Intelligent Disobedience: Doing Right When What You’re Told to Do Is Wrong, by Ira Chaleff. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler, 2015. 240 pp. $18.95 (paperback).
New and correctly formed ideas can revolutionize people’s thinking. A concept (or phrase or principle) that integrates essentially similar things and differentiates them from essentially dissimilar things via bright lines can enable people to think in ways that they previously could not. Ira Chaleff’s most recent book, Intelligent Disobedience: Doing Right When What You’re Told to Do Is Wrong, provides a vivid example of this truth.
Chaleff is an executive coach, speaker, and author who focuses on the proper relationships between those who are leading and those who are following in any given situation. Intelligent Disobedience examines such relationships specifically in regard to the questions of when it’s appropriate to obey an authority and when it’s proper to disobey.
Chaleff borrows the phrase “intelligent disobedience” from the field of guide dog training, where it refers to a quality that trainers seek to instill in guide dogs. The fact that guide dogs must be trained to obey commands is obvious. What may not be so obvious is that they must also be trained to disobey commands. For instance, if a blind person orders his seeing-eye dog to cross the street, and the dog sees a Tesla speeding quietly toward the crosswalk, the dog must disobey the order. To achieve the overarching purpose for which they are trained, guide dogs must be taught when and how to override their master’s orders and to act on their own better judgment. They must learn to engage in “intelligent disobedience.” . . .