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Healthy Debates

August 15, 2012 Leave a comment

The article, “Overconfidence May Be a Result of Social Politeness”, opens up with:

Since society has taught us not to hurt other people’s feelings, we rarely hear the truth about ourselves, even when we really deserve it.

Phew, BD00 is glad this is the case. Otherwise BD00 would be inundated with “negative feedback” for being a baddy. Uh, he actually does get what “he deserves” occasionally, but what da hey.

Florida State University researcher Joyce Ehrlinger, upon whose research the article is based, empirically validated the following hypothesis to some degree:

If person A expressed views to a political subject that person B found contradictory to their own, the result would not be a healthy debate, but just silence from B – and an associated touch of overconfidence from A.

Now, imagine applying this conjecture to a boss-subordinate relationship in a hierarchical command and control bureaucracy. Bureaucratic system design natively discourages┬áhealthy debate up and down the chain of command and (almost) everybody complies with this design constraint. As a result, overconfidence increases as one moves up the chain. Healthy debates can, and do, occur among peers at any given level, but up-and-down-the-ladder debates on issues that matter are rare indeed. Hasn’t this been your experience?

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