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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

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

12.02.2018, by Sibylle Classen in publication

by Charlan Nemeth; Basic Books, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-465-09629-9

Book Cover
Book Cover


Adam Grant, Wharton Professor, University of Pennsylvania and New York Times bestselling author of "Originals, Give and Take, and Option B" (with Sheryl Sandberg)

“A timely tome on the perils of silence and the value of voice. Charlan Nemeth is one of the world’s leading experts on making decisions and influencing others, and she presents a career’s worth of evidence on why the views you don’t want to consider are often the ones you need to hear most. If you want to escape confirmation bias and overcome groupthink, you need to take dissenting opinions seriously—even if you think they’re wrong.”

Philip Tetlock, Leonore Annenberg University Professor of Psychology and Management, University of Pennsylvania and author of "Superforecasting".

“Charlan Nemeth personifies minority influence; there is no person on the planet better scientifically qualified to write a book on the dynamics of dissent. She understands the underlying science deeply. She is a key contributor to the literature to induce divergent thinking and creativity. And, she has repeatedly demonstrated her ability to apply the scientific literature to engaging real world problems.”

Jenny Johnson, President & COO of Franklin Resources, Inc.

“In Defense of Troublemakers is an intelligent guide to embracing dissent in the decision-making process and a must read for people engaged in decision-making and progressive thinking. Charlan’s analysis of dissent decision-making is of immense value as it provides a critical guide to navigating the challenging waters of group dynamics and the power of individual voices. Embracing troublemakers is counter-intuitive but she backs her conclusions with science and provides sound reasoning for why they make sense. This book will fundamentally change your mind set in how to manage a crisis and should be required reading for all MBA programs.”

Karl E. Weick, Rensis Likert Distinguished University Professor of Organizational Psychology, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, author of "Sensemaking in Organisations" and co-author of "Managing the Unexpected".

“Charlan Nemeth has written the definitive account of dissent and how it affects thinking. This remarkably insightful, grounded, and accessible treatment could not be more important or timely.”

William Poundstone, author of "Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?"

“A lucid, practical guide to fostering smarter teams, companies, and societies. Charlan Nemeth demonstrates the power of nonconformists in raising the quality of our group decisions.”

Adam Alter, Assoc. Professor of Marketing, Stern School of Business, New York University and best-selling author of "Irresistible and Drunk Tank Pink"

“A beautifully written and important book that deserves to be read by the docile and disobedient alike. Crowds are sometimes wise, but Charlan Nemeth shows how, when, and why listening to the majority is dangerous, and why disagreement is often an engine of innovation, persuasion, and error correction.”

Professor Saadi Lahlou, Chair in Social Psychology, London School of Economics

“Insightful, easy to read and full of examples... In this illuminating book, Charlan Nemeth demonstrates how dissent improves decision-making. This is a book every manager and board member should read.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Good ammunition for contrarians and well-grounded in scholarly research”

“Just say no: an examination of how the naysayers in the audience can help individuals and organizations make better decisions. In our lives and work, most of us go along to get along, admonished by adages about rocking the boat and getting hammered down if imitating a nail. But, urges psychologist Nemeth (Psychology/Univ. of California), that's not the best approach. "We benefit," she writes, "when there are dissenting views that are authentically held and that are expressed over time." One of her cases in point is the movie Twelve Angry Men, with Henry Fonda as a juror who refuses to give in to the will of the majority to convict. The movie is used in the psychology classroom as a prime example of how a person with conviction can sway doubters, and it "demonstrates the art of influence, which includes timing, an observation of subtle cues from others, and knowing when to talk and when to listen." Another case in point is the example of the devil's advocate, appointed in the Catholic hierarchy to say, "yeah, but" when a person is considered for sainthood. By implication, every organization might do well to shake off the cobwebs and have someone throw up doubt whenever a major decision is being discussed. Even the Supreme Court values dissent, writes Nemeth, since it "has been found to increase what is called the integrative complexity of the Court's decisions"—i.e., dissent forces an examination of all sides of an issue and the trade-offs involved in making one choice over another. Unanimity, in that view, is bad. Not much of the book centers on the workaday business world, where being a reliable spoilsport can get a person not valued but removed. However, with the necessary adjustments, it's easy to see that this largely academic argument could be made accessible for laypersons. Good ammunition for contrarians and well-grounded in scholarly research.”