Most executives look for ways to resolve conflict quietly, yet to me it is a fountain of innovation.
Let’s be clear about what healthy conflict is and is not. It is a disagreement about issues aligned with a common objective. It is not is a political or ulterior objective in a non-zero sum game (aka an “I win you lose” scenario). Executives need to understand this difference in leading organizations. Once the nature of conflict is understood, leaders are able to guide the energy of conflict to productive use and defeat bullshit.
In opposite order of interest, values are the hidden source of conflict. I advise clients and employees to clarify the game that is being played. If it is outside the bounds of real business performance, get it into the open. The light of day usually eliminates the ulterior games people play.
Conflict is a source of deep emotion. Tap into it for understanding true commitment to ideas. Conflict is a natural way to role play or sort out opposing thoughts, find the basis of underpinning ideas, and obtain emotional commitment to see the job done well. Frequently I assume the aggressive opposing view, challenging assumptions, analysis and facts. This helps reveal levels of preparation and tests true beliefs. This verbal combat also inspires new solutions because people dedicated to common goals find common means of reaching them.
The essential idea is that conflict is wrapped in emotional beliefs and, in business, supported by fact-based analysis. There are truly legitimate opposing views about how to reach objectives. Understanding this is hugely valuable and is why social, cultural and intellectual diversity and all the accompanying conflict with discomfort are worth leveraging conflict as a source of creative innovation.