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Consensus is the Enemy to Innovation

As the CEO, you want your employees to disagree with you (although not all of the time). But, blindly following leadership is not conducive to a creative environment, according to Yammer CEO David Sacks. Sacks see consensus as a red flag, that no dissent means that leadership is not open to critiques. Ultimate success comes from all areas across the company, and by stifling criticism you may not be able to get each part of the machine to work well together. And Sacks knows what he’s talking about. His first successful business? PayPal.

As the founder and CEO of Yammer, facilitating communication amongst other companies’ employees is David Sacks’ job.  But it’s also his vision for his own collaborative workplace – he wants to run his company like a start-up. After working as an executive at PayPal when it blew up into a $1.5 billion company, Sacks knows quite a bit about how corporate culture can affect the bottom line.  With his emphasis on communication, Sacks encourages an open office where everyone is asked to voice their opinion.

In an interview with The New York Times, Sacks talks about his open-door policy and how he values being challenged by his employees, “I think you’ve got to create a culture in which dissent is valued… Certainly you can tell if you’ve got a culture of dissent when you walk into a company.  Anytime there doesn’t appear to be dissent, it means that the corporate culture has just shifted way too much toward consensus. That means the leadership doesn’t welcome dissent enough.”  In order to ensure that Yammer has this culture of dissent, Sacks makes a concerted effort to ask those who report to him to weigh in on whether the company is on the right track. Employees in one part of the company may see a weakness in another, and vice versa.  This is the only way to optimize strategy and execution.

Sacks is able to keep his employees from stepping on each other’s toes by creating clear divisions of responsibilities between departments.  He feels that in creating clear divisions of responsibility, it makes it easier to share information across the company. No one gets territorial when lines of responsibilities are clear. As a result, the company functions better as a whole.

Read: Fostering a Culture of Dissent

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