Welcome to the fourth blog post in the Conflict Management series. So far we’ve talked about Prevention, Resolution, and Redirection. This month we’re exploring the ways to direct conflict using Creative Conflict.
Many of the greatest discoveries in history have happened at the periphery of industries where multiple perspectives come together more easily. Much of the creativity comes from smashing current paradigms, and radical experimentation. Simply put, conflict is necessary for creativity.
One of the tools I use with my clients is called Energize Brainstorming. From a distance it looks much like a standard brainstorming session, but certain differences energize it to a whole new level. Really effective brainstorming is actually “creative conflict.”
The process starts with a very clear goal, ideally with criteria for success and limits that they can’t exceed. Getting people thinking about a common objective is paramount. The second step is to have each member of the team complete solo “brainwriting” sessions-essentially like brainstorming, but writing out all one’s own ideas surrounding the topic. This allows for each team member to generate ideas freely, without influence from others. And what naturally happens is that the individual ideas have some “creative conflict” when the group comes back together and combines viewpoints.
During the group brainstorming stage there is no negativity allowed. The group is instructed to purposefully use “yes and” to build upon the ideas that everyone is bringing to the table. We tell the group that if there’s an idea they don’t like, they should instead write a totally different idea and add it to the board. We want concepts that are totally different from one another, as well as build on each other. After the brainstorming session is over, then members can voice their opinions on the top ideas that have been selected, but they shouldn’t say they don’t like an idea during the brainstorm.
This creates a positive environment where team members feel free to toss out every idea, even those they feel are weak, in the hope that someone else on the team may be able to strengthen or build upon that idea.
During this process, I tell clients to remember that they’re not conflicting with people, they’re conflicting with ideas, which builds creativity.
And depending on the situation, we take it even further. We do an exercise where I tell them to imagine that they’ve already created their goal and to brainstorm 12 new and different ideas to utilize it. This portion is about getting really creative and challenging the status quo in any way we can.
I was recently leading a Leadership University, and a mentor in the program named Sualeh Fatehi suggested another great idea: Explain a plan to your team and then brainstorm everything that could go wrong with the plan when it is put into action. After that, take the top two or three problems and come up with solutions to those issues. I thought that was a genius way to leverage creative conflict to strengthen a plan.
Hopefully these suggestions have given you some new ways to approach the next challenge you face with your team. As always, I’m happy to chat about any of these ideas. Connect with me on social media or shoot me an email to start a conversation.