Lesson 4

Welcoming diverse perspectives

Lesson 4

Welcoming diverse perspectives

Overview

Work through an interactive mystery, and along the way, discover the benefits of engaging with diverse perspectives. Dig into the tough question of “where to draw the line” when engaging with diverse perspectives.

Our Picks

Recommended Essay:

  • The dying art of disagreement by Bret Stephens (2017). Stephens questions why we have become so hesitant to hear from people we disagree with. He urges us to keep in mind everything we can gain when we have conversations with people who see things differently from us: “To say, I disagree; I refuse; you’re wrong… these are the words that define our individuality, give us our freedom, enjoin our tolerance, enlarge our perspectives, seize our attention, energize our progress, make our democracies real, and give hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere.”

Recommended Video:

  • Margaret Heffernan, Dare to disagree, TED Talk (12:49). International businesswoman and five-time CEO, Margaret Heffernan illustrates that disagreement is often the engine of progress and innovation. She offers stories of teams of thinking partners who “constructive conflict” to their advantage. For example, Dr. Alice Stewart’s collaboration with statistician George Kneale forced her to think about how her evidence would be challenged, which helped her to make her arguments as persuasive as possible. Heffernan argues that stepping out of our echo chambers and collaborating with those with whom we disagree is essential to successful businesses, organizations, and relationships.
Videos
  • Groupthink – A short introduction, MinuteVideos, (2:54). A detailed demonstration of how an insistence on conformity within a group can result in “groupthink.” The video lays out 8 symptoms of groupthink through an example of entrepreneurship gone wrong.

  • Ethics defined: Groupthink, McCombs School of Business (1:41). This short video illustrates the pitfalls of groupthink, focusing on how it may lead groups to make ethically questionable decisions.

  • Peer pressure psychology – How group think happens Jared Volle (3:54). An introduction to the social psychology research on how and why people succumb to conformity in the face of peer pressure. Importantly, hearing other people speak up against a consensus view makes it more likely that we’ll voice our views even when others disagree. That means that by speaking up against group consensus, we can prevent groupthink by making others feel more comfortable voicing dissent.

  • Zachary R. Wood, Why it’s worth listening to people you disagree with, TED Talk (11:23). Wood urges us to engage with people who hold opposing viewpoints, in order to give ourselves a chance to truly understand one another even if we disagree. He explains why this is especially important for leaders who hope to represent the interests of a diverse constituency.

  • Doris Kearns Goodwin, Lessons from past presidents, TED Talk (18:48). Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin shares the stories of two former U.S. presidents (Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson) who chose to collaborate with people who disagreed with them. Lincoln notably appointed three of his political rivals to his cabinet, judging that he needed their experience and insights to accomplish the challenging task of restoring unity to a deeply divided nation.

  • 1. Beyond Bigots and Snowflakes: Building Community through Viewpoint Diversity, Ilana Redstone (5:47). Sociologist Ilana Redstone explains why we should embrace viewpoint diversity, even when it comes to issues that are controversial or high stakes. History shows us that we can get things wrong – and we need disagreement to move towards better ideas and policies. Moreover, trying to silence people who hold controversial views often backfires, by making them feel resentful and misunderstood. This means we ought to think carefully about where we’ll draw the line on which ideas we’re willing to discuss.

  • How to resist conspiracy theories,  School of Life (4:49). This video introduces the idea of “intelligent skepticism” as the middle ground between closing ourselves off from new ideas and believing everything we hear. An intelligent skeptic has enough confidence in their ability to sort out fact from fiction that they’re able to place trust in “the goodness and truthfulness of strangers.” In fact, the best way to respond to conspiracy theorists might be to help them regain their ability to trust people and take them at their word.

Essays and Articles
  • The bias that divides us, by Keith Stanovich (2020). Psychologist Keith Stanovich explains how our social divisions are fueled by myside bias, where “people evaluate evidence, generate evidence, and test hypotheses in a manner biased toward their own prior beliefs, opinions, and attitudes”. This discussion considers confirmation bias as part of a broader pattern of human tendencies that give us an inflated sense of certainty that we’re right and others are wrong. He urges us to challenge ourselves to take on other people’s perspectives so we can find “a deep understanding” of the world beyond our own point of view.
  • The indispensable opposition by Walter Lippmann (1939). Lippmann provides a compelling defense of free speech, arguing that “because freedom of discussion improves our own opinions, the liberties of other men are our own vital necessity.” Lippmann compares free speech to a visit to the doctor, explaining “When we pay the doctor to exercise complete freedom of speech about the cause and cure of our stomachache, we do not look upon ourselves as tolerant and magnanimous, and worthy to be admired by ourselves.”
  • The power of dissent by Cass R. Sunstein (2003). Sunstein makes the case for dissent, arguing that encouraging disagreement and skepticism is essential to the health and success of any group or organization.
  • The NLI Interview: Kamila Sip on speaking up by Khalil Smith (2020). Neuroscientist Kamily Sip explains why many people are hesitant to speak up even when they have something important to say. She explains what leaders can do to create a culture where people feel comfortable enough to be honest with each other about their ideas and concerts.
Bookshelf
  • Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought by Jonathan Rauch (1993). Rauch places the debate surrounding free speech in its historical context and offers a powerful case for its necessity. Rauch argues that the best method to combat prejudice and bias and to achieve social progress is to encourage vigorous and open discourse.
  • On Liberty by John Stuart Mill (1859) (HxA Condensed Version). This is a short book on the limits of political power. Mill argues for freedom of thought and speech, and points out that partisans who suppress criticism ultimately weaken the views they are trying to protect.
  • Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2006). This Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller provides a detailed and riveting history of how former US President Abraham Lincoln used opposition as a strategic tool. By appointing some of his fiercest rivals to his cabinet, Lincoln transformed his former enemies into a highly effective team. 
  • The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development by Robert Kegan (1982). In this book, psychologist Robert Kegan suggests that the pinnacle of human development is when we gain the ability to see things from multiple perspectives. We can think of our adult lives as an opportunity to learn how to blend conflicting perspectives together, to fully understand the complex and contradictory nature of our world.
  • Victims of Groupthink: A Psychological Study of Foreign-Policy Decisions and Fiascoes by Irving Janis (1972). In this landmark book, psychologist Irving Janis offers a powerful explanation for why groups of highly intelligent people can manage to make disastrous decisions. Janis proposed that groups can develop a mentality where they come to believe they are invulnerable to error, and ignore indications to the contrary.
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