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Intelligent Disobedience: Doing Right When What You're Told to Do Is Wrong Paperback – July 7, 2015
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—from the foreword by Philip G. Zimbardo, creator of the Stanford Prison Experiment and author of The Lucifer Effect
“Intelligent disobedience is a core competency. This book provides an overlooked and essential element of ethical decision making and right action.”
—John A. Allison, retired Chairman and CEO, BB&T Corporation
“All of us have the responsibility to stand up for doing the right thing. Intelligent Disobedience offers the tools for doing this.”
—Beatrice Edwards, Executive Director, Government Accountability Project
“Intelligent Disobedience provides practical advice for the workplace and has profound implications for preparing students for democratic citizenship.”
—Robert Bravo, Area Superintendent, Los Angeles Unified School District
About the Author
- Publisher : Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 1st edition (July 7, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1626564272
- ISBN-13 : 978-1626564275
- Item Weight : 0.035 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.56 x 0.55 x 8.56 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #639,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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To others, it will be the wonder of possibility that comes from finding the secret, camouflaged doorways in barrier walls.
Doing the right thing is not always as simple as it looks. The right thing is usually multiple threads of doing, woven into a tapestry of time that looks different depending on which side you stand and how far away your perspective takes you. “Intelligent Disobedience” takes you through a journey of examples of multiple angles and perspectives, that helps you stand back and ponder...that gives you the opportunity to learn vicariously from others’ experiences.
Leading and following is a constant ebb and flow we are all engaged in within our outer lives and inner selves. This ebb and flow surges in the edge of chaos (of chaos theory) and requires a lot of effort to keep creative possibility rooted in the earth of truth where it can be nurtured. In “Intelligent Disobedience” Mr Chaleff helps us identify possibilities of creativity “to do the right thing when what we are told to do is wrong”.
I had the blessing of spending some time with Ira Chaleff, sharing conversation, and letting his wisdom form connections to my own wandering thoughts. I had read his earlier book, "Courageous Follower" and found resonance there, but when he mentioned Intelligent Disobedience, the brilliance of “Yes!!” was uncovered. From Aesop’s fables to Star Trek, from fiction of Harry Potter to realities of “We Were Soldiers Once...and Young”, and throughout my life of trying to follow and learning to lead, I found the truths of Intelligent Disobedience had walked with me.
I just wish I would have had the opportunity to understand more clearly and earlier in my life, Ira’s “algorithms of obedience” as well as the “balancing algorithm of Intelligent Disobedience” that he describes. This book is full of stories of Intelligent Disobedience that I am not sure I would have had the courage to replicate had I been in that role. Much of our “domestication” (that Don Miguel Ruiz talks about in his “Four Agreements”) prevents us from hearing the call of the “inner self” that Mr Chaleff refers to as fundamental to Intelligent Disobedience.
For me, Intelligent Disobedience is not a treatise, it is now one of my life manuals that gets dog-eared, passages highlighted, wisdom underlined, and pages marked up with questions, comments, and memory links to other works and thoughts. Intelligent Disobedience is one of those books that could be, and should be, the foundation for courses and learning interventions in K-12 and all the other education and training we go through for professional and personal lives. It should be a recognized component of all of our personal understanding and critical thinking.
From the “crucial lessons of guide dog training”, thru the “price of teaching obedience too well”, to the “elements of teaching Intelligent Disobedience training”, Mr Chaleff takes us on a journey of introspective learning. The premise of Intelligent Disobedience feeds the light of truth, helping us to be more resilient, when we inevitably bump against the darkness. “Intelligent Disobedience” is a practical guide for anyone interested in effective leadership, courageous followership, or just pilgriming through everyday life in conversations with ourselves.
Buy “Intelligent Disobedience” and let it simmer with you. You may not agree with everything, but some wisdom therein will touch you, and I'll bet you will vibrate with some new knowing and understanding.
Short answer: When you have a better grasp of the situation and the potentially damaging (economically, culturally, morally, etc.) effects of the order than does the issuer of that order.
Long answer: This lucid and very well-written book on the subject by Mr. Chaleff.
In his book Mr. Chaleff makes a very persuasive case for instilling true responsibility for our actions, whether ordered to perform them or not, and outlines many possible and workable approaches to accomplish this end.
Written in a comfortable and conversational style, the book is a joy to read, while it also delivers its message clearly and convincingly. Anyone who has faced the dilemma of whether or not to obey will benefit from this guided journey through the territory; and any authority or senior who has suffered the chagrin of having a wrong directive blindly carried out by well-meaning juniors—much to everybody’s embarrassment or sorrow—will here recognize the resolution to such problems.
Intelligent Disobedience: Doing Right When What You're Told To Do Is Wrong by Ira Chaleff is not about Stanislav Petrov. Instead Chaleff constructs a lesson plan with many examples from the past (Nuremburg, Milgram, WorldCom, 9/11) and present (Seeing Eye Dog, TSA, Primary Education). I was impressed that the foreword was written by Dr. Philip Zimbardo, the creator of the Stanford Prison Experiment.
The author does an excellent job connecting the anecdote from the preface - how to train guide dogs NOT to obey a command, which is a higher order skill - to the rest of the book. In particular, he addresses the concern that in the US we have institutionalized a system of authority and obedience from an early age that discourages intelligent disobedience.
Chapter 11 - Doing Right at Work: Saving Lives and Accomplishing Missions - resonated most with me. This chapter includes sections on Overcoming Barriers and Creative Intelligent Disobedience. This chapter alone could be a Executive Leadership course in my opinion, and the ten key elements at the end are excellent. Let me quote #9: Value and encourage the creative use of Intelligent Disobedience to counteract a culture descending into a learned helplessness that stifles innovation and self-correction.
In summary, I highly recommend this latest book by Ira Chaleff.
Top reviews from other countries
This book addresses the phenomenon shown up by the Milgram/Zimbardo experiments which show how good men can do bad things when subject to the right kind of pressure. This is obviously a major factor in human civilization - 20 million people at least were murdered by Hitler, Stalin, and Mao's copious underlings, and these underlings can't ALL have been empathy-free sociopaths.
But the focus of this book is the day-to-day implications for the college or workplace, where good people are acting against their better judgement, to the detriment of the organisation. This book is important, and probably unique, because it carefully analyses the detailed processes with which we can teach ourselves and others to counter this pressure to do the wrong thing.