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Most people are not comfortable with conflict, and many well-intentioned leaders shut down disagreement. It is highly likely that things will go wrong along the way, but, fortunately, there are measures you can take to guide conflict in a productive way.

People need to be led if you want your organization to move forward. Not everyone will agree with the leader’s decisions, but people care about the whole process, not just the outcome. Be careful, however, that any of these or similar tools can turn rigid and cause dysfunctional patterns or shutting down useful disagreement.

For example, employees who hold their roles for too long can get stuck in them. If you project futures with too many details, you might start to believe in them. If you become too involved in a decision-making team, you may create a too rigid structure where all communication must go through you. Meeting agendas that are too specific or move too quickly may repress disagreement.

Individuals in an organization need connection and engagement, as well as an emotional and intellectual space to do the best work. Employees are willing to give their best efforts when they feel not only part of the group but also valued by it. Innovation emerges from the cooperation of diverse people as they create different ideas, which they then, improve through discussion, and sometimes even heated arguments.

However, to engage in the “clash of ideas,” you need to move past ‘whose’ idea it is to the ‘best’ idea organization. This requires an environment built on empathy and trust. Without these components, the ‘best’ are, unfortunately, often never even shared. The most innovative companies don’t just accept ideas, but they engage them – not because they don’t find them good enough, but because they can make them even better since any idea can be improved.

Still, the clash of ideas can be hard to handle. At a minimum, it can create tension and stress. This is why many organizations dislike conflict and want to discourage it, but that will only stop the free flow of ideas. If, for some reason, productive discussion is rare in your company, and you find that excessive courtesy could be a subtle problem, you may need to induce productive conflicts.

The “strategies” to create a clash of ideas

  1. “Roleplay”

Pretend that you are your company’s primary competitors. Learn to foresee their actions. Role-playing makes you see things in a new way, stand in another person’s shoes, and stimulates creativity and trust in an organization.

  1. “Mental simulations”

In this role play, try to predict a range of futures, including the worst-case scenario, and devise a plan on how you can avoid it.

  1. “Conceptual models”

Argue for a particular standard model in your industry. If, for example, there are five standard new business models, assign your teams or coworkers to argue for each one of the models.

  1. “Point-counterpoint” – Argue for or against a specific plan of action.

We live in a time where innovative thinking is not only desirable but needed to stay relevant in a world that is changing exponentially. The better we teach today’s leaders to prepare the environment for creativity, the more successful organizations can look forward to the future.

Discover the best way to create a useful clash of ideas, consistently connect with your leadership team, and predictably turn them into highly engaged employees. Call me for some complimentary advice. Book an appointment at or call me at +1 (604) 943-0800.

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Inscape Consulting Group
Greg Nichvalodoff, BSc. BM (Honors), MBA, PCC, CMC
Office: 604.943.0800
Mobile: 604.831.4734