With the rapid advancement of technology and user expectations, it is important to continue to innovate. Innovation is not limited to your products and/or services, it also includes the various ways you market to your audience (website, emails, social media, print campaigns, etc….). Innovation is dependent upon continuous learning, diverse perspectives, and challenging the status quo. But what tends to happen when new ideas and different outlooks appear?…… conflict!

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “conflict?” Does it sound like a problem that needs to be fixed, or better yet, prevented? We seem to be socially conditioned to view and respond to conflict as negative. Despite our seemingly natural instinct to become uncomfortable, upset, or even aggressive in the face of conflict, it can be used for the greater good! Just think, what if we started viewing healthy conflict as a doorway to creativity?! Sadly, work environments often fail to recognize the potential healthy conflict offers.

The difference between healthy and dysfunctional conflict is the way in which it is handled. In most cases, conflict occurs when different personalities, perceptions, and communication styles interact. Where can this mingling of minds happen?

  • Across teams
  • Within teams
  • With the client
  • With a vendor
  • Ok… really anywhere!

What’s important is that this conflict is actually great for your organization because the underlying diversity of thought provides a variety of outlooks and prevents groupthink! Here are some ways you and your team can help better support healthy conflict and crank up your creativity:

1. Be a good, neutral listener. During a conflict it can be easy to become defensive and prematurely  judge the other party’s idea. Do your best to keep an open mind and understand what is being explained.

2. Focus on organizational goals. While it is important to embrace and celebrate our differences, it can be helpful to recognize our similarities. Take some time as a team to discuss organizational goals. This will not only help ensure all team members are properly aligned with the vision of the organization, but it will also help everyone recognize they are in this together.

3.  Take some time to think.  If you are in the middle of a discussion but feel the conflict is becoming unhealthy, take some time to step back, consider what has been discussed, and resume the discussion at a later time. Sometimes it is even a good idea to invite a “neutral” third party to the second half of the conversation.

4. Practice makes  perfect. Let your team members know you are open to new ideas and constructive criticism. While it may feel like an awkward topic at first, over time it will become more natural. It may be a good idea to set some team norms as well:  these act as guidelines for team behavior and expectations.

As you probably know, creativity is a group effort!  By implementing these steps, you are helping to create a work environment that supports teamwork and innovation. Innovation has and always will be important. While conflict is inevitable, it can be a healthy stage of growth when approached properly. Now get out there and start collaborating! Oh, and if you ever need some help getting those creative ideas rolling, we’re here to help!