Dare to Disagree

TED Talk: Margaret Heffernan

Updated GOAL Academy


Is conflict avoidance harming your success?  In this TED Talk, Margaret Heffernan, a former CEO of five businesses, explores the advantages of provoking conflict to solve problems and lead change.  Dare to embrace differences to achieve better thinking and results.

What You’ll Learn

After completing the work on this page, you will be able to:

  • Recall advantages of embracing conflict and disagreement
  • Recognize the importance of raising issues in the workplace
  • Realize the benefits of collaborating with people who think differently

Watch the Video

Dig Deeper

After watching the video, reflect on the following questions. Jot down your thoughts. Consider sharing this video with a colleague or a work group for an insightful discussion.

  1. According to Margaret Heffernan, 85% of executives in North American organizations are reluctant to raise issues over fear of losing or getting into arguments.  What are the effects of not raising issues in the workplace?
  2. Have you ever dared to embrace conflict when it arises?  Reflect on that situation and the outcomes.
  3. Do you have a thinking partner who is not an “echo chamber”?  If yes, how does he/she affect your thinking?
  4. What are the benefits of collaborating with others who have different ways of thinking, experience, and backgrounds?
  5. Who do you surround yourself with?  Are they similar or different than you?  How does this affect your collaborative efforts?

Still Hungry?

Here’s more to spark your thinking on this topic:

NOTE: There is a limit of viewing 4 online articles per month at Harvard Business Review without a paid subscription. If you click on the link to an HBR article, it will count toward your limit.

  1. Know how to use conflict as a beneficial energy source in the Ted Talk Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It.
  2. Emotions DO belong in the workplace as explained more in the Wall Street Journal Bestseller No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work. Consider picking up a copy.
  3. Discover 6 tactics to create productive conflict in the HBR video The Explainer: How Management Teams Can Have a Good Fight.
  4. It’s time to change your mind about conflict as explored in the HBR article “If Your Team Agrees on Everything, Working Together is Pointless.”
  5. Know how conflict debt stands in the way of progress in the HBR article “An Exercise to Help Your Team Feel More Comfortable with Conflict.”
  6. Learn how to make conflict productive as described in the HBR article “How to Debate Ideas Productively at Work.”
  7. Take one or both of these HBR Assessments:

Write a Review

  1. Ms. Heffernan describes how valuable conflict can be to us and an organization. We so often surround ourselves with like thinking people where those with other versions are afraid to speak up. Embrace the conflict for better outcomes.


  2. Rating:

  3. This was a great resource. It took several occasions for me to realize it, but I am guilty of building echo chambers for myself because of my natural style of resolving conflicts – more competing than collaborating. It’s important to be able to disagree, and to disagree in the right way, to actually make progress. If anyone shrinks from disagreeing, they sell themselves short and miss an opportunity to make a positive change. If anyone isn’t willing to hear disagreement, they are missing the same opportunity.


  4. This was a helpful resource in reframing how I think about conflict. It takes courage to share a conflicting opinion or have to tell others you disagree, but it ultimately leads to a better outcome.


  5. Margaret brings forth some truly wonderful taking points about challenging the status quo, seeing conflict differently and leveraging it to build something special. She discusses how to go about this as you need to challenge yourself in significant ways to think differently, see out people who see things in ways you don’t, and to push yourself to speak up. She recommends seeing conflict as thinking and how much of a need there is to get really good at it; for individuals and organizations alike. Creating an environment which gives people space to bring forth their thoughts and ideas, even though they may stir up conflict, is essential for problem solving, collaboration, and innovation. This is a must watch TED talk


  6. This resource is very helpful in changing how I approach conflict. Too often the notion of conflict is viewed negatively to the point where the avoidance of conflict—particularly among supervisors—only compounds the original problem, stifles creativity, and discourages employees from expressing their thoughts. This is a useful resource to reframe conflict as the beginning of change. It encourages us to reframe conflict as something that can lead to positive outcomes and foster a more collaborative and inclusive environment.


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