We debate in groups but think in solitude

Conversations are meant to be transformational – it is the reason why language exists. Famous leaders sometimes prefer high-octane debates over consensus building.  Jeff Bezos and Amazon is famous for using confrontational, high-decibel verbal exchanges for decision-making.

But people and companies are different – in much the same way that your best friend may be a great listener over drinks in private but turns into the most confrontational, obnoxious jerk when the group gets big enough.

Humans are social animals.  But we are also solitary animals.  We are different animals in different settings.

In a midst of a passionate debate, the goal is to respond to the other side.  This means we stop thinking about the value but focus on the weaknesses of those counterarguments.  We think of our responses, how to one-up the other party once they finish speaking.  Or perhaps during their speech, if we can find a split second to chime in.  And there’s always that churning frustration within when they “just don’t see it.”

But they do; they do because debates don’t go on forever.  People do ponder over our words and sometimes change their minds; just not during the discussion itself.

Instead, transformation of ideas occurs in solitude just as memories registered while awake but actually carved into the brain in sleep. Muscles grow not during a heavy workout but the subsequent rest.  Your best response to an argument comes not during a debate but on your walk home.

What our society needs is not constant confrontations; we need a culture of quiet reflection interspersed between those polarized debates.

That’s when thinking happens.

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Howard Chen
Vice Chair for Artificial Intelligence at Cleveland Clinic Diagnostics Institute
Howard is passionate about making diagnostic tests more accurate, expedient, and affordable through disciplined implementation of advanced technology. He previously served as Chief Informatics Officer for Imaging, where he led teams deploying and unifying radiology applications and AI in a multi-state, multi-hospital environment. Blog opinions are his own and in no way reflect those of the employer.

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