John Hagel, whose work at Center for the Edge draws out many insightful trends and concepts on improving organizations, recently published research that discussed the importance, not the neglect, of cultivating friction as a mechanism to go beyond high performance.
Perhaps it’s accurate to say that most people avoid confrontation and friction because it is seen as a negative event. Yet, anyone who has worked through a hard but successful change program, built a business or organization, or developed a lasting relationship that matters, will tell you it needed friction along the way to keep it going. The idea of friction is found in this phrase “iron sharpens iron” – when the two meet they create heat and sparks and that is the only way they get fashioned into useful tools.
Intellectually, we know this but emotionally we avoid it. The best ideas come from moments of friction – the heat of the conversation, the sparks of debate that get us to defend the logic and engage in the outcome.
Instead of viewing friction as negative or something to eliminate, consider how you can apply it to your conversation in a positive, honest and respectful manner.