Business Leaders Say: Debate Skills Can Benefit Your Company
Debaters Foster Innovation Through Healthy Debate
Want to avoid culture wars at work? You need a healthy ‘debate culture.’ | Protocol, July 5, 2022
Matt Calkins often hears that he’s polite, even deferential. But as CEO of Appian, he tells employees to challenge each other — especially their bosses — early and often.
“I love arguments. I love ideas clashing,” Calkins said. “I regard it as a personal compliment when someone respectfully dissents.”
This culture originated with Calkins and his three co-founders, two of whom were champion student debaters before founding the cloud computing company in 1999. Today, Calkins said he still greets new employees with an invitation to express disagreement with anyone at any level of the company — including himself.
“If you disagree with somebody, especially your boss, you’re doing them a favor,” Calkins said. “You’re helping them to make their idea better. Whatever it is you just disagreed with is going to get better because you challenged it.”
Debaters Gain Skills Long Before Graduation
How to Find the Millenials Who Will Lead Your Company | Robert Sher, Forbes columnist and consultant to midsized company CEOs
“…Here is the truth about students who compete in speech and debate. They’ve spent hundreds of hours perfecting their speaking skills. Many have done intensive research to write their speeches. All have endured the pressure that competition brings, and have performed well intellectually under such pressure. They’ve made connections and friendships with other high performing peers. All of these behaviors are excellent predictors of success on any leadership team.
Be on the lookout for Millennials who have participated in speech and debate training. Hire them and put them on your leadership fast track.”
Debaters Excel Under Pressure
Debate Paves Way to Business Success | Capitol Debate, 2021
“Nuance’s Chuck Berger (now Kenandy) has said that he learned three things in debate that have helped in business. First, how to research and prepare a controversial topic with opposing viewpoints. Second, to make a compelling presentation. Third, to act quickly on his feet. Without the discipline, his company’s growth would have been unforeseeable.”