Using Conflict to Push Ideas Forward

When it comes to conflict, most choose to avoid situations that cause feelings of anger, fear, despair and confusion. However, VP of Design and User Experience at Spotify, Rochelle King knows that embracing conflict can be beneficial to the creative process. At the 99U Conference, King provides points to consider when deciding if conflict will move the creative process forward or slow it down:

Worth: Conflict is exhausting. Before you embark on arguing for a cause, be sure that you and your team believe it’s worth fighting for. One way to measure an argument’s worth is through metrics. Decide on your end goal and ensure that your metrics align. In the case of Spotify, they didn’t just want users to visit the site, but to play music. Therefore, any feature worth fighting for was measured on its ability to increase music playing.

Expression: Are you able to clearly articulate your point of view? Healthy arguments require a full understanding of both sides of the debate. You also need to be comfortable expressing your view, especially if you think others will be opposed. Differentiating viewpoints is an important tool to ensure nothing is missed during the refinement process.

Friend or Foe: During the first glimpses of a new idea, it’s natural to want to share it with a kindred spirit. Someone who will join in your excitement and encourage its growth. However, this is the best time to feed your idea to the wolves. Seek out someone who you constantly butt heads with and ask for their honest feedback. They will provide importants points for you to consider or prevent you from wasting valuable time on an ungrounded idea.

Resolution: If a resolution cannot be reached in-house, turn to your users. It may feel very disempowering to base your decision on metrics, but behind each number is a person who is actively engaged with your product. Open up the conversation to them by providing them with real choices and getting substantial feedback. Asking if they prefer one strawberry to another will yield a lot less information than if you ask between a strawberry and an orange.

Avoidance: Conflict is only beneficial if you are learning something new. Pay attention around you and look for patterns. If you notice an issue is continuously resurfacing, create a plan so it can be avoided in the future. For Spotify, the designers were able to avoid the constant miscommunication with the code team by adapting their vocabulary. Instead of trying to explain a delay in the creative process, they would let them know they hit a design ‘bug.’

Although conflict can halt the creative process by stalling decisions, it can also push it forward. We need healthy opposition in order to build upon ideas. The next time you want to avoid voicing your differentiating opinion or delay giving critical feedback, think of how your opposition makes the idea stronger.

Stephanie Kaptein is a design strategist at Idea Couture. She is based in Toronto, Canada.

Photo: Mackler Studios

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Stephanie Kaptein

Stephanie Kaptein is a senior foresight analyst at Idea Couture.