Concensus in the Trenches

Azeem Azhar pointed me to Terry Eagleton‘s essay about the importance of theory, which the Guardian published on Tuesday. Azhar writes:

    “… it’s a brilliant criticism of the critics of thinking, reason and principle. During my time working for large organisations there was little room for thinking and principle, at least at the levels at which I operated, and a stronger emphasis on consensus and doing. But is it always better to all agree (and do the wrong thing, the wrong way) or to challenge held views, to tease out the underlying principles for behaviour, and to come to a defensible conclusion?”

This evening at my local pub, I encountered an old friend who works for one of the bigger research firms in the Information Technology industry. He was despondent about his job. “We all know what the bosses are asking us to do doesn’t make sense. But we’re all agreeing to do it and just keeping our heads down.” And so, as historians say, went the Battle of the Somme.

Imagine a ship in which no one knows how to navigate but there nonetheless is concensus about a course even though most of the crew knows it’s the wrong way. Is your company like this?