitist, too narrow, and too slow.

According to Daniel Betekhtin; think tank flourished in 20th century for two reasons; governments were expanding everywhere hence there was lots of demand for policy expertise… and the arrival of 24-hour news created an insatiable appetite for informed-experts… Yet the world may have reached– ‘peak-tank’… Researchers at University of Pennsylvania; found that in 2014 the number of new tanks declined for first time in 30 years. Think tanks are no longer only organizations engaged in public policy analysis and research… in fact, think tanks are increasingly being caught in a squeeze…

There is an emergence of many so-called independent experts, such as; academics, journalists, grassroots organizations, political parties, bloggers, interest groups, media consultants, spin doctors, and other distinct voices that combine to provide citizens and leaders with a broad range of information, perspectives, ideas…

Adding to this smorgasbord of thought and discussion is government’s shrinking funding for research, as well as leading foundations becoming more like advocacy groups… Hence, perhaps the traditional think tank should rethink their strategy, business model, relevance. Or perhaps the traditional think tank is just a dying breed…

 

 

 

Impact of a Consumer Boycott That Target Business or Group of Businesses: Righteous Anger is Wildly Over-Rated…

A consumer boycott is organized, nonviolent, disruptive efforts that targets an organization, company or group of companies, country or group of countries… to bring significant change in behavior… The target entity is often about individual policies, practices, products… and signifies social or political causes, e.g.; environment, inequality, civil rights… But research shows that in most consumer boycotts there are no winners– it seems for every boycott there is a counter-boycott from the opposite-side… hence, a boycott target is minimally affected; and the activists, from both-sides, are in stale-mate…

What factors determine whether a boycott can succeed in changing the behavior of its corporate target? According to Brayden King; activists seeking to create corporate change are partly dependent on conditions of the company they’re targeting… the company or entity must be vulnerable to change to have any transformative effect… A consumer boycott has been described as the weapon of the weak… But if by chance a boycott actually does damage to a company; ironically, those most likely get hurt the worst are workers, not the executives, employed in the business…

In the article Does Consumer Boycott Really Work? by Bruce Watson writes: Boycotts have become the preferred tool for consumers hoping to make their feelings known. But how effective are they– and what separates an effective boycott from an ineffective one? A quick search reveals that, at any given time, a seemingly endless list of companies, e.g.; movies, TV programs, actors, business executives, events… are shunned by consumers for many different reasons…

The basic narrative of boycotts is familiar, i.e.; group of consumers are angry about an issue, event, person… and refuse to spend money and buy a company’s product or service, they enlist like-minded consumers, and the boycott grows, and presumably the target suffers and changes behavior… While these sorts of campaigns are useful for expressing displeasure, they aren’t all that successful when it comes to changing behavior or company’s policy…

In a 2011 study that compared successful boycotts to unsuccessful ones, it was suggested  that every day in which a company’s boycott was in the news, its stock price declined. But while companies want to resolve boycotts quickly, activists often have opposite aim… For many activists, the goal is not to change behavior or policy but rather to change public opinion… They often regard the target as a visible, public stage that they use to draw interest, and they change and evolve tactics to keep the spotlight on their cause as long as possible…

In the article Does Consumer Boycott Work? by Daniel Diermeier writes: Internet and social media has created a broader platform for activists, and making it more difficult for companies, groups, people to maintain control of their own messaging… Activists have given-up on government and focus instead on boycott targets as main engine of social change… And as expectations are raised for better corporate behavior, such as; pay equality, fair labor standards, the environment… more businesses are put-in the cross-hairs of frequent boycotts…

Although these tactics have been around forever, boycotts are still unfamiliar territory for many executives who lack an understanding of how activists operate and what makes boycotts successful… In most cases companies are well-advised to stay out of polarized issues, if at all possible. Being in a political dog-fight is rarely good for anyone’s reputation… Public debate is likely to create more media coverage, which may lead to severe internal tensions among employees, who may ask themselves whether the company is still a welcoming place to work…

But the if you cannot stay out of the fight, how can you assess the likely success of a consumer boycott? The first thing to note is that while a boycott can be effective, most fail to have any noticeable impact… And among the factors that determine a boycott’s success, the following are most important:

  • Customers must care passionately: For customers to participate in a boycott they must passionately care about an issue. The main driver is moral outrage…
  • Cost of boycott participation must be low: Smart activists make it easy for customers to participate in a boycott. They target a single company so that customers have plenty of alternatives…
  • Boycott Issues must be easy to understand: Activists often fail to communicate objectives in an effective and simple manner…
  • Mass media is essential for consumer boycott success: While social media platforms have made it easier for activists to gain support, activists need coverage in the mass media for a boycott to be successful. Such coverage can then steer viewers to the relevant social media sites… Media coverage requires strong audience connection with issues customers passionately cares about…

Consumer boycott has played an important role in U.S. History– they are form of protest and technique to bring about significant economic, social, political… change. In a recent nationwide survey, business leaders said boycotts have more impact on business than any other consumer action including; class action suits, letter writing campaigns, lobbying… The thing to remember is that the threat of a boycott can’t be ignored; and any response must be– well-thought out and sharply focused on the allegation. Remember– it’s a reputation issue, not financial… 

The approach must be the same as any other issue that threatens the well-being of the brand image… According to Ashlee Kieler; the key is being proactive with a crisis plan, in place, and a team that is ready to deal with whatever reputation threats may arise. Like any threat to a brand’s image or reputation, the sooner you address it and move on, the less damage that can be done…

According to Brayden King; there’s no disputing the media’s role in a boycott’s success or failure.. in a study of 188 boycotts it was found that companies that were more likely to give-in to a boycott’s demands is when the controversy generated a lot of press… And the research also found that fear of damage to a company’s ‘reputation’ was a greater determinant of caving into a boycott than the fear of financial loss…

Also, when a boycott reflects real public anger about serious social issue, a well-organized and funded boycott can become a strong wind and do real damage… Hence the threat of consumer boycott must be taken very seriously… According to Stephen J. Dubner; evidence suggests that a typical boycott is more smoke than fire and, in most cases, it does little damage… Does a consumer boycott make a difference? Short answer: Probably not…

Lesson From the Edge– Stop Over-Thinking When Managing Organization: Under-Thinkers Are More Productive…

When in doubt, Google it; but this unlimited access to information often leads to greater fear of over-thinking… and that in turn leads to the spinning of wheels in a seemingly inescapable progression of analysis paralysis, and all the while getting nowhere… According to Barry Schwartz; although increased choice provides opportunity to achieve objectively better results, it also leads to greater– anxiety, indecision, paralysis… A study at Stanford University suggests that over-thinking not only impedes the ability to perform cognitive tasks, but also limits creative potential as well…

But what do people mean when they say; Stop over-thinking? To anyone deep in the creative process there is nothing more frustrating than to be accused of over-thinking… According to Mike Michalowicz; it’s a paradox; success requires a clear vision– the more you can see it, the more likely you are to achieve it… But sometimes you can get too fixated on the vision, and over-think it… According to Carl Harvey; again and again message is clear: Don’t over-think. Forget perfection. Stop judging. Trust inspiration. Take action…

In the article Don’t Over-Think, Make Decision Go With It by Stephen Key writes: Organizations spend too much time weighing options. Yes, studying and debating alternative is essential for good decision-making, but at some point leaders must take action… Leaders cannot afford to obsess over everything… at some point they must shut-off the brain, and make the decision… 

The reality is over-thinking about the next move when you haven’t even taken the first move yet doesn’t make sense… Attempting to account for everything inevitably means making assumptions, and more often than not assumptions are wrong… You will never have all the answers, hence focus-on; instincts, common sense, consider risk, lessons learned… above all, don’t let fear of making mistake cause you to be inert…

In the article Over-Thinking Decisions by Robert Harris writes: The decision-making process is very basic: Many decision-makers often seek much more information than required to make a good decision… The quantity of information that can be processed by the human mind is limited… When too much information is sought and obtained, one or more of several issues can arise:

  • A delay in the decision occurs because of the time required to obtain and process the extra information. This delay could impair the effectiveness of the decision or solution…
  • Information overload occurs. In this state, so much information is available that decision-making ability actually declines because of information over-load, and it cannot be managed effectively…
  • Selective use of information, i.e.; decision-maker will choose from among all information available only those facts which support a preconceived solution or position…
  • Decision fatigue is when the decision-maker becomes– tired, confused, over-loaded… from making decisions. And often the result is carelessness or no decisions at all…
  • Important to realize that every decision affects the stream of other decisions… over-thinking just one decision can have far-reaching consequences down stream…

In the article Don’t Over-Think Do It by Phoebe Luckhurst writes: The best way to over-achieve is to under-think– those who really get ahead turn things upside-down: Under-thinking is the new over-thinking… According to Dr Michael Sinclair; the brain has evolved as the ultimate problem-solver… and it has capacity to endlessly analyze and over-think just about anything so as to protect itself from making bad decisions… the brain can actually get into its own way, a vicious cycle of over-thinking and that impedes productivity..

Indeed over-thinking leads to stagnation, whereas under-thinkers are more selective about– priorities, sharpen focus,  decisiveness… Acting on impulse is the purest type of thinking… When things get circular go with; intuition, instinct, lessons learned, gut… and work-out the decision that achieves the desired or best possible outcome… 

In the article Stop Over-Thinking by Gayle Lantz writes: In the world of ever-changing business there comes a time when over-thinking can limit an organization’s options… According to Albert Einstein; you cannot solve a problem by using the same kind of thinking used when the problem was created… Leaders are responsible for making tough decisions… but some leaders get bogged down in their own thinking or/and over-loaded with information… and paralysis sets in… When you find yourself over-thinking? Here are few tips:

  • Put your thoughts in writing:  Capture ideas,  concerns, solutions and put them in writing: Ah clarity! No rules; just write. It can be cathartic…
  • Identify a new focus: Step-back and give yourself a break from the difficult issues, e.g.; when worried about competition, instead focus on client results… when concerned about poor performers, spend more time with peak performers…
  • Reframe the issues: Instead of thinking about losing an account… Ask; What action can you take to keep the account? Keep focus on how to get positive outcomes…
  • Find a thinking partner: Engage other people, inside/outside the organization, to discuss, debate, think through the issue… Talking with other people can help you gain new insight…

In the article Over-Thinking Gets in Way of Business by Borja Obeso writes: Keeping an eye on the prize is good advice, but be aware that the road to winning it isn’t always a straight one… Over-thinking, like over-planning, can lead to a state of inertia and ultimately gets in the way of doing business. The key to a successful organization is to find the right balance between– thinking and doing. Managing an organization is an action-oriented process often dictated by external factors, e.g.; market trends, technology, shifting priorities… Over-thinking elements of a business plan can only lead to confusion and failure… 

Sustaining an organization requires a special brew that includes; part plan, part intuition, part opportunity, and a dash of luck… Thinking is good but over-thinking leads to paralysis… Even the most critical over-thinker must learn to loosen-up and follow their instincts… Organizations must act decisively and that means– having foresight, being prudent but fearless, being agile and adaptable… and having recognition that over-thinking important issues in rapidly changing world is a death trap…

Subtle Shifts in Business, Leadership, Management, Organization, Strategy, Innovation– Bring Big Results…

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