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The most feared and often hated aspect of our workplace, yet the only reason why our workplace is filled with creativity. The very nature of Conflict is to create something new. Something better than what was before. Therefore, any Conflict can be seen as creative. Yet so often, we do not experience Conflict as creative, but rather as frustrating and sometimes even downright nasty. Using Creative Conflict is the art of resolving issues with creativity, not bashing heads.

What is Creative Conflict?

Creative Conflict is not a new concept. It’s been floated around the workplace and social engagements for many years now. Our lives are filled with conflict situations. From the moment we wake up in the morning till we go back to sleep, we experience Conflict in some way or another in our daily lives. So, where does Creative Conflict come into the mix?

The responsibility is ours. We must bring creativity back into the conflict process to continue to grow and develop better solutions. The concept of Creative Conflict has been discussed in countless seminars and TedTalks, and there are a host of ways to be creative when Conflict arises.

The most important thing we must remember is that Conflict is at its core a creative process. No matter how you look at it. The relationship we have with Conflict has reduced our response to the environment, which causes us the frustration we feel.

Creative Conflict for Dummies

Creative Conflict

Suppose you think about the everyday conflict situations we experience in the workplace, such as disputes or maybe even a new product discussion. These situations are driven by a managerial figure, with the team interacting with the ideas on the table. Yet when we get into that situation, we often experience apathy. Let someone else take the responsibility if the idea does not work, and we tarnish our image.

This is a fear response to the Conflict. We want to be team players, and thus we would rather side with the group consensus than voice our ideas. This idea of apathy is not an excellent environment for any office space. In this situation, it becomes the responsibility of the manager to extract the ideas from the team. I say extract because it is not an easy process. Managers have to walk a tight rope of being seen as idea-less vs. being focused on the problem that needs solving.

So how can you bring creativity back into your workplace? Conflict is the answer. And by Conflict, I mean any discussion that has 2 or more opposing viewpoints. Here are some of the best ideas to use to address Conflict in your work creatively.

1 – Turn the Problem on its Head

As a team working on any problem, we tend to start thinking the same ways. So, we often come up with the same ideas on how to fix the problem. Whether it is a marketing problem, product problem, or just a general conflict in the office, reframing the situation is one of the best ways to break the flow. If you are looking for the correct answers, you need to ask the right questions. So, by asking the right questions, you will invoke better responses from your team and thus create a better solution to whatever the problem is.

2 – Outside the Box Thinking

Yes, this old caveat! It’s old but still so effective. Outside the box, thinking is about the weird and off-the-wall solutions to problems. You are most certainly not the first group of people dealing with this problem, no matter what it is. So, before you address the Conflict with the exact old solutions or slight variations, become creative by coloring outside the lines. Use innovative exercises to be creative, like an anything-goes process, where money or resources are not a problem. Let’s see what the team can come up with then?

3 – Now take the Box Away

Another very effective way of creatively work through Conflict is to use scarcity. What would you do if you had none of the resources you had before? Scarcity breeds creativity. Removing resources forces human beings to become creative, especially if we know that we can solve the problem based on the previous exercise. We still have the exact boundaries as before; your team has to make do with their limitations now. Just think about how resourceful the contestants on the Survivor Reality Show get.

4 – Dialog vs. Debate

Have you ever said these “let’s discuss the issue as a team,” and then you end up in a debate about the 2 conflicting views that leads to no solution? The problem is that we are almost programmed to approach Conflict by debating on the solution. This creates only 2 possible outcomes, often not very creative based on the apathetic environment. However, Creative Conflict reasoning prefers discussion and dialogue, which does not exclude any possible solution during the process. Encourage dialogue and discussion, and you will have far more creative solutions to your conflicts in any environment.

#5 – Find Common Ground

Creative Conflict resolution must start somewhere. So, find common ground in the various viewpoints. This will drive the discussion towards the result and reduce endless arguments. The creative solution is what you want, so focus on the creativity mindset by taking note of the room’s common interests or standard ideas.

6 – Salmon is Good for Business

Every year salmon take a daunting journey to spawn. This journey is one of nature’s most dangerous spawning rituals. Yet, they prevail and keep on doing it. If you have a Salmon personality in your team, encourage them to speak up. Their ideas might be the off-the-wall, out-of-the-box concept that you need to resolve the conflict situation creatively. Creative Conflict solutions require someone to swim upstream, become the driving force behind the Conflict and offer a unique perspective. Every team has that one person that consistently bucks the rule of thumb; they will be your creative conflict joker card.

7 – Separate Ideas from People

When we are neck-deep in resolving a situation, we blur the lines between ideas and people. It’s not common but is often subtle, yet your team will pick up on it very quickly. Your team can be very creative, yet creativity is an evolving process. It is not a process of perfection but ideas and potential. And sometimes of not-so-good ideas, when this happens, you need to criticize the idea and not the person. If the “rejection” is misconstrued as personal, you will very quickly starve the creative spirit.

8 – The Most Important Rule of All

The most important rule when you want Creative Conflict resolution is Listening and Sweeteners. Listen to your team, listen to the ideas and then Sweeten the Negatives with Positives. Sounds a bit obvious. Surprisingly, it happens more than you would think. Creative Conflict managers will always be excellent listeners. They will intently listen to the offered ideas and take notes and show interest in the discussions. If they encounter negative behavior or attitudes, they will Sweeten the Negativity by wrapping it in positives. Let me break it down.

Listening is relatively simple. Just give your team the space to express their ideas and thoughts openly. Sweetening negative with positive is simply the habit of responding to negative attitudes and ideas with festive wrapping. Encapsulate the negative idea with positive ideas that stem from the concept, and you will embrace the negativity without breaking the flow of the Creative Conflict process.


Creative Conflict

Although these are just some of the many concepts available for Creative Conflict management, there is still so much that you can do with these concepts and processes. Use these in your workplace, home, social engagements to ease the tension of conflicts and become a Creative Conflict guru.

Blacksheep Community

It’s in our DNA to be in Conflict with what is happening in our world. The very nature of being a Black Sheep is questioning the status quo and creatively find solutions to the conflicts we experience. The very idea of Creative Conflict processes and solution finding is one of the core aspects of being a Black Sheep. We often would be doing these behaviors as second nature, and we would most likely be the change the others are seeking. Yet, we still need to engage with like-minded people, other Black Sheep, to hone our skills in Creative Conflict management. So, if you are looking for some empowering creative conflict engagement, you should join the Black Sheep Community. Your skills and abilities in Creative Conflict management could be the following significant change that the world needs, and we would like to help you bring it to the world. Join the Black Sheep Community here and view the other blog entries that deal with a host of other exciting topics.

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