Monthly Archives: May 2013

Creative Conflict

Jack and Daniel are two brilliant IT programmers admired by everyone for their wit and professionalism at work.  Although they were working in two separate sections, they used to have lengthy, intelligent discussions near the water cooler or whenever they got in a meeting or a gathering.  However, as soon as they were assigned to work together on an important project, things turned really ugly.  Almost every day they bitterly argued about serious and trivial matters.  They were not helping each other, and worse than that, they were belittling each other’s efforts and contributions to the project.

Did you experience a similar situation somewhere?  Did you have a good relationship with someone at work, and later started having frequent conflicts with them?  If you experienced this then you probably have lost few good chances of coming up with innovative ideas because you (both) were not able to manage your creative conflict well.

People, by nature, have conflicting personalities.  Even siblings and identical twins have different thoughts, behaviour, and characters.  This makes conflict inevitable.  If we don’t manage the conflicting personalities well, bitter conflict will rise.  We need to understand why we are arguing with the other person, what we are –really- disagreeing on, and how we can turn around the situation to benefit from these differences.  One important thing we need to always keep in mind: being different is not bad.  Being different doesn’t mean better or worse.  It only means what it means: different.

Marissa Mayer, the Yahoo CEO who made the news last February when she banned Yahoo employees from working from home, ( in defence of this ban she stated that “Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together.”  Having different ideas, different views, different approaches, should be seen as an opportunity to come up with something new, brilliant and innovative, rather than seeing this difference as a ground for conflict.

If you always see yourself at odds with others, think again.  Maybe you are taking things too personal and missing opportunities to improvise because you hate the feeling of being opposed.  Don’t take things personal.  If someone at work told you, bluntly, that your idea is stupid, don’t lash back.  Take a breath and ask them: what made you think that the idea is stupid? Can you come up with a better solution?  If you feel that the discussion with someone is drifting towards negativity, practice ‘listening to learn’ and ‘listening to understand’ rather than ‘listening to respond’.  This will quickly defuse the vicious cycle of looming conflict.  And who knows, maybe that someone does have a better idea!

Don’t shy away from conflict, neither confront it with negativity.  Always embrace conflict as an opportunity to come up with something new, something better.  I read this somewhere and I liked it: “If all of us agree, then some of us are unnecessary”.   Don’t get too happy when everyone always agrees with you.  Spice things up.  Induce constructive conflict.  Encourage creative conflict.