Every business needs a provocateur. It could be someone external such as a client or a vendor but it’s way more preferable if it’s someone internal to the organization. If you’re not familiar with the word, it’s defined as a person who deliberately behaves controversially in order to provoke argument or other strong reactions. An agitator, a shit-disturber. Let me explain.

The biggest enemy of any organization is complacency. It’s easy when things are going well enough to be lulled to sleep by the lullaby of good numbers. Complacency is also the result of what I believe to be a fairly common mentality: don’t make waves. How often did you or someone you know report on some crisis that was occurring in a business and their response was to keep their heads down and wait for the crisis to pass?

Provocateurs force us to be better. They challenge assumptions and force us to look at alternative views of the future. Even though the word has negative connotations, I think one can play this role in a positive manner. In fact, it’s almost an imperative for any manager who is worth their salt.

Let me add a word of caution.  I’ve known (and worked for) managers whose m.o. as provocateurs was to pit their staff against one another.  They’d foster internecine warfare and see who came out on top.  This is NOT the sort of thing I have in mind because all that sort of provocation accomplishes is to burn down some of the foundation upon which a business is built.

Ask questions.  Challenge assumptions.  Provoke discussions.  Make some waves.  Is it risky?  Sure, but just as with any risk the rewards should the risk pay off are tremendous.  You in?

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Filed under Consulting, Thinking Aloud

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