How Smart Companies Welcome and Anticipate Creative Friction

All firms have strategies and cultures. But sometimes the quickest and surest way to gain valuable insight into their fundamentals is by asking, "What's the most important argument your organization is having right now?" As author Michael Schrage puts it, it’s not about polite disagreement about ideas, but spirited debate about discerning a clear path forward.

Are you having the kind of arguments you want your organization to have? Are you having the right kind of arguments in general? Are your arguments illuminating the path forward or providing the organizations with even better rationalizations and excuses for inaction?

Author Michael Schrage says responses to these arguments typically focus on three key areas: strategy, values, or people. Strategic arguments tend to be the most straightforward: Do we compete in this space or not? Are we going to be a leader or not?

On the other hand, values arguments are understandably more complex: Does attempting to serve a new customer base compromise who we (think) we are? Does our intense customer focus risk violating their privacy? Values arguments, even more than strategic disagreements, tend to engage a greater portion of the firm. Healthy arguments around conflicting values demand smart facilitative leaders and leadership at all levels.

Finally and also intriguingly, the worst most important arguments usually revolve around people. E.g. Can you believe the company lets that manager get away with that? What might be called gossip in some organizations mutates into strategic or values arguments. Values and strategic arguments are played out through people and personalities. Thus, if you think the most important arguments going on in your organization revolve around particular individuals and their unusual mix of style and substance, watch out.

Read full article » blogs.hbr.org/schrage…


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