It’s probably safe to say that nobody likes conflict.
But, it’s also true that conflict can be helpful – maybe even necessary – if you want your ideas to become the best that they can be, and for disruption and/or innovation to occur.
Conflict Produces More And Better Ideas
In fact, studies performed in both the United States and France examined the role that conflict played in generating and producing creative ideas. The researchers assembled participants into three separate experimental conditions (minimal, brainstorming, and debate) and formed them into teams within those conditions.
Each team was tasked with generating ideas for the same challenge: how to reduce traffic congestion in the San Francisco Bay Area. Teams in the “minimal condition” were given no further instructions and told to develop as many ideas as possible. Teams in the “brainstorming condition” were given the traditional set of brainstorming rules; paramount among those rules being the notion that all judgment should be suspended and no idea criticized or debated. Teams in the final, “debate condition” were given a set of rules similar to brainstorming with one important difference: they were told to debate and criticize others’ ideas as they were generated.
When the results were calculated, the winners were clear. While teams in the “brainstorming condition” did generate more ideas than the teams given “minimal” instructions, it was the teams in the “debate condition” that outperformed the rest. Teams that debated their ideas produced an average of 25% more ideas than the other teams in the same period of time.
If conflict and debate can help us produce better work, and come up with more creative ideas, then why do we do we tend to avoid it like the plague?
Because we often do it wrong.
The good news is that we can fix that. The best leaders seek out conflict, and also establish ground rules and cultures where healthy conflict can occur.
Leaders Should Own Conflict
I recently watched a DisruptHR Talk given by Amanda Ono – VP People & Culture at Resolver – at the December 2017 DisruptHR Toronto event about the importance of embracing conflict in the workplace. In her Talk, Amanda makes some great points about conflict, including:
Conflict isn’t bad. It’s when it gets wrapped in ego and blame that it’s bad. Otherwise, it’s about peeling the onion to understand why incompatibility exists, and airing genuine fears and concerns.
As the Chief Excitement Officer of DisruptHR, I’ve watched hundreds of DisruptHR Talks (there are currently over 1,700 online), and this one ranks right up there as one of my favorites.
Amanda takes a traditionally held belief (conflict is bad – avoid it), and flips it (conflict is good – seek it out). She makes the case that it’s time for us to embrace conflict in the workplace, so people can create their very best work.
Teams Need Conflict
I love Amanda’s message, and encourage you to take 5 minutes to watch her Talk.
Then, go out and encourage some conflict in your workplace. 🙂