Should Engineers "rock the boat"?

Self suffering is infinitely nobler than the suffering of others. – Gandhi

In relation to Google’s quest to build the perfect team.

The foreword is this, In a Google study, teams of 3 people were tasked with creating product proposals. Google found that teams composed of people who knew each other and got along well produced objectively worse proposals, even though they were confident about them. On the flip side, having one stranger as uncomfortable as that sounds, ended up producing significantly better work, despite the team being less confident about it’s quality.

Those results are a reminder that our intuition is flawed and we are predictably irrational.

Instead of attempting to make everyone happy by going along with bad ideas, argue and present evidence for a better way, while being open to the very likely possibility that you are not completely right. Making everyone happy is counter productive, that’s why in the current US culture, you must consider who you are talking to, even if they are in a position where they “should” handle input well. If they value the end result more than company politics, present unpopular ideas you know will make a better product. If instead they are stubborn feeling oriented people, you’ll have two options. Risk losing their support and argue why there is a better way; Or prepare them for the proposal. The latter is not the most noble way to better process, but the former may be risky, as the people worth presenting ideas to, are often people you want to keep on your side.

This is a common theme of engineering ethics. The need to raise your voice when a valve is broken. The need to raise your voice when you are unqualified for a high risk task. The need to refuse to sign off on a dangerously faulty product. Like sharks who need to keep swimming to survive, the future of your company is risked when company politics are more important then the product and dissenting voices are stimied, propagating chilling effects that compound the problem.