The power of healthy conflict

Maybe I should have been a trial lawyer, because I really like arguing. My wife and friends will attest to this.

I’ve had fierce arguments with my friends about why the US should move to the metric system (1s, 10s, 100s, and 1000s are much easier to work with than 12s), why people are wrong to hate LeBron James (he really only made one mistake in his career), and why the Common Core, while confusing and extremely different than how I learned when I was young, is actually a logical approach (because it focuses on frameworks and not rote memorization).

Fascinating, huh? 🙂

Anyway, the point is that I think conflict, as long as it’s healthy, and discussion, as long as it’s logical, are great things.

The ability to state your points, back them up with data, experience, and insight, and listen to other people’s different points of view can be extremely helpful and educational in both life and business.

I love how Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz allows for healthy conflict. Co-founder Marc Andreessen explained the process on his interview on the Tim Ferriss Show.

When someone in the firm brings in a potential investment deal, the A16Z team will absolutely skewer that person on every reason why that investment will fail. The person who sourced the deal will have to defend herself and provide reasons why the investment will pay off.

The best part is that even if the team doesn’t agree that the investment is sound, that person is still free to move ahead with the deal if she truly believes it will pay off, despite all the naysayers.

I think that’s amazing.

Allow discussion to occur and conflict to happen. If all of that feedback sways that person who sourced the deal, then so be it. If not, and she really believes in what she brought to the table, then she can move ahead and take responsibility.

The key point is that everyone needs to be rational and logical, and not emotional. Open minds have to be present to keep this conflict healthy so everyone can have a thoughtful discussion.

Healthy conflict can be a powerful thing.

How have you used healthy conflict? I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at

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