E12 – SMARTalks The Value of Creating A Culture of Discussion

We’re bringing you Episode 12 LIVE from Jerusalem, Israel!

This week’s topic is the importance of creating a culture of transparent and curious discussion. Is there a better place to jump into this topic, than the center of the Jewish World?

It is important for students to have discussions but it is also important for teachers to have discussions, because there is value in both ways. Questions that are asked help both the listener and the one who asks. Join the conversation as we discuss the importance of asking — and listening to — questions, what we think genius actually is, and what YOU gain when you foster discussion among others.

Debate generated by students sharpens the mind and clarifies subject matter.

The Sages compared the effect of students on their teachers to the effect of twigs on large logs. The small branches can kindle a fire on the large log. Similarly, students enlighten their mentors (see Taanis 7a).

Isolation is incompatible with Jewish knowledge:

It is only by association with living sages, in close communion with associates, and by the clarity of thought and judgment that can be attained by teaching it to disciples that the knowledge of Torah can be nurtured and allowed to flourish. Hence, one must combine a relationship with sages, a close­ness with colleagues and sharp discussion with stu­dents in order to tap all the resources of Torah knowledge (R’S. R. Hirsch).

Discussions at the Workplace

The modern workplace is awash in meetings, many of which are terrible. As a result, people mostly hate going to meetings. The problem is this: The whole point of meetings is to have discussions that you can’t have any other way. And yet most meetings are devoid of real debate.

To improve the meetings you run, and save the meetings you’re invited to, focus on making the discussion more robust. When teams have a good fight during meetings, team members debate the issues, consider alternatives, challenge one another, listen to minority views, and scrutinize assumptions.

So how do you lead a good fight/debate in meetings? Here are six practical tips:

  1. Start by asking a question, not uttering your opinion.
  2. Help quiet people speak up (and don’t let the talkers dominate).
  3. Make it safe for people to take risks — don’t let the sharks rule.
  4. Take the contrarian view.
  5. Dissect the three most fundamental assumptions.
  6. Cultivate transparent advocates (and get rid of the hard sellers)

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