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Rap battles: Why cognitive friction is the engine of innovation

Want to learn about innovation? Study hip hop. From the early dance halls to the Wu-Tang Clan, cognitive friction has made hip hop better and better.

Want to learn about innovation? Study hip hop. Tech journalist and co-founder of Contently Shane Snow explains that what helped hip hop take over the world is a foolproof innovation strategy called cognitive friction. "It’s the friction between different ideas or different ways of doing something that actually produce a path forward that helps any industry become innovative," he explains. In the 1970s, deejays in dancehalls competed to pull the dance party to their side of the room. Then, their MCs began to say more and more interesting things over the beat to help out. Then and there, rap battles and hip hop was born, and competition pushed innovation dramatically. Snow points out that cognitive friction is also how the Wu-Tang Clan arguably became the greatest hip hop group of all time. Nine alpha males collaborating in harmony? Unlikely. They nearly tore each other apart until founding member Robert Diggs (aka RZA) devised a way for them to channel their aggressive energy into competitive creativity. Hip hop’s collaborations may be greater than its famous feuds after all. Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart