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dissension and health of the theosophical organisation

Sep 28, 2008 06:10 AM
by Katinka Hesselink

We recently saw an upheaval in dissent in the TS. Many of our leaders
consider this a problem - regardless of whether the dissenters are
right, we aren't right in spreading the news. 

But dissent is actually good for decisionmaking processes. 


Question: It seems there's a fine line between anarchy and
enlightenment: How do you know when you should respect authority and
just do as told versus be a devil's advocate and disagree?

Answer: Most of us, when we disagree with a group, keep quiet. Why
make a fuss and ring alarm bells? And besides, maybe we're wrong. When
you speak up and go against the opinion of the group, you risk getting
branded as a loner who's not a team player. But dissent is a crucial
ingredient in a successful team. When I interviewed Justice Breyer of
the U.S. Supreme Court, he explained to me how dissent makes the
Court's opinion stronger.

The Supreme Court structured dissent into the process. When an opinion
is assigned, the majority keeps on having to answer questions and
objections from the dissenting side. The process is obviously
professional, but it's also a pain. You have to go back and forth
going over points time and again. It's easy to imagine how the process
can be exhausting, and in fact former Chief Justice Rehnquist believed
in having a more unified voice and basically not airing the court's
dirty laundry. But dissent brings about the best possible decision
because it forces you to address all points. Imagine if every company
went through a dissent process before arriving at an important decision.

It can get frustrating to listen to and incorporate the questions of a
dissenter, but by doing so you explore all the different angles of an
issue. Even if the dissenter is completely way off, exploring his or
her viewpoint leads to a more accurate and nuanced perspective.

Airline pilots know this firsthand. The FAA mandates that every pilot
gets trained in Crew Resource Management (CRM), a method of learning
to utilize others' perspectives, encouraging them to speak up when
they disagree with you, and questioning your own position when others
raise red flags. A truly enlightened team is one that knows it's
strongest not when there's unanimity, but when there's mutual respect
and tolerance for each individual's perspective.>>

Katinka Hesselink

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