Our Thoughts

Growing business with debating skills

What? Debating skills? Am I out of my mind?


Wouldn’t be this company full of people who argue and never listen?

When I first entered debate, I did think the same of debating: it’s full of people that didn’t listen.

And this is what my first coach told me: “Bryan, if you don’t listen, you won’t even be able to respond eloquently. You will look stupid if you don’t even understand what they said“.

Well said. Debate skills allow people to actually listen to one another – without magnificent listening skills, there will be no proper brainstorming because simply there are no engagements and people simply stick to their own ideas. This is not the case with debating – by debating, people then will argue while considering other ideas, whether or not it is conceding to it or disagreeing to it. But by debating, there will be healthy constructive engagements that pay less to feelings – or what is known in Indonesia as “the culture of Baper (bawa perasaan – loosely translated to Carried Away by Emotions). By debating we listen to the ideas and the arguments. But not simply the feelings.


Debating brings the logic, and not feelings, home. While we retain all the listening in the process.

And by doing so, people will then be able to be more productive as there are much more productive discussions.

As Charless Hoffman, a CEO of Broadband Provider Covad who employs debaters in the team, said: “It is worse to have a company full of yes men.”


Wouldn’t be this company full of verbal fights and no ideas?

If there’s one thing debating had taught me: it is a magnificent pooling of ideas. In academic, competitive parliamentary debating – I actually had to research from as simple as infotainment to geo-political tension and war – simply because when I face the impromptu topics, they’d appear 15 to 30 minutes before and I won’t have time to open my phone anymore.

It is work of ideas. Debate allows people to do much more researches, hence opening up to ideas. And once we habituate to the idea that debate requires listening skills, it will be a contest of ideas. It will be idea trimming to the best with the least fat in it. Ideas will be made into substantive test – and will be examined from multiple angles through a debate. These, will then be part of an amazing productivity journey.


Debating brings home the grand ideas.

And by doing so, people will then be able to more productive as there are more and more ideas in the debate process.

Wouldn’t be this company full of talks and no actions?

Michael Beckley & Marc Wilson, the Co-Founders of Software Company Appian of over 1,000 employees and Dartmouth School Alumni (and ex-debaters) said that Debate is about practice not talent.

This simply infers one thing: debate teaches us a lot of hardwork. Hardwork of translating the dream to win or simply progress in a debate training to be more hungry towards process. I still remember one of our past trainings involve debating and researching in the middle of the night, to ensure that we improve better for next tournaments.

While I admit that in most cases, people with debating experience tend to love (not just like) to talk a lot, it is also true that in most cases that people with debating experience actually do a lot.

A simple explanation would be this: you say a lot, you promise a lot. People look up to you and would hold your words for it. The simplest reason is, most of us do not like to break our public promises and will work ourselves off to ensure that promise is fulfilled.

So speaking out loud is likely to be followed by loud actions. Unless, of course, the person’s integrity is seriously troubled.

So… Debating is Useful?

Yes. As much as “debate” is often associated negatively these days primarily in Eastern countries – it provides very huge avenue of learning platform for business growth and team productivity – as written in Harvard Business Review’s “How Structured Debate Helps Your Team Grow”.

Just a piece of thought of the day – I thought I would write this since I heard a lot about “Debate? No Way.” along my life.

This is Bryan Gunawan’s little piece of thought. He has coached more than thousands of individuals of all age sectors ranging from 6 year-olds to 70 year-olds in communication & leadership in the last 8 years, and is in the process of writing the book “Can We #PlsTalk?”, unveiling stories of his cause for communication prowess to solve life challenges. Find him at twitter @bryangunawan.


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