Breaking the Ice: Bridging Dissent and Loyalty
If you’ve ever found yourself holding back a contrary opinion at work, or biting your tongue during a heated family dinner, you’re not alone. The idea of dissent is often shrouded in fear and misunderstanding. However, when I read Ozan Varol‘s telling of Netflix’s 2011 Qwikster saga regarding the risks of confirmation bias in Awaken Your Genius (A MUST READ!), a fresh perspective emerged as I thought back to my experiences and how I internalized dissent — the concept of dissent as a vibrant expression of loyalty.
Reimagining Loyalty: The Dissent Paradox
We often equate loyalty with quiet compliance and unquestioning agreement. Yet, what if loyalty’s true essence is found in thoughtful dissent? A culture that embraces dissent is one that champions transparency, diverse viewpoints, and continuous improvement. Such an environment instills loyalty among team members, making them feel acknowledged and heard. It also breeds loyalty towards leaders who show openness and commitment to their organization’s betterment. Dissent, when conveyed respectfully and professionally, can send a powerful message: “I care so much about you and this organization that I am willing to be vulnerable to ensure we make the best possible decisions.”
Surely, dissent can be a tough pill to swallow, especially when it means challenging authoritative figures who influence your career. Yet, when an environment that supports dissent is fostered, it can trigger breakthroughs, personal growth, and the formation of a united, robust team.
So, let’s examine Netflix’s story about their 2011 Qwikster debacle and how they transformed from a company where a Vice President later told Hastings, “You’re so intense when you believe in something . . . that I felt you wouldn’t hear me. I should have laid down on the tracks screaming that I thought it would fail. But I didn’t.”
Unpacking Netflix’s Dissent Chronicle
Netflix’s 2011 Qwikster episode serves as a captivating case study of this principle. The announcement of Qwikster, a proposed standalone DVD-by-mail service, ignited a customer backlash and led to a significant dip in the company’s stock price. Netflix later reversed the decision. They also took a more important and long-term critical step. Instead of dismissing this setback, Netflix’s leadership used it as a springboard to create a culture that cherishes dissent.
To ensure that dissent is identified and expressed before a significant decision is taken, Netflix has implemented various systems across the organization. For instance, when a Netflix team member has a proposition, they often circulate a spreadsheet asking colleagues to evaluate the idea on a scale from -10 to +10 and to add comments. This system is not designed to serve as a democratic poll. Rather, it’s a tool aimed at facilitating feedback collection, measuring the magnitude of dissent, and initiating frank discussions.
This system and, thus, the leadership recognized that averting future blunders required an environment conducive to voicing concerns and challenging decisions. This ‘dissent-farming’ culture nudged team members to express their views, even when these contradicted leadership decisions. This dissent, in turn, embodied an intense loyalty towards the company’s mission and vision.
A key point is that this dissent collection occurs before a decision or course of action. Doing such after can often be destructive and cowardice.
Hyper Loyalty: The Dissent Evolution
Netflix’s adoption of dissent reshaped its organizational culture and redefined the meaning of loyalty. By nurturing dissent, the leadership demonstrated their commitment to the company’s progress, thereby winning their team’s loyalty. Team members, by articulating dissent, displayed their unwavering dedication to the company’s success, symbolizing a paradoxical form of loyalty.
Netflix has gone from a culture where a VP did not feel he would be heard to one where Hastings stated, “To disagree silently is disloyal.”
The Last Word: Welcoming Dissent
In conclusion, dissent, when encouraged, appreciated, and constructively employed, can transform into a beacon of hyper loyalty. It underscores a commitment to shared goals, respects the multiplicity of perspectives, and cultivates a conducive atmosphere for growth and progress. Loyalty, therefore, is no longer synonymous with passive compliance; it is about caring enough to express disagreement, defy the status quo, and advocate for improvement.
The next time you encounter dissent, whether at work or over a meal with your family, don’t view it as a challenge. Instead, recognize it as a profound act of loyalty and a deep-seated expression of care.
One thing I love about suburbia is Chick-Fil-A. Thankfully, one recently opened up near our house which has led to a trip 1-2 times per week. We are not the only ones hitting the new addition to the neighborhood. It is slaughtering my predominantly vegetarian diet. This place is always busy… except Sunday (of course).
During the last visit, I noticed something interesting. The manager was not sitting in an office watching the staff from behind glass. He was not at the register directly helping customers and ringing up sales. He was not behind the grill making food. I would like to say that this is a good thing.
So, where was the manager? He was focused on two things – his employees and his customers. He was actively involved in ensuring both of these parties were having a successful experience.
For the customers, he was greeting them, welcoming them to restaurant, and ensuring the experience was a clean and professional one. I watched the presumably highest paid employee empty the trash from bin to dumpster twice in less than 15 minutes. This was not merely a detail. It was important because it helps ensure the customers have a clean place and the remaining staff could also drive this mission behind the registers and grills and on the dining floor.
For the employees, he was not micro-managing. He was checking in repeatedly to see what if anything they needed – from additional change for registers to food for the grills to lemons for the their awesome diet lemonade. He wanted them to succeed at their mission of helping the customer and taking care of them. There were no excuses about rank or politics about position.
The lesson here is that good managers do the same. They pay attention to the employees and customers. They get the right people, give them the right tools, help where necessary, and know when to get the hell out of the way.
The past few weeks, I have searching for Saint Louis enterpreneurs to attend a happy hour this Thursday. The event is being hosted by EO Accelerator to introduce the program. Accelerator is a great program sponsored by EO and Mercedes-Benz Financial. It is geared for businesses with revenue between $250k and $1m where the entrepreneur is under 35.
If anyone is interested, ping me at your convenience. The event is Thursday at ARAKA in Clayton.