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

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  160 ratings  ·  34 reviews
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
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published March 20th 2018 by Basic Books
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Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: leadership
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
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
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 ...more
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jun 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cultural-studies
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).
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
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.
Feb 06, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 21, 2018 rated it liked it
"...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 ...more
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
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: business, non-fiction
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
Roger Smitter
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Doug Turnbull
Apr 06, 2019 rated it liked it
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
G.F. Erichsen
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.
Nancy Murphy
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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 ...more
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 09, 2019 rated it liked it
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.
Kristin Flora
Aug 17, 2020 rated it liked it
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.
Mukesh Gupta
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: blog-shelf
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.
Tomaz Erjavec
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Had more expectations about the book. Very basic, good known cases. If you have read any kind of about about crowd from Gustave Le Bon or someone else then skip this book.
Neemeth is good at research papers but writing books has still a lot place to improve.
May 28, 2018 rated it liked it
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.
Erik Golbiw
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
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.
Amy Drees
Jun 08, 2020 rated it liked it
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.
Elizabeth Mabrey
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
A 100 page book stretched into 200 pages. Some sound ideas, but the repetition made it less effective, at least for me.
Terry Pellegrino
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone interested in learning and growing. Dissenters and people with different opinions need to be welcomed and debated, not silenced!
Eric Durant
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Jun 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Good info. Not too long. Makes me want to speak up more often when I disagree in a group knowing that it might strengthen the overall decision making.
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“Good decision-making, at its heart, is divergent thinking. When we think divergently, we think in multiple directions, seek information and consider facts on all sides of the issue, and think about the cons as well as the pros. Bad decision-making is the reverse. Thinking convergently, we focus more narrowly, usually in one direction. We seek information and consider facts that support an initial preference. We tend not to consider the cons of the position, nor do we look at alternative ways of interpreting the facts.” 0 likes
“Consensus narrows, while dissent opens, the mind. Both affect the quality of our decisions. The take-home message of the research and this book is that there are perils in consensus and there is value in dissent.” 0 likes
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