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Northwestern Launches ‘Center for Enlightened Disagreement’

The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University is planning to debut its Center for Enlightened Disagreement to address challenges in navigating differences to drive change and encourage critical thinking in solving pressing problems.

Dr. Francesca CornelliDr. Francesca Cornelli“Kellogg and Northwestern are deeply committed to addressing the growing barriers to discourse that hinder our progress as a society, not by seeking to eliminate disagreement but by embracing it as a virtue,” said Kellogg Dean Dr. Francesca Cornelli. “Kellogg faculty have for decades been driving advances in conflict resolution, negotiation and how to bridge ideological divides. Now is the time to expand this work, which has never been more essential.”

The new research center will be housed at Kellogg, bringing together top academics and leading thinkers to conduct research, identify best practices, and train students and leaders on how to engage across difference and harness the power of diverse perspectives.

The center’s cornerstone is a research program to identify strategies and policies that foster productive dialogue across diverse perspectives to drive successful outcomes. Its activities will be built around four pillars: research, outreach, curriculum, and discussion.

Center faculty will partner with companies and other organizations to test the effectiveness of these ideas in real-world contexts. Over time, the center will consult with government officials and policymakers, as well as CEOs and other organizational leaders seeking advice on how to effectively maneuver — and embrace — diversity of opinions.

“Disagreement is the lifeblood of innovation, but it can run amok," said Dr. Eli Finkel, the center’s co-director and professor of management and organizations at Kellogg. “We founded the Center to push people, organizations and societies to harness the power of disagreement while minimizing its perils.”

Finkel will co-direct alongside Nour Kteily, professor of management and organizations and co-director of Kellogg’s Dispute Resolution Research Center, and professor of psychology and Morton O. Schapiro Institute for Policy Research Faculty Fellow at Northwestern.

“Our nation is threatened today by the politics of identity and persistent divisions based on region, class, religion and educational attainment,” added Northwestern President Michael H. Schill. “We increasingly lack the capacity to understand each other and to empathize with people who seem not to be like us. Solving such problems is what higher education institutions should be about. Northwestern and Kellogg are well-equipped to create models for engagement across difference.”

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