Capitalize on Conflict!
What is “Conflict”?
Conflict can be a touchy subject. Most of us respond emotionally to the word ‘conflict’ and most of the time with negative emotions. Common words used to define “conflict” include: collision, disagreement, at variance, in opposition, combative… all words with a negative connotation in most settings.
Let’s put “conflict” in a new context. It is generally agreed that diversity of thought helps a team generate new and innovative ideas, encourages richer exploration of alternatives, and typically leads to higher quality decisions and outputs. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘two heads are better than one’. Defining diversity of thought in this way is a nice way of saying we bring difference of opinion, difference in perspectives, and different experiences into the team experience. When that happens there will naturally be ‘conflict’. But it doesn’t have to be ‘conflict’ in the derogatory sense… we can have divergent or even opposite viewpoints, we can exchange these divergent or opposing views in a way that allows the team to ‘capitalize on conflict’. When we think about ‘conflict’ in this way it becomes something we strive for in our teams! Research shows there is incredible value to be found by organizations that build the capability to capitalize on “conflict” and get the most out of the diversity of experience and opinions in the organization. The dynamics of constructive conflict always lead to a better solution or decision than one reached through only one view or “group think”. One definition of “group think” is “a phenomenon developed in groups and marked by the consensus of opinion without critical reasoning or evaluation of consequences or alternatives.” Clearly, that is contrary to the desired outcome.
In the spirit of pursuing rigorous debate there will naturally be spirited conversations that can be perceived as negative conflict. However, constructive conflict creates room for the most diverse perspectives and broad expertise to be shared and effectively integrated. Consider building skills to capitalize on conflict in your teams!