Friction is Your Friend: Why Sharing Values isn’t always Valuable

I hear about it all the time… Collaborate with people who share your values. Really? You know why they say this? Because it is pleasant and easy. When you are around people who share your values you can agree all the time, because you are using the same basis for your judgements. There isn’t much friction. Maybe people who like writing about collaboration find it easier to achieve flow states when they are not experiencing friction. Maybe.

FrictionFireFriction Friend

But friction can be your friend. And not just when you are applying the brakes. You want to make a spark or start a fire? Friction. Friction can be your friend when you are trying to be creative. Friction can be your friend when you are trying to start a business. Friction can be your friend when you are trying to spark dialogue with your community.

Let’s take business for example. I have seen startups where two partners may as well have shared one head they were of such like mind. And neither of those minds had much business sense. Both were visionary. They valued the exploration of ideas. They seemed to struggle to come up with a way to generate revenue to keep going and reach some lift. Neither had much talent or interest in operations. On the other hand, you can take a very profit-centric person and team them with someone who values customer and community and away they go. That is not to say they don’t experience conflict or even strong conflict. They do. But they learn how to balance it. They don’t confuse sharing values with being valuable.


Sharing is great. Share something with your collaborators. Values is just one axis. You might share a goal: keeping your neighborhood clean. But you might have different values driving the goal. One neighbor, Samuel might value the number otherwise known as property value which they believe is impacted by how clean the neighborhood is. Another, Joan, believes that “broken windows” talk from Tipping Point and feels that a cleaner neighborhood breeds less crime. Joan values being safe. And a third, Sandeep, simply values tidyness. Fine. They all want it clean. Share the goal. From different values.

A friend of mine, Steve Crandall, worked at Bell Labs. In one of his delicious storytelling sessions Steve mentioned working with someone – for years – who had a polar opposite political perspective. And yet, in the creative innovation space, the two of created well together. They didn’t need to share values to be innovative together and enjoy the pleasure of that work together. They shared a practice of innovating.

Value Time

There are certainly times when you should connect on your values. It can help reinforce your identity and give you support that you need. But if you want innovation or you want to connect a neighborhood or you want to create dialogue across political boundaries, work with the friction of different values and connect on some other dimension.

As I learned from Valdis Krebs, “connect on sameness and profit from your differences.” Please be intentional about which dimensions of difference and which dimensions of sameness.

6 thoughts on “Friction is Your Friend: Why Sharing Values isn’t always Valuable

  • Wow, I’m shocked to hear folks state it’s important to collaborate across shared values. I know we all prefer io, of course it’s easier with no differences. But diversity is what makes the world go round, or at least survive. Thanks for sharing Jean, and keep spreading the good word!

  • Nice post Jean. Friction, diversity or whatever you want to call it, is paramount to truly changing things … for the better. This reminds of of the advent of the Renaissance in the 1400’s. Some say it started with the frequent visitors the Medici family invited to their villa in Italy. They came from all walks of life and excelled in a variety of disciplines – from sculpture, to painting, to mathematics to astronomy, etc. From these gatherings, came the synergy to create some of the great ideas in the history of mankind.

    Really, it’s all about getting outside your comfort zone and “going” places, physically, mentally and emotionally you’re not accustomed to. Only then can we grow. We too often see just the opposite in government and business. It’s easier to surround yourself with people “the same as you.” For then, there’s no fiction … and no growth. Check out a post I wrote on what I see as the the fallacy of diversity in Obama’s inner circle: “Diversity … Obama are you listening?” ~

    Again, excellent post Jean!

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