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How to Avoid Boring Panel

Nine Guidelines for
Constructive Disagreement
November 2, 2016

Brooke Southall, Principal,

Boring panel discussions are

one of my pet peeves. You go to
a conference hoping to learn
something new and you get
polite babble and marketing
There is not enough

2-Minutes About Each Speaker

Robert J. Martorana, CFA

Portfolio Manager
Right Blend Investing, LLC

Brian Gilmartin, CFA

Portfolio Manager
Trinity Asset Management, Inc.

Jeff Briskin
Director of Marketing
Advisor Perspectives & APViewpoint


I interviewed ten of my peers to

find out how to make panel
discussions more insightful.
We found that constructive
disagreement is a key part of an
interesting discussion.
Here is the recipe for an effective
panel discussion

Why Do We Need Constructive Disagreement?

Avoiding cognitive biases:

Anchoring: We estimate an
initial value and we are slow to
Availability: We remember
things that are vivid, like plane
Representativeness: We rely
on stereotypes and fail to ask
What am I missing?

What Makes a Group Effective?

Charles Duhigg described

successful teams in Smarter,
Better, Faster. Two key elements:
1.Interesting task: The group
feels that the work is meaningful.
2.Psychological safety: Teams
succeed when everyone feels
they can speak up and when
members show they are
sensitive to how one another

Brian Gilmartin, CFA, founder of Trinity

Asset Management Inc.

When you have highly intelligent,

highly motivated people, how do
you handle conflict?
It is not enough to have analytical
rigordo you have integrity and a
process for handling

Preparation and Execution

The nine guidelines are separated

Four steps of preparation
Five principles for execution


Tadas Viskanta,
Founder and Editor of Abnormal Returns

Disagreement is constructive
when youre on the same topic and
youre working toward the same
goal. Online, people have their own
agendas. They are often speaking
past you to some perceived
audience [so their analysis and
conclusions are suspect].

Brooke Southall, RIAbiz

You need to define terms so you

can get to the core of the
disagreement. You may still
disagree, but at least you know
where your assumptions differ. It
represents progress if you disagree
coherently, instead of just talking
past each other."


Nicholas Colas
Chief Strategist at Convergex

Think about the one or two things

that will change their world. Dont
go in front of a group unless you
have great ideas. Something
If I dont have it, I dont do the

Jeff Briskin, Marketing Director, Advisor

The moderator has to be the advocate
of the audience. The moderator has to
make sure that high-level talk applies to
an advisors daily practice with clients.
You dont want a philosophical debate
that the audience cant apply.
The panelists are not there to impress,
but to inform. Its not about Im
smarter than you; its about who gives
the best actionable information.


Michael Kitces, Partner at Pinnacle Advisory

Group; publisher of the Nerds Eye View blog

Many people just aren't wired for

constructive debate. You need panelists
who are naturally good at engaging in
respectful disagreement.
In fact, I find for the panels where you
actually have really good people in the
first place, very little preparation is
needed, and over-preparing the panel
can stifle its ability to have constructive
discourse (since people worry about
staying on script, instead of staying on


Shifting Gears

Now we turn from preparation to

The following page offers
guidelines, not hard and fast



Nicholas Colas, Convergex

I always tell panelists: Put the ad

for your firm at the top. You have
two-minutes at the top to give a
commercial. Then its over and its
open season."


Jeff Miller, President of NewArc Investments;

blogs at Dash of Insight

There are people who are bond

guys, and thats a vested interest.
They are not biased per se, but
they tend to hire people with an
approach that will work with their
clientele. The person will have a
conservative view on risk. This
leads to groupthink.

Brooke Southall, RIAbiz

The problem isnt hidden agendas;

its the agenda thats hiding in plain
sight. Too many people just stick
with a marketing message and
cant, or wont, go off the script.
The financial industry is unwilling to
engage in open dialogue. They
avoid unpleasantness and
accountability. They have trouble
even defining accountability.


Intellectual Integrity

When I host investment

discussions, I have found that two
traits are essential to promoting
constructive disagreement:
Intellectual Humility: Aware of
our limits
Intellectual Courage: Willing to
confront irrational beliefs

Constructive Disagreement

Focus on Solutions: There is

no point in getting together to
Be Practical: As Jeff Briskin
noted, youre there to give
insight, and not to impress.
(Discussion is not debate.)
Effectiveness: There is a big

Nicholas Colas:

An hour is an outside limit for a

panel discussion, and 20 minutes
for a single speaker.
Attention spans are shrinking, so
get right to the point.


Jeff Miller:

Its not the knowledge level. Its

the accountability. [This is whats
missing in the media.] There isnt a
market-driven process that is fast
enough to detect nonsense and
hold people accountable for bad
forecasts and a bad process.


Listen to your peers

Acknowledge their points and
your limits
Apologize if you cross the line.
Remember, you give respect and
you get respect.

For more information please contact:

Robert J. Martorana, CFA: Portfolio
Manager, Right Blend Investing, LLC,

Brian Gilmartin, CFA, Portfolio

Manager, Trinity Asset Management, Inc.,

Jeff Briskin: Director of Marketing,

Advisor Perspectives & APViewpoint,



Resources 1

Valuable Intellectual Traits,

Foundation for Critical Thinking.
Describes intellectual humility,
intellectual courage, etc. http://

Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel

Kahneman, 2013. A simple guide
to behavioral finance and a tale
well told.


Resources 2

Smarter, Better, Faster,

Charles Duhigg. Discusses the
Aristotle Project at Google in
2015. Quotation taken from page

The Aristotle Project was also

described in How to Build a
Better Team, in NY Times
Magazine: http


Resources 3

Principles by Ray Dalio. Dalio

based the practices at
Bridgewater on radical
truthfulness. These principles
are designed for the investment
How Meditators Can
Overcome Behavioral Finance
Biases, Jason A. Voss, CFA.
Identifying a bias does not


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