A diversity of views is healthy, especially when you’re searching for ideas and solutions in a disruptive and fast-changing business environment. However, the consequences can be serious for businesses when industries have multiple strident and competing public voices on important issues.
Many public voices generate noise and send conflicting messages that can be costly. For example, confused policy-makers can end up responding to the loudest instead of the most valid case. It also presents the industry as chaotic and directionless, which is damaging to the reputations of all.
At worst, political leaders can use mixed messages and conflicting views to advance their own political interests rather than the industry interests. The disarray provides them with an opportunity to select a position or issue that offers the most advantage over political rivals – free kicks enabled by a disorganised industry.
Not surprisingly, I often hear exasperated industry leaders express a desire to have ‘one voice’. It sounds appealing, but is it a real option?
History says that even dictatorships can’t silence dissenting views indefinitely and in the digital age, anyone can amplify their voice at any time.
Internally, it is valuable to have many points of view as you’re more likely to discover new ideas, find workable solutions and set the right priorities. Where the process breaks down is when the goal is to reach a decision that pleases everyone – to have consensus – before communicating externally.
Good governance means that the leadership of a member-based organisation is there to act in the best interests of the members as a whole. Not in the interests of each member individually, but the members as a whole.
Seems simple enough. Crucially, it starts from the top with skilled leadership, current knowledge and evidence of the diversity of business priorities across the whole industry, and an agile business model to adapt as priorities shift.
Rather than wishing to have one voice or being the loudest one, the real goal is to become the only voice that matters – the one that is listened to.