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« Doing business the way your customers want to do business | Main | Theory of Constraints in public education »

October 12, 2005


Marianne Powers

Find out what he believes the situation is. Show him another point of view. If what he believes about what is happening changes, his behavior will change instantly.

Coda Hale

I agree with Adrian.

A "devil's advocate" is not someone to isolate, but someone who needs to feel that their creative input is accepted. I wrote an article on how to understand devil's advocates based on something Kathy Sierra wrote over at Creating Passionate Users:

It's easy to think of the people at the focus of a conflict as the cause of a conflict, but it's misleading. Conflict is systemic and contextual, and by limiting your analysis to just one person ("Is she a bad apple or a lost soul?") you're overlooking the contributions of the group (and yourself) to this conflict.

In short, you're creating a scapegoat, and while that's effective in the short term ("Thank god she's gone, now we can get work done") it doesn't solve the problem in the long-term. It's a team problem, and it needs a team solution.

Skip Angel


I agree that this person has different values. In fact, he probably does feel that others are "morons". However, is it a healthy team environment to always have the clashing? I think it is very healthy for team members to come from different perspectives, but they also must have the flexibility to go with the flow of the team in order to make progress. Otherwise, every discussion becomes a battle. And we all know you should choose your battles wisely!

Adrian Savage

This person simply has different values than others. Not worse; not wrong; just different. It seems unfair to treat him like some kind of pariah.

If you took some time to understand how the situation looks from his point of view, instead of rushing to judgment, you'd discover a simple truth: people always have a reason for whatever they do. From their point of view, it's a sensible reason, even if it isn't from the point of view of the people round about them. Until you understand their reason, you have only a random chance of any action being helpful.

My guess is the reason has something to do with the tendency of "ordinary" people to treat creative types as freaks, because they value things the ordinary people don't (like complexity, curiosity or imagination). Add the fact that many "bright people" treat the rest of the human race as something close to morons and you have all the ingredients for a major clash of values.

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