According to research covered in David McRaney’s book, You Are Not so Smart’ – a great read for business owners, marketers and anyone else interested in the human condition – attempting to reach consensus is downright dangerous.
How come? Psychological research shows that trying to reach a consensus decision almost always results in ‘Group Think’, where spectacularly terrible decisions are made.
According to McRaney, a business asshole is someone who “doesn’t care if they get fired or exiled or excommunicated”. Without one we all, without exception, ultimately fall victim to ‘Group Think’. It’s our default position.
The next time you need to come to an intelligent, practical agreement at a business meeting, are your efforts automatically doomed to failure? Probably. Unless you appoint an ‘asshole’ to play devil’s advocate.
Some people are naturals at it. They can’t stop themselves jumping in to point out when an idea is silly, ill advised, impractical, too expensive or simply wrong. But not every business is lucky enough to have someone like that on board. If you find yourselves in a meeting without one, where everyone’s suspiciously agreeable, choose an honorary asshole to pick holes in ideas and check for sanity. Or take the a-hole role upon yourself. As the book says, “The next time you are in a group of people trying to reach consensus, be the asshole. Every group needs one and it might as well be you.”
If you’re already a contentious type who isn’t satisfied going with the flow, you can feel proud of yourself. You’re not needlessly disruptive, negative or obstreperous (great word!). You’re a valuable asset to any business. You’re an asshole… be proud of it.