Constructive Conflict, Design and Scaling Innovation in Business


Our businesses face challenging problems. Rapid change in consumer behaviour, emerging global competitors, access to low cost production, inability to accurately forecast long-range threats and oh yeah, those kids with an internet connection in the garage across the street.  It seems that the ability to apply creativity, address conflict and intentionally design solutions are some of the most predictive characteristics for long-term success in business.

In this podcast with Kelly Krake of UTR Decorating we discuss what it’s like facing these kinds of challenges. Kelly offers a lot of really valuable insights for any leader or entrepreneur who wants to learn how to use constructive conflict and design to scale innovation.


Total Running Time: 44mins


Download the podcast here or click play below.


3 Key Lessons:


1. Trust your gut. If something does or doesn’t feel good, ask why.  What are we doing about it.

2. Be decisive and don’t let things drag out.

3. There are so many opportunities and only so many hours in day. Make tough decisions so that you can focus on the opportunities.




How did you know there was a need for a new product?

What does it mean to have a commercial product?

How scary is it to trust gut decisions?

How much of the manufacturing business did you know in advance?

When did you know you could make money?

When did you think you could build a viable business?

How do you find the inspiration to invent new products?

What’s your thinking behind crowdsourcing ideas?

Do you view processes such as customer service, strategy and sales through the lens of design?

Does constructive conflict create chaos in an organization?

What are the big lessons you’ve learned about business innovation?


About Kelly Krake and UTR:


Kelly Krake is the President & CEO of Under the Roof (UTR) Decorating, a product design, development, manufacturing, distribution, marketing and sales company. UTR’s products such as the Hang & Level, Anchor Points and CenterFinder are sold at over 10,000 stores around North America including Target, The Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart, Canadian Tire and Home Hardware. Their company is expanding and soon their products will be found in Australia and Europe.

UTR can be found on Twitter @UTRdecorating, Pinterest at Decoexpert, YouTube at UTRDecorating and Facebook UTRdecorating.


Iteration of Innovation

Hang & Level: Iterations from Prototype to Commercial Product



Additional Resources:


Roger L. Martin on Innovation and Design Thinking

Hewlett-Packard on Rules of the Garage

Fast Co. Design Six Ways To Create a Culture of Innovation



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  1. Nollind Whachell says

    Marc, I just listened to the latter part of the podcast but this resonates pretty much dead on with my current research and development. And if anything, I’m realizing this is the cornerstone to everything. In effect, without this, empowerment and learning organizations aren’t achievable.

    Check out this HBR article below in PDF format to get further insight into this. It even touches upon what you said about it being radical in most companies.

    Empowerment by Chris Argyris

    There’s also a book on it that goes into deeper detail as well.

    Organizational Traps by Chris Argyris

    So people speak their mind and have fun because they are able to express themselves and feel like they are truly co-creating something with others (versus just being told what to do in a command and control environment).

    Also intense conversations, not love and hugs, with everyone not getting along is so true. It’s accepting the reality that life is full of conflict, no matter if you’re at work or at home. This is exactly why so many marriages fail because they assume once they get married it will be “happily ever after” which is not the case. It’s a challenge that takes hard work, love, and commitment.

    Working with others in a work relationship is no different. Why companies fail is because they don’t want people to “rock the boat”. Yet by not “rocking the boat” things build up until they get out of control.

    In terms of marketing and branding, it’s no different. Customers hate it when they encounter a conflict or problem, yet the company / management often choose to ignore or hide the issue to appear perfect. This only amplifies the problem and frustrates the customer all the more.

    Note that W.L. Gore & Associates uses this same open discussion approach internally as well. New projects or ideas aren’t dictated but associates have a say and need to be convinced. In effect, they have to understand the “why” of the project which can take a lot of discussion time with leaders trying to clarify things. But once everyone understands and contributes, it’s full steam ahead because everyone is on board. In effect, once everyone understands the intention of the work, they have a strong sense of commitment to it.

      • Nollind Whachell says

        I’d just add though that the leader’s vision is just what starts the discussion. Everyone’s input can alter and change it creating a newer vision that is much more dynamic and inclusive, co-created by all.

        Also great article on the military operations. Reminds me of my days playing online military games. Our team and community would use similar tactics to create a symbiotic mode of operation without the need for command and control (I believed I mentioned it once before).

        The only thing I’d add though is this often goes beyond just a network and requires a community, where the shared purpose comes into play. This helps build a shared mental model of understanding which allows for the heightened situation awareness to occur.

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