Harness the Power of Creative Dissonance in Your Startup

When you put together the team for your startup, it’s important to not just recruit people who share your vision, but also to find people who all have their own unique point of view and aren’t afraid to disagree with you and each other.

It’s tempting to think that your best bet is to recruit a team that’s in perfect harmony. Surely, if everyone agrees, you can get things done faster, right? No time wasted on needless discussion, right? And no office drama! You’re living the dream.

The problem is, when everyone is looking in the same direction, you have a huge collective blind spot. You need a variety of viewpoints to make sure you see all sides of any issue your startup might face. A little creative dissonance can help you foresee pitfalls and create a stronger company from the very beginning, rather than stumbling along and discovering problems the hard way.

This is especially critical in the early days of your company, when you need to be agile to gain traction. Drawing from a variety of points of view will allow you to more quickly meet the needs of your market segment.

Seek people who are passionate about your ideas, but who can bring their own twist to it. Cultivate a culture where questions are encouraged, where everyone knows they can point out a possible flaw or a way to improve without being shot down. Start out with the assumption that all opinions within the team are equal. Give careful consideration to any new idea or potential change before deciding whether it will improve your startup and help you achieve your goals.

Some experts call this effect “creative tension” instead, and they suggest actively cultivating it through diversity in hiring. By drawing from different backgrounds, whether they be socioeconomic, educational or cultural, you can bring many different perspectives to the table.

Of course, the key is to foster an atmosphere that is based on discussion, not argument. Make sure that everyone in your team is ready to put the vision first, and not their own agenda. Look for people who are passionate but able to rein that passion in, who won’t take disagreement personally, who won’t sabotage the team’s effort when they don’t get their way. The goal is to have dissonance, not discord.

As the leader, it will be your job to keep your team on-focus, and to step in when conflict arises and threatens to derail the project. You need to be prepared to be neutral in the face of disagreement, and calm in the face of criticism. Your professional attitude will serve as the inspiration for the rest of your team, and set the tone for the development of your startup.

Once your business is established and you reach the stages of scaling up and maintaining steady growth, you can re-evaluate the role that creative tension plays. You may find that you are still inspired by the people who challenged you from the very start, or you may find that now is the time for a more unified voice.

Not sure how to foster a healthy culture of creative dissonance? Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter where we’ll be sharing more great resources all week, or contact us for some personal creative guidance for your business.

-AJ

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