The more executive sessions we run, the more we are confirmed in our beliefe that it's essential to give responsible hearing to informed alternative viewpoints - even ones that may seem 'heretical'.
Heretics are often wrong. When they're right however, the consequences of ignoring them can be severe.
Just because one future state is deemed "most likely" and one far less probable by consensus doesn't mean that things are going to happen that way. Harvesting "radical" ideas, understanding them and building support for contingent changes are essential parts of a flexible planning process that can enable an organization to respond more resiliently to uncertainty and change.
One of the hardest things an organization can do is to listen selectively to radical voices while probing the old rules for signs of dry rot.
Forgetting old assumptions that have outlived their usefulness is far harder than learning new ones.
Clients we've worked with are often surprised to hear provocative new ideas emerge from within the walls of their own organization. Often, those views have simply been hidden from view in the course of day-to-day operations - drowned-out, shouted-down or driven underground by the force of conventional wisdom.
In listening closely to the aspirations and gripes of customers, suppliers, and partners as well as those on the front lines of an organization, managers are often surprised at the amount of filtering that's been going on in their traditional channels of reporting and communication. Even in relatively 'flat', egalitarian organizations, contrarian voices can easily be muted by the pressure of the prevailing culture or the habit of operating within organizational 'silos'.
One insight we received from a (banking) client's customer: "Why would you care if I have a PDA? You're a bank." Why indeed? Unless the bank wanted to reach customers wherever they were, reducing their costs of advertising and service while increasing customer loyalty. Nobody had thought to even articulate the question until someone mentioned it to us - timidly, in a private interview. The customer was ultimately delighted.