Welcoming Friction for Collaboration & Change

Welcoming Friction for Collaboration Change

Change happens in big and small ways, and no matter your role, you absolutely can make a difference in yourself, which will inspire others. IF you can handle a few uncomfy bits.

As a change leader, embedded in the global change community, I’m grateful to see daily examples of successful humans leading change around the world. So inspiring. I have Helen Bevan to thank for this gem. Helen is Chief Transformation Officer for the NHS and she is A M A Z I N G. She recently pointed her network to the Q Community and this piece from their Q Improvement Lab on skills for collaborative change. <~ link takes you to more background and resources for your team to take this on.



with thanks to the Q Improvement Lab for allowing me to share

I love this map and the beautiful visualization of the attitudes and skills we need to be collaborative and creative problem solvers. Spend some time with Q; many of these resources are downloadable.

For me there’s a prerequisite before you can step in to this lovely way of working and drive real change. It’s a little uncomfortable, but I’m confident you can do it: Welcoming Feedback; Open to Friction.

Amsterdam | A Weed-free Story on the Joys of Friction

While I like to think I’ve been pretty good at taking feedback in my adult life, I have to say I got a whole lot better at it in Amsterdam.

When I was CMO at a tech management consultancy based in Amsterdam, I was surrounded by super nerdy computer scientists with multiple advanced degrees. A colleague warned me early on, showing up with a mere Bachelor’s degree, that colleagues might ask me “why didn’t you finish your education?” LOL. I mean these folks were next level intellect. But also poets, musicians, artists, dancers. Ugh I miss them.

A trait I spotted early on was their remarkable ability to give and receive feedback. Often the feedback given was very direct (hello, the Dutch), and the recipient was usually very chill. Both sides were usually quite willing to hear the other’s perspective and change or not change accordingly. It led to great collaboration.

For many years, I’ve evangelized healthy friction to my teams and colleagues. That is, friction that isn’t mean spirited. I love the rock tumbler analogy: in close relationships (personal or professional) it’s like being in a rock tumbler with others. A little tightly packed at times, a wee bit uncomfortable at others, but hoo boy after the tumbling is complete everyone’s rough edges have been polished off.

Friction makes us better.

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Me ^ in a 2014 webinar talking about friction.

It’s not always fun, but wouldn’t we rather have feedback upstream in initiatives rather than downstream when we are nearly ready to release the thing we are working on and spot the issues then? I don’t know about you but I want people having my back upstream.

And it’s absolutely key to healthy collaboration. No friction? No collaboration and no change.

One Simple Tip to Encourage Feedback: What did I miss?

End every one of your meetings, every material presentation, most emails with some version of: What did I miss? My teams can attest that they see and hear this often from me. And here’s why:

Hopefully we are proud of the work we do and happy to share it with our colleagues. But you know darn well, no matter how great your work is, someone will have *something* to say. And, boy, that can be irritating.

But. If you ask “Am I missing anything,” you’re opening yourself up to feedback, signaling that you’re open to hearing feedback, so when you get feedback 1. It’s expected and less ouch-y 2. The feedback is often quite helpful.

And then you get a nice discussion and collaboration with colleagues. To this day, as I continue to connect on discussions with my former colleagues in Benelux, DACH, the Nordics, and the Mediterranean (hey Yianni). I am always impressed with their ability to master deeply technical feedback, in multiple languages no less!

Your challenge: start asking Am I missing anything? To your colleagues and then come back and tell me how it feels.

Think I’m crazy? Look at how the brilliant team at Q conclude their page on Creative Collaboration:

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That’s right – they ask their version of – are we missing anything? “Let us know so we can improve and develop it.”

Feel like you want some help with a roadmap to start collaborating outside your functional area? Try Moats & Drawbridges.

If you build this in to your daily practice, welcoming feedback will just become second nature. I promise.

Managing Director



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