Wednesday, August 08, 2007

productive friction

One of my favorite gurus (I recommend reading everything he writes) is John Hagel. One concept he has promoted is the idea of "productive friction." When everyone agrees, nothing gets learned - its just a love fest. When people can't communicate because they speak very different languages (marketing v engineering) or because they vehemently disagree (pro-life/pro-choice), nothing gets learned - the sides just throw sound bites at each other. But the middle ground is where innovation happens. You want enough friction to get everyone's juices flowing but no so much that that they drown in these juices (terrible metaphor I know).

Another source is that diversity creates innovation. He defines diversity broadly (not just ethnicity/religion/gender).

So from a human factors point of view - we can imagine the team process of collaborative activity that causes productive friction. If the team members schema overlap completely, all collaboration does is reinforce existing schema component connections. When the schema
have no overlap, collaboration doesn't work because there are no common connections from which to share new ones. You may have had to take my course or be familiar with connectionist models to get my point fully, but basically I am trying to say that its easier to teach Spanish to someone who speaks Italian because there are so many words and grammar in common. But to teach him Chinese is much harder.

And we are not even getting into the decision making bias effects. If the person doesn't want to believe what you are selling, that adds exponential difficulty.

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