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"Yes" has no meaning, if we cannot say "No"

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 24 March 2014



"Yes" has no meaning, if we cannot say "No"
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 165
Posted DateMonday 24 March 2014 19:57 GMT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen
PeoplePeter Block

Not surprisingly, I am doing a lot of reading and research around the topic of "conversation" and drawing inspiration from the work of Peter Block.

In a document entitled Civic Engagement and the Restoration of Community he says this about dissent.

Dissent is the cousin of diversity; the respect for wide range of beliefs.

This begins by allowing people the space to say "no".

If we cannot say "no" then "yes" has no meaning.

Each needs the chance to express their doubts and reservations without having to justify them, or move quickly into problem solving.

"No" is the beginning of the conversation for commitment.

Doubt and "no" is a symbolic expression of people finding their space and role in the strategy.

It is when we fully understand what people do not want that choice becomes possible.

The leadership task is to surface doubts and dissent without having an answer to every question.

This resonates strongly with me.

One of the issues that occassionally comes up when I am designing a Knowledge Cafe for an organisation is the fear that people will use it as an opportunity to dissent about some issue. And managers wish to know how I will prevent that.

What I have never been able to understand is why managers are so afraid of people dissenting - so much so that everyone knows that "no" is not an option and so give lip-service to the agenda on the table and moan or bitch behind his or her back - there is no real commitment.

If people, are not happy then surely, as a manager you would wish to know that. As Peter points out its your job to surface doubts and dissent. They need to be discussed.

"No" should be the beginning of a conversation and "Yes" really does have no meaning, if we cannot say "No"

Peter says it with a little humour in this video.

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
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