Creative collisions

Leave your ego at the door

Just finished reading a fantastic article about Designing for Empathy and Retention — The subject of creative collisions is briefly mentioned in the article as a key insight in a session led by a few of IDEO’s top designers.

{ For those of you who don’t know IDEO yet— believe me, you’ll thank me for this — they are a design and innovation consulting firm that focus on creating positive impact through design. Their approach to helping organisations innovate & bring new ideas to market is human-centered. }


An open office with 10+ nationalities (+ offices in 13 different countries) gives me the opportunity to see how individuals deal with uncertainty, team work and above all, CONFLICT.

As project lead & later on, account manager, I got to deal with hardcore techies — I get extra points for calling them that — but also with individuals from different backgrounds. Corporate, creative agencies. You name it, the whole thing. And I love it.

As soon as I read the article mentioned above, I had an AHA! moment.

You know what it’s like when you subconsciously process ideas that you haven’t yet quite crystalised and then you read them elsewhere well articulated? Bingo.

It said : “Enable creative collisions — Many companies avoid disagreement or friction in favor of consensus. Innovation can only be achieved if you encourage constructive friction on your team. Give people permission to disagree, embrace the disagreement, then move the conversation forward from there.”

EGO collisions vs. IDEA collisions

We are hard-wired to engage in fight or flight behavior when it comes to such collisions. It’s far more comfortable to avoid conflicts altogether and manage the consequences of that — at least that’s what we think. Might be because we see our ideas as an extension of our personality. We take ownership over them in an unhealthy way.

You put an idea out there, it gets rejected — hence YOU feel rejected.

I was talking recently about conflict and family life with a couple of Swedish friends. They were telling me that culturally speaking, they avoid conflicts as much as possible. The conclusion of our discussion was that conflicts happen. Even without a verbal exchange or physical manifestation. The tension stays there and there is higher chance for further conflict if the current one is undealt with.

Unspoken conflict is still a conflict.

Which led me to these thoughts, applied in team work dynamics:

  • Consensus is not a condition for best decisions.
  • Friction is OK. As long as you leave EGO at the door.
  • Properly dealt with, friction makes teams SO much stronger than consensus ever will.

While consensus gives everyone a good feeling, it’s still based on a fairly individualistic point of view — “Great. Everyone agrees with me. The discomfort is gone”.

Overcoming frictions together as a team imposes a collectivist point of view (in the best sense of the term)— where you realise the success of the team depends on how well you function together. You are able to jump hurdles together, and even endure the discomfort of being wrong. — “I was wrong and that is okay.

It breeds a whole other level of taking ownership of both success and failure in shipping a product as a team, for instance.

I have a strong feeling that the era of the lonesome genius is over.

And I also believe this is how some of the most amazing products we see & use today have been built. So let’s do ourselves a huge favor ..

.. and leave that ego at the door.

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