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Big Ideas

Fight Your Way to Breakthroughs

Many of us tend to shy away from confrontation, but the upside of disagreement is that it forces teams to explore the full range of possible solutions.

Many creative teams believe that their greatest mistakes are made when nobody argues. When you really care about an idea, you are likely to develop an opinion; when multiple people have a strong opinion, you’re bound to disagree – and clash. Your approach to managing the impassioned “fighting” that ensues is a critical factor in your ability to find the best solution. While some people shy away from confrontation, we have found that a healthy dose of tension helps ideas thrive.

When a new project or problem rises to the surface, the solution often involves various elements. Perhaps a web design issue requires consideration from both designers and programmers? Perhaps a confusing piece of copy requires a decision from the Art Director and the Account Manager? Especially if you have a team of people, each with a different expertise, you are likely to have many different “answers” (whether people admit it or not).In poorly run teams, the person with the most power or experience just makes the call. Or, sometimes people openly disagree and eventually some people become apathetic and give up. You are left with someone’s supposed answer, but often not the best one.

Rather than focus on the discomforts of fighting, consider the benefits from opposite perspectives duking it out! Imagine that the answer to a problem lies somewhere between A and B.  If A and B keep arguing about the “location” of the answer, then they have a chance of covering enough of the “terrain of possibilities” to stumble upon the answer.

Rather than focus on the discomforts of fighting, consider the benefits from opposite perspectives duking it out!

In contrast, if A just gives up the fight, then B’s opinion “wins” – not out of diligence but rather out of ignorance. And when you have more individuals involved as you “triangulate” and zero in on the solution, your outcome is likely to be more thoughtful…but only if everyone is willing to stand their ground and exert their gravitational force in the process!

Our team at Behance strongly advocates fighting. In fact, we get worried when any one of us just “agrees” without any questions or heated discussion. Our passion for the work we do sparks many different ideas and varying opinions. As long as we have a culture of honesty and a willingness to listen, we can use disagreement to foster realizations.

At the very least, recognize that the best answer dwells in the land of the unknown. If you have the guts and relentless fortitude to advocate for your field of view while considering someone else’s, then you’re likely to help the breakthrough find you.

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Comments (4)


  • switchback

    Myopic. The creative process shouldn’t feel like a cage match. It’ll always end up favoring the most stubborn and loud ass. I know, I’ve been there. It never works in the end.

  • Shawazi

    The most stubborn should not always win in groups. If three people are arguing against one, being stubborn can only go so far if the team works together well. A good debate can always make a better outcome.

  • butternut

    I agree that the creative process shouldn’t feel like a cage match. There’s always someone who whines louder than everyone else and ends up winning.<br />
    <br />
    For this to work there needs to be a good moderator who lets everyone get their time to talk and get a full thought out before someone interrupts them.

  • carriea

    I think arguing within a group where each member respects each other works. In respect I mean each member listens to each other and responds to each others comments. This totally breaks down if one member is only waiting for the others to stop talking only to push their own ideas.<br />
    I’ve seen that happen many times.<br />
    <br />
    This almost never works in a larger group of like 5+ people, WAY TOO MANY CHEFS IN THE KITCHEN if you know what I mean.

  • timuns

    This article is total BS. I’ve seen this fail more often than this works out. Pride gets in the way for many people to actually be open enough to have a healthy give and take conversation. There’s never anyone who can manage through an arguement since everyone is only thinking of promoting their own ideas.

  • beemo

    I think your heart is in the right place with this article, but lacking. First of all, “fighting” is a poor choice of words. It’s ridiculous to think that something negative like fighting will ever have a positive outcome.<br />
    <br />
    In my experience, there really is no set formula for the perfect creative process. Creativity as a means of living is a bitchâ??different people have different ways of dealing with it. It should be up to a leader who can perceive these differences in personalities and change his or her “game plan” accordingly. Without a doubt, the most important asset to a great creative group is the peopleâ??the group dynamic. Everyone should obviously have the right to voice their honest opinions, as long as they are constructive. And the “CD is King” scenario is ludicrous as well. However, in my experience this isn’t too common, maybe others will disagree. At any rate, all this shit is a team sport, just like any other team. If you have a bad coach, weak players, whatever, you’re not going to win. Fighting sure as hell isn’t going to bring home a victoryâ??just hard work and dedication.<br />

  • mediapeople

    Write a book guys… Cmon!

  • mediapeople

    If the Behance team writes and designs a book I would buy fifteen copies today and than another 20 or so at Christmas to send out for presents… Let’s get to it guys. Great stuff!

  • mediapeople

    I think you guys calling this bs are right in that is never works for you. Healthy friction in an org can’t work if you are thin skinned and insecure. Honest and org mission centered team members with a measure of respect for differing opinions will always emerge from disagreement better than before. You guys sound like you have been a part of some unhealthy environments and are embittered against some people that didn’t like your ideas.

  • Todd

    I think arguing works. But it doesn’t fly at (large) companies in California. This is just what I’ve experienced. There’s a lot of underlying frustration that people keep bottled up and only share with confidants. It’s lame. We should all follow the New York model.

  • poli pen

    As long as the arguing is just about the project or ideas and does not go beyond that, I think that’s fine. The members of the team should keep in mind that it’s just part of the job and should not take offense if other colleagues negate their ideas. They should realize that it’s for the best of the project.

  • Stevenkeith

    I have found that breakthroughs for me come only when my ability to make sense of something in front of me is momentarily incomprehensible. This forces a sensorial challenge. And when our senses are challenged, we compensate for a lack of knowledge with new thinking. Try it. Put more stuff in front of you that you dont understand and pressure yourself to make some sense of it. See what you come up with. You will be amazed.

  • Challenge Logic

    While this article is helpful, your comment is even more relevant regarding the process of creativity! 

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  • richie_d_holmie

    I do hear that even top-tier NY web designers tend to bash each ideas at brainstorming sessions to get the job done. sometimes a little clashing could get the best results, after all.

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