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In Defense of Troublemakers: The Power of Dissent in Life and Business

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An eminent psychologist explains why dissent should be cherished, not feared We've decided by consensus that consensus is good. In In Defense of Troublemakers, psychologist Charlan Nemeth argues that this principle is completely wrong: left unchallenged, the majority opinion is often biased, unoriginal, or false. It leads planes and markets to crash, causes juries to convi An eminent psychologist explains why dissent should be cherished, not feared We've decided by consensus that consensus is good. In In Defense of Troublemakers, psychologist Charlan Nemeth argues that this principle is completely wrong: left unchallenged, the majority opinion is often biased, unoriginal, or false. It leads planes and markets to crash, causes juries to convict innocent people, and can quite literally make people think blue is green. In the name of comity, we embrace stupidity. We can make better decisions by embracing dissent. Dissent forces us to question the status quo, consider more information, and engage in creative decision-making. From Twelve Angry Men to Edward Snowden, lone objectors who make people question their assumptions bring groups far closer to truth -- regardless of whether they are right or wrong. Essential reading for anyone who works in groups, In Defense of Troublemakers will radically change the way you think, listen, and make decisions.


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An eminent psychologist explains why dissent should be cherished, not feared We've decided by consensus that consensus is good. In In Defense of Troublemakers, psychologist Charlan Nemeth argues that this principle is completely wrong: left unchallenged, the majority opinion is often biased, unoriginal, or false. It leads planes and markets to crash, causes juries to convi An eminent psychologist explains why dissent should be cherished, not feared We've decided by consensus that consensus is good. In In Defense of Troublemakers, psychologist Charlan Nemeth argues that this principle is completely wrong: left unchallenged, the majority opinion is often biased, unoriginal, or false. It leads planes and markets to crash, causes juries to convict innocent people, and can quite literally make people think blue is green. In the name of comity, we embrace stupidity. We can make better decisions by embracing dissent. Dissent forces us to question the status quo, consider more information, and engage in creative decision-making. From Twelve Angry Men to Edward Snowden, lone objectors who make people question their assumptions bring groups far closer to truth -- regardless of whether they are right or wrong. Essential reading for anyone who works in groups, In Defense of Troublemakers will radically change the way you think, listen, and make decisions.

30 review for In Defense of Troublemakers: The Power of Dissent in Life and Business

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    I would probably legitimately give this book 3.5 stars. The underlying concept, the power of dissent, is worthy of 5 stars. Giving freedom for dissenters and highlighting really the necessity of dissent in order to make the most high quality of decisions was an eye opening read. The book provided thoughts and research that I had never considered before and made me more likely to speak up when I genuinely disagree with something or someone, even if I find myself in the minority. It also made me r I would probably legitimately give this book 3.5 stars. The underlying concept, the power of dissent, is worthy of 5 stars. Giving freedom for dissenters and highlighting really the necessity of dissent in order to make the most high quality of decisions was an eye opening read. The book provided thoughts and research that I had never considered before and made me more likely to speak up when I genuinely disagree with something or someone, even if I find myself in the minority. It also made me reconsider my own view of dissent and how I might be able to foster a culture where it is okay to have a dissenting voice and where dissent drives us to making our best decisions. The flaw with this book, and the reason I’d give it 3.5 stars instead of 4 or 5, is that most of what was said could’ve been said in a chapter or two. The summary chapter at the end contains most of the valuable content in a bite-size chunk. Most of the book describes research and studies proving the validity of the books premise. That is certainly helpful, but after so many examples, it felt as if every chapter was saying the same thing as the previous one. Overall I think this is a valuable and helpful book, but if you want to skim it and just read the first couple chapters and the conclusion, you will get most of the book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ell

    In Defense of Troublemakers is a compelling book written by esteemed psychologist Charlan Jeanne Nemet. It challenges the consensus that “consensus thinking” is the best way to approach matters of import because with consensus comes constraints. These constraints include limited consideration of various variables, viewpoints, vantages and obstacles. “The value of dissent lies not in its correctness,” opines the author, but rather in its ability to spur on contemplation. The book is riddled with In Defense of Troublemakers is a compelling book written by esteemed psychologist Charlan Jeanne Nemet. It challenges the consensus that “consensus thinking” is the best way to approach matters of import because with consensus comes constraints. These constraints include limited consideration of various variables, viewpoints, vantages and obstacles. “The value of dissent lies not in its correctness,” opines the author, but rather in its ability to spur on contemplation. The book is riddled with interesting real-life stories supporting the supposition that failure to challenge the status quo can lead to less than desirable consequences. This book is definitely worth the read. It is both entertaining and enlightening.

  3. 4 out of 5

    =^.^= Janet

    I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher --- An eminent psychologist explains why dissent should be cherished, not feared We've decided by consensus that consensus is good. In “In Defense of Troublemakers”, psychologist Charlan Nemeth argues that this principle is completely wrong: left unchallenged, the majority opinion is often biased, unoriginal, or false. It leads planes and markets to crash, causes juries to co I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher --- An eminent psychologist explains why dissent should be cherished, not feared We've decided by consensus that consensus is good. In “In Defense of Troublemakers”, psychologist Charlan Nemeth argues that this principle is completely wrong: left unchallenged, the majority opinion is often biased, unoriginal, or false. It leads planes and markets to crash, causes juries to convict innocent people, and can quite literally make people think blue is green. In the name of comity, we embrace stupidity. We can make better decisions by embracing dissent. Dissent forces us to question the status quo, consider more information, and engage in creative decision-making. From Twelve Angry Men to Edward Snowden, lone objectors who make people question their assumptions bring groups far closer to truth--regardless of whether they are right or wrong. Essential reading for anyone who works in groups, In Defense of Troublemakers will radically change the way you think, listen, and make decisions. As someone who has been called a trouble-maker, a dissident, an outlier, etc., etc. their whole life – I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK!! Why swim with the stream when you can go towards greatness and personal happiness by being yourself? The case studies were fun to read and totally enjoyable to this nerd and I am DONE with explaiing myself to people. As sung in “The Greatest Showman” – THIS IS ME!!!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Eugene Kernes

    Overview: This is a book on how to raise decision making quality. While searching for consensus hurts decision making, dissent improves decision making. Assuming the majorities claims narrows thinking and creates poorer decisions. People speak from the majorities perspective even if the individual is not part of the majority. Dissent broadens thinking by opening up alternative perspectives. The benefits of dissent are that thinking becomes more divergent, creative, and creates a search for inform Overview: This is a book on how to raise decision making quality. While searching for consensus hurts decision making, dissent improves decision making. Assuming the majorities claims narrows thinking and creates poorer decisions. People speak from the majorities perspective even if the individual is not part of the majority. Dissent broadens thinking by opening up alternative perspectives. The benefits of dissent are that thinking becomes more divergent, creative, and creates a search for information about the claims raised. A reason for not raising alternative ideas is the fear of being ridiculed or rejected. There are ways to reduce persecution such as anonymity. Dissent should not be created for its own sake, but should be permitted and embraces when it is present. By not speaking up, the group suffers and misses opportunities. What matters for the dissenter is how to argue their ideas, as their ideas allow the group to see those different opportunities, some of which can be much better. Consensus is a problem when it goes unchallenged. When the majority has a position, they influence just because of their numbers. Facts matter little when people think that the number of people who believe something are more likely to be correct. People can follow the majority whether it is correct or wrong. Majorities get public agreement without the people believing the majority position. Dissent provides value, even when it is wrong, as it breaks blind following of the majority, and it motivates consideration of alternatives. Dissenter minority voice influences by reason. Persuasion by dissenter is time consuming, usually indirect, and contains an artful argumentative style. Consistency in the dissenter is needed for persuasion, but it is not sufficient. Dissenters change minds in private rather than publicly. People tend to agree with dissenters in private, but resist in public. Playing devil’s advocate does not necessarily work because its not authentic dissent, and as such does not stimulate divergent thinking. Not criticizing others ideas is not a good tactic as it prevents consideration of the alternatives. Caveats? This book is well written to support those who think differently. Some caveats of the book include research quality and support for dissent. Research that is meant to support the claims have mixed quality. Some are practical and can be applied to real life, others are to abstract to be appropriate supports of the claims made. The research needs to be considered more carefully before applying some of the claims. This book is very partial in disapproving majority thinking, while only supporting dissent. Although the reasons to favor listening to dissenters and questioning majority are marvelous, it does reduce the complexity of real life which can prevent appropriate application. There are reasons that people dissent which does not add value to decision making. The dissenters can have their own motivations which are not for the benefit of the majority, and prevent majority decision which can help the many. Sometimes dissenters can prevent quality decision making by the majority by coming up with erroneous alternatives. Too much dissent can be problematic as well. There is an attempt in making a case for how to go about with a dissent, but it needs a lot of work as there are many ways in which a dissenter who is right can project their views in a manner that makes them appear wrong. As in, the way a dissenter presents the information, the dissenter can prevent a search for information rather than inspire the search.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    My opinion on this book is a bit divided. On the one hand, I feel the contents are must-know psychology/sociology information. On the other hand, I wish it was written better. The book gives much to consider regarding decision making and group interactions, and the experiments/studies discussed are fascinating. However, I think it could be just as powerful and enjoyable in about half as many pages, despite being a reasonably short book already. Some of the examples also don't really seem to supp My opinion on this book is a bit divided. On the one hand, I feel the contents are must-know psychology/sociology information. On the other hand, I wish it was written better. The book gives much to consider regarding decision making and group interactions, and the experiments/studies discussed are fascinating. However, I think it could be just as powerful and enjoyable in about half as many pages, despite being a reasonably short book already. Some of the examples also don't really seem to support the positions of the book very well and/or are poorly explained.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jerry

    A number of helpful takeaways from this book confirming the trouble with yes-men, and complementary to The Wisdom of Crowds. "Ordinary people, when faced with a majority opinion that is clearly incorrect, will nonetheless side with that obvious falsehood over one-third of the time" (p. 25). A number of helpful takeaways from this book confirming the trouble with yes-men, and complementary to The Wisdom of Crowds. "Ordinary people, when faced with a majority opinion that is clearly incorrect, will nonetheless side with that obvious falsehood over one-third of the time" (p. 25).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    I wanted to like this book. I give the hypothesis of the book, that dissent deepens our thinking and problem solving skills and is not the enemy we have been taught to fear, 5 stars. Its opening is strong. Overall, I felt the length could have been reduced for conciseness. I also had questions about research assumed causalities and conclusions at times.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    Every paragraph is written as if you hadn’t read the one before. Some interesting ideas in here but for the most part they aren’t groundbreaking.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    "...the value of dissent does not lie in its correctness. Even when wrong, dissent does two things directly pertinent to the example. It breaks the blind following of the majority. People think more independently when consensus is challenged. Perhaps more importantly...dissent stimulates thought that is more divergent and less biased. Dissent motivates us to seek more information and to consider more alternatives than we would otherwise, spurring us to contemplate the cons as well as the pros of "...the value of dissent does not lie in its correctness. Even when wrong, dissent does two things directly pertinent to the example. It breaks the blind following of the majority. People think more independently when consensus is challenged. Perhaps more importantly...dissent stimulates thought that is more divergent and less biased. Dissent motivates us to seek more information and to consider more alternatives than we would otherwise, spurring us to contemplate the cons as well as the pros of various positions." (7-8) *** "Dissent did prove to be contagious. Perhaps more accurately, we found that people have the courage to express dissent once they have witnessed it--that they can model a dissenter's courage even if they don't agree with her position. In witnessing dissent, they seem to be reminded that their actions should mirror their beliefs." (48) *** "Dissenters are rarely liked. The majority will try to convince the dissenter to change and, if unsuccessful, will reject him. To be sure, dissent has the potential to draw a range of reactions--sometimes confusion, occasionally respect or envy. But most often the reaction to the dissenter is irritation and ridicule. For this reason, daring to dissent takes courage." (47) *** "Polarization is one of the most powerful and widely researched phenomena in social psychology. Here is the basic finding: when people share a leaning in a certain direction and they discuss their views, they become more extreme in that direction... "Hundreds of studies have documented the fact that a group of people who basically agree on the direction of a decision will become more extreme and more confident after discussion. Groups of prejudiced people become more prejudiced. Groups of people prone to taking a given risk become more risky. Groups of people prone to caution become more cautious. "Polarization is one of those very predictable and well-documented consequences of discussing an issue with those who basically agree with us. And since we seek out people who agree with us, polarization occurs frequently. We may differ with them in degree or on the specifics, but that shared direction moves us toward the extreme." (147) **** "Given the importance of this distinction between category diversity and opinion diversity, it is not surprising that the research shows mixed results for the link between demographic diversity and the quality of team performance or decision-making. Many teams with diverse categories do not have diverse perspectives. Some have diverse perspectives, but team members do not speak up. The studies demonstrate that having a diverse mix of demographic categories may or may not improve group decision-making. In some cases, diversity can have other effects, some of which are considered negative. "Studies show that diversity of demographics can lower morale and bonding, which many organizations try to avoid. It can also reduce satisfaction and even retention. Since there is repeated evidence that similarity is a powerful predictor of liking, high morale, and friendships, demographic diversity poses challenges. It can create 'we/they' divides. It can also make communication more difficult--or at least more complex." (171) **** "Even the US Supreme Court provides evidence for the value of dissent. Dissent has been found to increase what is called the integrative complexity of the Court's decisions. This concept is akin to divergent thinking. Integrative complexity is the ability to see both sides of an issue and their trade-offs...When the court's opinion was written on behalf of a unanimous group, it showed significantly low integrative complexity. When the opinion of the Court was written on behalf of a majority who confronted a dissenting opinion, the integrative complexity was high. It was in the latter case that the justices showed an awareness of alternatives and were more likely to consider both sides--at least in their written arguments." (179) **** "Consensus, while comforting and harmonious as well as efficient, often leads us to make bad decisions. Dissent, while often annoying, is precisely the challenge that we need to reassess our own views and make better choices. It helps us consider alternatives and generate creative solutions. Dissent is a liberator." (197) **** "Dissent has power. Most often we concentrate on he vulnerability of being the one who challenges the majority. Those vulnerabilities are real--but so is the power of a dissenting voice speaking with conviction, courage, and authenticity. That voice is clear, not a complicated contrivance." (206)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ronald J.

    How we make decisions and judgments is what the book explores. Fear consensus, love dissent, because a consensus position can sway us even when it’s wrong, and the facts are in front of us. The author points out the following: • We make poorer decisions and think less creatively when we adopt the majority perspective. • Persuasion by a dissenter is more indirect, and it broadens our thinking, considering more options, info, and strategies. For these reasons, dissent has value, even when it’s wrong How we make decisions and judgments is what the book explores. Fear consensus, love dissent, because a consensus position can sway us even when it’s wrong, and the facts are in front of us. The author points out the following: • We make poorer decisions and think less creatively when we adopt the majority perspective. • Persuasion by a dissenter is more indirect, and it broadens our thinking, considering more options, info, and strategies. For these reasons, dissent has value, even when it’s wrong, or even when it doesn’t sway us. It stimulates our thinking. • The benefits of dissent don’t derive from a diversity of demographics (age, gender, race) but rather thought. Demographic diversity does not ensure diversity of perspective. Diversity on such basis can lower morale and bonding, and create “we/they” divides. IDEO searches for diversity of skill and knowledge rather than readily observable demographics. • To have value, dissent must be expressed. Perhaps this is why conservatives and climate change skeptics reside in think tanks and not universities? • The most important element of effective dissent is authenticity. The dissenter has to be truly attached to his views, which is why the Devil’s advocate (pretend dissent) is not an effective strategy. It’s also why, when brainstorming, rules such as “do not criticize each other’s ideas” are ill advised. But criticism isn’t the same as dissent, but both can generate creative ideas. • Even the Roman Catholic Church has started to embrace authentic dissent, abandoning its reliance on the devil’s advocate method (Christopher Hitchens was sought for his contrarian views on Mother Theresa—she’s a friend of poverty, not of the poor)—before her sainthood. • Accuracy is more likely found in numbers if the judgment is a matter of common knowledge (the wisdom of crowds theory). But an expert in chemistry is more likely to know the name of Glen Seaborg than a dozen laypeople. Herding behavior, stock bubbles, etc., demonstrate many people doing the same thing is not necessarily an indication of their accuracy or good judgment. The truth is no protection against the majority. • Two main reasons people follow the majority: 1) assumption that truth lies in numbers; and 2) the desire to belong, or a fear of being different and of inviting ridicule or punishment (pricing consultants who think you can hold onto timesheets and refuse to take on the issue, this is you!). • If you deviate from the crowd, you lose reputation whether you succeed or fail. If you’re right, you’re rash. If you’re wrong, you’ll be vilified. • Dissenters are rarely liked, reactions ranging from irritation to ridicule or even put to death (Jesus). The likability factor is not the basis for the ability to change minds. I rather be right than liked. • The dissenter has to be consistent in his position. It’s necessary, but often not sufficient. Consistency is more effective than compromise in changing minds. • Dissenters change minds more in private than in public. They have a “hidden influence.” • The movie Twelve Angry Men illustrates the value and power of even one dissenter. • On balance, consensus is an impediment while dissent is a benefit. • Training is not very effective in combatting biases. • Groups often “strains” for consensus, a term that Irving Janis used to describe “groupthink.” • When people share a leaning and discuss their views, they become more extreme in that direction. • Try not to be a “directed leader,” invite dissent, as JFK learned between the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. • Dissenters may provoke anger, but they are no expressing anger. • The emphasis is not to create dissent but to permit it. • Eric Hoffer: The beginning of thought is in disagreement—not only with others but also with ourselves.” • Mark Twain: “Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Consensus, while comforting, often leads us to make bad decisions. Dissent, while annoying, is precisely the challenge we need to reassess our own views and make better choices. Perhaps it’s good that science progresses by dissent, and not consensus. Dissent is a liberator. The book is repetitive in many places, but the message is vital. It deserves 3.5 stars, and is worth reading, especially if you find yourself swimming against the tide.

  11. 5 out of 5

    ReadingMama

    The power of dissent in life and business: Oftentimes, we avoid confrontation and we trade conviction for agreement (Certainly true in my case!) However, sadly, this kind of thinking does not improve collective thinking! “Dissent” is a necessary ingredient to our creativity, accuracy of our decision, and quality of our thoughts! “Consensus” can sway our judgement even when it is in error. (I hate to admit yet have seen too many times, the majority of opinion was not the best decision yet we all The power of dissent in life and business: Oftentimes, we avoid confrontation and we trade conviction for agreement (Certainly true in my case!) However, sadly, this kind of thinking does not improve collective thinking! “Dissent” is a necessary ingredient to our creativity, accuracy of our decision, and quality of our thoughts! “Consensus” can sway our judgement even when it is in error. (I hate to admit yet have seen too many times, the majority of opinion was not the best decision yet we all pursue the majority… Because there was comfort in being part of the bigger group, I am GUILTY!) When everyone is focused on one thing they tend to lose sight of relevant information and opinion. Therefore, consensus narrows while dissent opens the mind! We give more attention to information that confirms our own belief, while often discounting information that discredits them. Therefore, we do not consider explanations, perspectives, ways of interpreting situations. We follow majority for two main reasons: 1) Assumption that truth lies in the #s. and 2) Desire to belong. (Yet, wasn’t Jesus set his own way and followed the narrow path that has been given to him? If we intently look at the people who changed the world they did not follow the majority of the opinion…) Relying on consensus does not offer independent or expansive thinking, which leads to divergent and flexible thinking which in the end of the source of creativity! 다수가 항상 옳치는 않다. 하지만 인간의 본성중에 다수를 따라갈려는 경향이 있다. 같이 어울리고, 소속되고 싶은게 본능이다. 그리고 가능하면대립을 피할려고 하는 … (완전 내가 이해할수있는 내 행동경향이다.) 이책은 합의가 항상 좋은것이 아니고 ,소수의 ,반대의견의 중요함을 깨우쳐준다. 다수를 그냥 무조건 따라가지않으려면, 용기가 필요하다. 그 용기에는 전염성이 있다. 자기입장에 확신이있고 또 끝까지 밀고 부칠 끈기역시 필요하다. 확실한 나의 신념이 바탕이 되어서, 일관성을 가지고 나가야 한다. 반대의의견 : 1. 우리의 생각을 자극시킨다. 2. 독립적인 사고의 힘을 길러준다. 3. 확산적인 사고을 불러 일으킨다. 4. 창의성 = 독창력 + 타당성 Brainstorming 역시 논쟁과 비판이 허용될때 더많은 아이디어의 생산. 나를 발전시키기 위해선 나와다른 사고를 가지고, 새로운 통찰력을 가진, 그리고 나의 부족함을 매꿀수있는 자들과 어울려라. 카톨릭교 의 악마의 변호인이 효과적일수 없는이유: 역활 연기 그러믈 진정성과 신용성의 결핍.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    The basic premises of this book are interesting, and worth noting - with the main points being about how dissent can positively impact decision-making and opinion-forming. However, I found this book somewhat repetitive and not as strong as it could have been. I think the crux of the book could have been covered in about 30 pages and not much would have been lost. (And they would have been 30 awesome pages of great information.) I would also say that in some examples, I think there is more going o The basic premises of this book are interesting, and worth noting - with the main points being about how dissent can positively impact decision-making and opinion-forming. However, I found this book somewhat repetitive and not as strong as it could have been. I think the crux of the book could have been covered in about 30 pages and not much would have been lost. (And they would have been 30 awesome pages of great information.) I would also say that in some examples, I think there is more going on than just the consent-dissent dynamic that she is focused on in this book. For example, the first case study in this book is United Airlines flight 173, which crashed in 1978 (ran out of fuel while the crew were troubleshooting a landing gear problem). She goes on to explain this in terms of consent/dissent (or lack of dissent). However, I have seen this same crash evaluated much more convincingly in Matthew Syed's Black Box Thinking , with a focus on flow and tunnel vision (think Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his book Flow ), and on power dynamics within a strong hierarchy. This is somewhat linked with the consent/dissent that Nemeth speaks of, but that was not as central as she made it seem. Overall, this book is OK, and worth a quick read, but my recommendation is that if this topic interests you, and this book left you wanting more substance or practical applications, I would suggest these two books next: 1. Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed - Arriving at root cause, and why we can stubbornly continue to believe the wrong thing even when the facts prove us wrong. 2. The Opposable Mind by Roger L. Martin - increasing creativity and clarity by purposely holding opposing ideas in tension.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Roger Smitter

    Nemeth wants us to raise dissent—especially in small groups that are making important dississions. She says too often we assume we have two choices in a decision-making group: Consensus or dissent. Nemeth wants to decision-making groups to think independently and challenge attempts at achieving pre-mature consensus. Dissent in a group should be used on challenge others to rethink their view of the decision. We should evaluate our work in a group not by how we came to an agreement but how we chal Nemeth wants us to raise dissent—especially in small groups that are making important dississions. She says too often we assume we have two choices in a decision-making group: Consensus or dissent. Nemeth wants to decision-making groups to think independently and challenge attempts at achieving pre-mature consensus. Dissent in a group should be used on challenge others to rethink their view of the decision. We should evaluate our work in a group not by how we came to an agreement but how we challenged each other to make the core decision. She provides a lot of examples of how dissent changed the status quo: Galileo, Jesus, Freud, and Solzhenitsyn. She praises the honor and courage shown in Timunmen Square and the mistakes of the Bay of Pigs invasion. The best of example is the film Twelve Angry Men. She always calls attention to dissenting leaders who did bad things, with a focus on Jim Jones in Central America. She gives us a list of barriers to dissent, starting with the most powerful blocker, “numbers rule.” Also on her target list is the goal of quick consensus. It limits our thinking and the range of solutions we could consider. She is especially bothered by the “brainstorming” exercises that ban any criticism in decision-making. She has nothing good to say about Dale Carnegie. One of the most complete (and controversial) examples comes in a chapter focused on the OJ trial. The most powerful takeaway in the book: Dissent is useful, even when it’s wrong. We can criticize the depth of the book, especially with the examples that are not fully explained in the text. However, a very strong set of notes provide a context for readers who don’t know about Jim Jones or Dale Carnegie or the Bay of Bigs. It’s a book born of a college-level course and lots of experience in teaching.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Doug Turnbull

    I get that allowing dissent is important. That could have been stated in a few chapters. I really wanted to know *how* to dissent. Politely? Passionately? Angrily? Can I dissent positively, but still not be isolated like dissenters usually are? Is there an art to challenging the groupthink without destroying your relationships in the process? Or is dissent valuable to the group, but always ends up sacrificing the dissenter (by making them hated by all)? There were some tidbits on this from the bo I get that allowing dissent is important. That could have been stated in a few chapters. I really wanted to know *how* to dissent. Politely? Passionately? Angrily? Can I dissent positively, but still not be isolated like dissenters usually are? Is there an art to challenging the groupthink without destroying your relationships in the process? Or is dissent valuable to the group, but always ends up sacrificing the dissenter (by making them hated by all)? There were some tidbits on this from the book that seemed to help, but they were sparse and the author was inconsistent or seem primarily driven from opinion: - Hold your position as long as possible to maximize impact of dissent, but in the end compromise for the sake of moving forward (don't stonewall forever, but don't be wishy washy) - Authentic Dissent trumps "Devils Advocate" (but then the author praises some seemingly inauthentic kinds of dissent!?) - Some platitudes around "this isn't license to be angry" etc around the end - really? why? Has research shown anger is less effective than non-angry authentic dissent? This seems more like opinion. - The author doesn't engage with some of the devils advocate variants with research, only reiterating that authentic dissent is better (which sounds more like an opinion) So generally I found the book lacking in what I wanted most from it: how to dissent. If she could crack that nut, from a research based perspective, then there'd be a lot of value here

  15. 5 out of 5

    G.F. Erichsen

    We might like to think that groups of diverse people are good at making good decisions, but Nemeth makes a compelling that that isn't always true. She cites quite a few studies, most of them interesting, to support her argument that lack of consensus can be a good thing, as it leads to more thorough thinking. Although Nemeth did discuss Edward Snowden, I would have liked to see more about how this concept applies to large entities such as countries, states or even large membership organizations. We might like to think that groups of diverse people are good at making good decisions, but Nemeth makes a compelling that that isn't always true. She cites quite a few studies, most of them interesting, to support her argument that lack of consensus can be a good thing, as it leads to more thorough thinking. Although Nemeth did discuss Edward Snowden, I would have liked to see more about how this concept applies to large entities such as countries, states or even large membership organizations. I didn't find the author's writing style particular engaging, and the book's organization seemed slightly scattered at times with some unnecessary repetition. But her use of real-life examples and her challenges to conventional wisdom helped make up for the book's shortcomings. I'd consider this a must-read for anyone who is in charge of a group decision-making process.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Murphy

    Dissent is critical if you want to generate more creative ideas, explore a wider range of strategies or solutions, and make better decisions. At its most powerful, dissent is consistent (don't compromise, but you can offer concessions) and authentic (vs. role playing or being the devil's advocate). Yet the lure of consensus is strong: we see value in numbers (the majority) and want to belong and be liked. We also suffer from confirmation bias--taking in information that supports our own beliefs Dissent is critical if you want to generate more creative ideas, explore a wider range of strategies or solutions, and make better decisions. At its most powerful, dissent is consistent (don't compromise, but you can offer concessions) and authentic (vs. role playing or being the devil's advocate). Yet the lure of consensus is strong: we see value in numbers (the majority) and want to belong and be liked. We also suffer from confirmation bias--taking in information that supports our own beliefs (now exacerbated by social media). Even when dissent is wrong, it encourages better quality, more flexible thinking, and can give "closet" dissenters the courage to speak out. Nemeth, a professor at UC Berkeley, supports her points with research and anecdotes. Although the book is often repetitive and dry, it's an important and timely contribution to applied social psychology.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    A thought-provoking look at how authentic expression of differing opinions leads to more open, creative thinking and ultimately better decision-making. I think this should be a must-read for leaders of all stripes, in business and government and everywhere in between. At times it read a bit "research paper"-ish (this is what we'll be talking about, now we're talking about it, and in conclusion this is what we talked about), but it was an engaging and generally easy read, with interesting case st A thought-provoking look at how authentic expression of differing opinions leads to more open, creative thinking and ultimately better decision-making. I think this should be a must-read for leaders of all stripes, in business and government and everywhere in between. At times it read a bit "research paper"-ish (this is what we'll be talking about, now we're talking about it, and in conclusion this is what we talked about), but it was an engaging and generally easy read, with interesting case study and real world examples. *Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC, provided by the author and/or the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Olaf

    One of the best books in this genre that I have read! Came very timely for me, and contributed to explaining a difficult situation I was in at the moment. "Troublemakers" in the title all depend on how you see dissent; if there is room for dissent, that is not making trouble, as the book convincingly explains. This book may give readers the courage to be of different opinion, but even more important, provide arguments to welcome dissent and differing opinions, and dealing with them in a good way One of the best books in this genre that I have read! Came very timely for me, and contributed to explaining a difficult situation I was in at the moment. "Troublemakers" in the title all depend on how you see dissent; if there is room for dissent, that is not making trouble, as the book convincingly explains. This book may give readers the courage to be of different opinion, but even more important, provide arguments to welcome dissent and differing opinions, and dealing with them in a good way.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    The main premise seems to be that authentic diferences of opinion, whether true or false, encourage the majority to look more deeply into other ways of looking at or approaching whatever the problem is. Diversity of any kind is not essential, just a willingness on the part of the minority to believe in and advocate for their opposing view. A very interesting idea which causes you to rethink whatever method of problem solving you are using or have used which is exactly what the author advocates.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Corinne

    This is an in-depth look at how fostering an environment that permits and welcomes dissenting opinions is crucial to healthy decision making. I’m glad I read it. There’s a lot of good in here for people who work in teams, including quite a few specific tips for creating those processes. That said, it was often repetitive, and I think it could have been trimmed down and still made the same points.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Flora

    A little redundant, but would be a digestible Intro to the research in this area for those who are new to it. That said, even with having a background in this area I did glean a few new nuggets, such as the utility of the ‘devil’s advocate’. I also appreciated connections to history and film, and could easily see the being a popular book to accompany other media pieces in an inter group dynamics course.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gabriel Zamora

    It's an excellent book, with several practical applications, especially for companies. However, the book takes to long explaining the same studies. Concerning the practical applications, it's curious how normal practices can be wrong. The brainstorming technic, where we should not criticize any idea generation is one example of it; studies show that when we have a dissident discussing and criticizing the ideas, the group generates more ideas and more creative ones. It's an excellent book, with several practical applications, especially for companies. However, the book takes to long explaining the same studies. Concerning the practical applications, it's curious how normal practices can be wrong. The brainstorming technic, where we should not criticize any idea generation is one example of it; studies show that when we have a dissident discussing and criticizing the ideas, the group generates more ideas and more creative ones.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mukesh Gupta

    I got an advance copy of the book via Netgalley and liked the book. The author talks about the importance of having authentic dissent and the role it plays in deciding the quality of our decisions. The author is makes a compelling case and has succeeded in convincing me to change the way I moderate discussions among groups for decision making.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    This book provided insight into many different angles of dissent. I really enjoyed it and found that it filled in gaps of my understanding and will help me talk about this topic more confidently. I like that it is based in scientific studies. However, that might make it dry for some folks. It is quite comprehensive.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sean

    A reasonably good treatise on the power of dissent in broadening the mind, challenging groupthink, and spurring creative, non-generic solutions, In Defense of Troublemakers provides a thoughtful challenge to the conventional wisdom of acquiescing to the crowd.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Erik Golbiw

    Quality discussion on the benefit of disagreement and dissent in decision making. Diversity of THOUGHT and the courage to speak up typically result in more alternatives being considered. Interesting and thoughtful premise.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amy Drees

    I would agree with a lot of the reviews: this book can be mostly summed up in the conclusion. The data is repeated so much, it is certainly proven research, but it lacks readability. It's an interesting topic, but it could have been written in fewer words and been more effective. I would agree with a lot of the reviews: this book can be mostly summed up in the conclusion. The data is repeated so much, it is certainly proven research, but it lacks readability. It's an interesting topic, but it could have been written in fewer words and been more effective.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Mabrey

    A 100 page book stretched into 200 pages. Some sound ideas, but the repetition made it less effective, at least for me.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Terry Pellegrino

    A must read for anyone interested in learning and growing. Dissenters and people with different opinions need to be welcomed and debated, not silenced!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Eric Durant

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