Timothy R. Clark wrote an article for Harvard Business Review titled To Foster Innovation, Cultivate a Culture of Intellectual Bravery.

« Intellectual bravery is a willingness to disagree, dissent, or challenge the status quo in a setting of social risk in which you could be embarrassed, marginalized, or punished in some way. When intellectual bravery disappears, organizations develop patterns of willful blindness. Bureaucracy buries boldness. Efficiency crushes creativity. From there, the status quo calcifies and stagnation sets in. »

Team A – Punished Vulnerability: « … but when team members tried to offer an alternative point of view, he would cut off the conversation and tell them to get back to work… This activated everyone’s self-censoring instinct, and iced the team into crippling silence. »

Team B – Rewarded Vulnerability: « I watched a new team member push back on a senior leader’s suggestion. Another person asked a naive question. Another shared a mistake she had made and wanted to discuss. In short, the level of psychological safety in the room matched the level of personal exposure required to challenge the status quo. »

The article includes seven ways to create intellectual bravery, such as:

« Assign dissent. If you assign specific members of your team to challenge a course of action or find flaws in a proposed decision, you remove much of the individual’s personal risk and replace it with institutional permission. This allows intellectual bravery to become the norm rather than the exception. Consider rotating the role »

« Encourage people to think beyond their roles. Inviting your people to venture out of their tactical and functional silos creates more opportunity for divergent thinking, allowing them to connect things that aren’t normally connected. Of course, you must manage the process carefully and discern when constructive dissent is giving way to destructive derailment. »

« Weigh in last. Speaking first when you hold positional power softly censors your team. Listen carefully, acknowledge the contributions of others, and then register your point of view taking into account what others have already said. »

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