Innovation vs. Parenthood. Episode #3 – Will the arguing ever stop? Or should it?


Innovation vs. Parenthood. Episode #3 – Will the arguing ever stop? Or should it?



Hi, I’m Astrid. I’m an organisational psychologist. I specialise in innovation, and I’m a new parent.  Now, these things might seem unrelated, but as you’ll see in this series, I assure you they’re not.

My kids have recently started arguing. This is a new thing for us. When Sebastian (my youngest) was a tiny little ‘blob’ he didn’t give a lot of push back. And this worked well for Isabel, who could continue assuming ownership of all toys (and everything else for that matter) in the house. Now Sebastian is a little bigger, he’s starting to ‘arc up’. He’ll knock precious towers over, or just hold onto whatever he’s interested in at the time very tightly. And he’s surprisingly strong, much to Isabel’s dismay. 

As a parent, I’m somewhat riding the balance between refereeing (“don’t just grab that out of his/her hands!!”) and letting them work it out. I’m quite fascinated to (sometimes) see them negotiate their way through conflict, even at such a young age. Learning how to problem solve, and have productive conflict starts young.

Creating an environment in which conflict is productive, and people feel safe to speak up is critical for innovation. However, what I see in organisations all too often, is that when there is conflict, it is unproductive. A culture in which conflict is productive can be a difficult thing to achieve. Most of the literature around conflict in organisations focuses on the behaviour of the challenger; and on encouraging people to speak up. Whilst this is helpful in some contexts, I often find that just focusing there can miss important opportunities. In order for conflict to be productive, and for a culture of debate to thrive, the behaviour of the challenger is only one part of the equation. It’s useful to think about the behaviour of the person being challenged too. There’s something about knowing you’ll have your head ‘bitten off’ that decreases psychological safety very quickly. In order for teams to be more effective in productive conflict (and therefore in innovation!), the emphasis needs to be on both.

Could your team do with a bit more open, productive information sharing and/or conflict or debate? Here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. Establish the Value: Initiate a team discussion about the benefits of productive conflict and open information sharing. Decide collectively if this is something to improve on and why.
  2. Define Conflict: Together, identify what productive versus unproductive conflict looks like for your team. Agree on the behaviours to adopt and those to avoid.
  3. Self-Reflection: Individually, think about your typical reactions in conflict situations. Are there aspects you could improve, such as speaking up more, handling opposition better, or listening more actively? Understand your patterns and pinpoint areas for personal growth.
  4. Set Team Guidelines: Develop a set of ‘productive conflict rules’ as a team. Examples might include always approaching discussions with curiosity, keeping discussions light, and creating space for diverse opinions.
  5. Personal Commitments: Set personal goals related to conflict, tailored to your areas for improvement. Perhaps you might commit to voicing your opinion at least once during debates or taking a moment to breathe when you feel defensive.
  6. Practice and Reflect: Engage in regular practice of these new skills and rules. After each discussion or meeting, take time both individually and as a team to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and how you can continue to improve.


So the next time there is an opportunity (a need!) for some great ideas and information sharing, be ready and have fun with it. Have great debates and get everyone involved. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll spark some really great discussion.

Fingers crossed it works the same with kids.

I’m always up for a chat about innovation (or parenting!), so if you have any thoughts or questions, let me know at


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