!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Advocacy vs. Inquiry

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Advocacy vs. Inquiry

As a follow-on to yesterday's post concerncing Jay Conger's views on use of persuasion in internal decision-making, a process I suggested he might better have termed "advocacy," I'd mention that David Garvin (Harvard Business School) and Michael Roberto (Bryant University) go a step further in their 2001 Harvard Business Review article, "What You Don't Know About Making Decisions" (pdf).

Garvin and Roberto argue that advocacy — which they define as a more singleminded effort than Conger's notion of persuasion — is the wrong approach for a group working toward a decision. In its place they would have people use a process of "inquiry."

Garvin and Roberto summarize the differences between advocacy and inquiry as follows:

Concept of decision making
Advocacy: a contest
Inquiry: collaborative problem solving

Purpose of discussion
Advocacy: persuasion and lobbying
Inquiry: testing and evaluation

Participants' role
Advocacy: spokespeople
Inquiry: critical thinkers

Patterns of behavior
Advocacy: strive to persuade others, defend your position, downplay weaknesses
Inquiry: present balanced arguments, remain open to alternatives, accept constructive criticism

Minority views
Advocacy: discouraged or dismissed
Inquiry: cultivated and valued

Advocacy: winners and losers
Inquiry: collective ownership

I believe the Garvin-Roberto analysis reinforces my own view that Conger uses "persuasion" in an ambiguous way because, the fact is, Conger would probably agree that what Garvin and Roberto call "inquiry" is the way to go.

To some extent, it's a question of who's doing the persuading/advocating/inquiring. Conger's analysis assumes one or two individuals working to build support for a course of action they believe advisable, while Garvin and Roberto are thinking in terms of a group collectively working toward making a decision.


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