"Diversity of opinions & circumstances increases the likelihood of happy accidents. Serendipity comes from diversity." -John Maeda
Have you ever wished people would just agree with you more? I have. As a leader, getting people on board with a direction is our job. That job can be exhausting when we don't agree. Friction, or disagreement, can be uncomfortable, frustrating, and exhausting. Is there any advantage to leaders having friction in our life? I'd argue there is. In fact, I think it's crucial.
In physics, friction serves an intriguing purpose. Consider driving your car down a highway in the middle of winter. Things are going well until you hit an ice patch and immediately you begin to slide of course. You've lost control because you've lost friction. You can spin your wheels all day, but you're not going to make any progress. The ice on the road has removed all friction from the equation and you no longer have the ability to change direction, you're just coasting right off course. Without friction, you don't have any traction. You've lost your ability to change direction or speed. Not a great feeling.
When it comes to leadership, I think it's important to wisely and intentionally surround ourselves with "traction". Engaging people around us that aren't afraid to ask big questions provides traction for adjusting course. Even though explaining yourself can be a pain, it's the very friction of working through your ideas that can create forward movement. Without friction in a leader's life, it's too easy to coast along. That's a dangerous place to be. When observing the leaders in my life who I greatly respect, I've seen them all engage differing opinions and openly invite feedback.
Further, when the voices and opinions around use become too homogenous we sacrifice originality. Creativity, by its very nature, requires a diversity of thought. As Einstein said, "you can't solve a problem with the same thinking used to create it." If we truly want original, unique, and valuable, ideas we have to pursue diverse opinions. In my experience, innovation thrives on diversity.
An important note: Badgering, antagonizing, or lack of respect won't get us anywhere. We need a shared vision, empathy, and mutual respect for this to work.
I've been learning to swallow my pride and embrace a diverse conversation. I've been learning that friction in life actually provides more control over direction. It keeps me from coasting and sliding off course. Even though it's a bit uncomfortable, great leaders have the confidence to surround themselves with diverse views.
Where might you engage a differing opinion in your life? Where could you use some different voices? In what areas are you coasting?