Merge's Blog

Conflict can be a positive force to spur innovation

LawyersWeeklyLast month, The Lawyers Weekly ran a story about how conflict can actually be a positive force to spur innovation. Writer Geoff Kirbyson interviewed me and three other experts for this article and you can read the insights we offered in the online edition – Using good conflict to spur innovation: a team of ‘yes men’ won’t yield desired results.

In a nutshell, the type of conflict where ideas are challenged and proposals are questioned is not only a good thing but is in fact mandatory for a forward-thinking firm. The challenge of course is that there is a fine line between conflict that is disruptive and that which produces debate leading to superior outcomes. Some ideas for creating an environment where good conflict is encouraged and fostered:

  • View two different ideas as an opportunity to create a third new idea (rather than as in opposition to one another)
  • Encourage employees to speak their minds
  • Play the devil’s advocate and take a position you don’t necessarily agree with just to encourage discussion
  • As the leader, stay silent and don’t put your opinion forward until later in the discussion
  • Ask quieter team members directly for their opinion
  • Learn how to ask questions and listen to what you hear in response

Take a quick read through Geoff’s article and please contribute your ideas to this list (add a Comment) about how to create an environment where good conflict is promoted.

P.S. If you’re interested in more information about the Abilene paradox (that is referenced in Geoff’s story), take a look at this blog post – Why conflict and disagreement are essential for high-performing teams – from December 2011.

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