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It can be tricky – innovation and leading edge performance require both conflict and alignment.
In The Innovation Code, Jeff DeGraff states, “…it’s our impulse to resolve or eliminate conflict, in the world of innovation we need to resist that impulse, resist alignment.”
The two words, “resist alignment” initially made me shudder because I am always seeking alignment. As I read further I realized that DeGraff and I are aligned.
The crucial distinction is when to be aligned. I know you absolutely must have differences in opinion, talent, and personality and you must be aligned with intention if you want to bring out the best in your people.
In my experience when there is no alignment, groups have dysfunctional conflict. People tend to disengage and the most dominant personalities dominate. Those who disengage passively withhold their ideas and can undermine the progress. I bet you’ve seen this play out.
When I first meet with a group in dysfunctional conflict there is often a palpable “protective” tension. That tension exists because most people fear destructive conflict and don’t understand innovative conflict. People often assume we are going to get all the ‘crap’ out on the table. That is scary. And, I don’t go there ever, rehashing the past isn’t productive.
Instead, I guide:
- People to align with intent, both their larger purpose and just as important how they intend to engage with each other
- Each of them to develop innovative conflict skills, what I call Spiral Impact.
It is fun to witness the tension melt when people get how they can be innovative with conflict – they don’t have to be in battle – the spiral moves them forward with ease.
Even highly functional teams can expand their performance – as the levels of engagement can continue to increase.
Those arrows also can represent different departments – design, quality, production, HR, sales, and finance – typically have competing agendas. For leading edge performance their ability to honorably engage in differences is crucial.
The one question I’d like to ask you is,
What is your skill level to seek and receive contrasting opinions and maintain honorable engagement?
More simply, how well have you mastered the art of conflict?