It’s April in Minneapolis and winter and spring are in an all-out battle for first position. It has been 80 degrees one day and below freezing the next. A version of this conflict happens every year, and I am amazed at how nature always finds a creative way to resolve the discord. Until spring wins out, I guess I will just have to wait patiently and watch the creative unfolding of the seasons.
Springtime is a peak season for action in the workplace, as well. Many of us have an undeniable urge to expand and forge new professional ground. It’s an exciting time that has the potential for unparalleled partnership…or unmatched struggle. The outcome depends on a team’s willingness to lean into what I call creative conflict. I recently encountered a great example, illustrated by two local executives who I will call Jerry and Tanya:
As they prepared for their next product launch, Jerry and Tanya arrived at a major hiccup in the creative process. Marketing campaign proofs had just come in and the tone, key message and visuals were all off the mark. With only a short window of time until the campaign launch, tensions were high.
Jerry was convinced that the solution was to fire the outside ad agency and start over. Tanya felt that their in-house marketing team could salvage the expensive work and get the campaign back on track. Neither could move beyond their own fixed way of thinking. According to Tanya, Jerry was being inflexible and aloof. Jerry thought Tanya was overly optimistic and naïve. After discussing the problem on multiple occasions, the conflict was starting to feel insurmountable.
Although it was uncomfortable, Jerry and Tanya had stumbled upon an excellent opportunity to shift gears and walk into creative conflict. They made a choice to consciously let go of “my way” versus “your way” thinking and transcend face-value differences. They honored points of disagreement while making room for new and inspired solutions. Using creative conflict as an ultimate form of collaboration, Jerry and Tanya reached an outcome that was better than either could have arrived at on their own. Struggle transformed harmoniously, and their ideas sprang to life.
The next time you find yourself stuck in a disagreement, use the following steps turn conflict into creative opportunity.