The Thing with Arguing …

“If you stand for something, you will always find some people for you and some against you. If you stand for nothing, you will find nobody against you, and nobody for you.” (Bill Bernbach)
Never has this been more relevant than today … a time in which “survival of the fittest” has almost become a company mantra and the expression “Streitkultur” has become an essential part of corporate language.

It is quite striking that “Streitkultur” is not translatable. It is a purely German phenomenon with everything that it entails. And so nowadays Bill Bernbach’s quote is being misused all too often. Misused as an excuse for people’s own inability to work as part of a team or as the attempt to explain the inexplicable behavior of a superior. In many cases “I am the way I am” is an often used justification. Or “We are a company with a culture of healthy arguing (“gesunde Streitkultur”)”.
How the words “arguing” and “culture” can have in any way anything in common at all is already a disjointed thought. Even more so is the notion of declaring such behavior part of company culture. This is a sign of our times. A sign that explains a lot of the pain and suffering within teams. Companies with a “gesunde Streitkultur” usually are characterized by individualists, who confuse arguing with a constructive discussion serving a particular aim. These individualists reign based on monarchic principles, through which arguing becomes a zero sum game. One side is right and one side is wrong.
A constructive discussion on the other hand demands the contribution by people talking at eye level and with mutual respect. These people do not argue any less, but manage to do so whilst focused on the end game and jointly looking for a solution to the issue at hand.
This is where collaboration begins: With mutual respect for the contribution of the other team members towards the overall aim. Collaboration does not mean to always agree with each other. But it means listening and contributing to the big picture so that the end result becomes the best it can be.

Collaborative behaviour can in the long run truly lead to the “survival of the fittest”. Evolution here we come!