Conflict Enhances your Complex Problem-Solving Skill

According to the World Economic Forum report, Future of Jobs report, Complex Problem Solving will become one of the top ten skills workers will need.

top 10 soft skills you will need by 2020

This skill is not easy to learn. It requires practice and demands rich, human interactions.

A few days ago I posted the following picture on Leads to Success Facebook page. Some followers contacted me asking for more information about this quote.

conflict helps creativity

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, conflict is an active disagreement between people with opposing opinions or principles.

People associate the word conflict with something negative, but this need not be so if we know how to handle it.

How can conflict be an engine of innovation? 

Let’s go back to the Francesca Gino’s quote.

Francesca Gino is a professor of business administration in the Negotiation, Organizations and Markets unit at Harvard Business School.

She made lots of study of paradoxical frames and how they help people to solve problems. She explained how paradoxical frames work:

“A paradoxical frame is activated when a problem is identified, its contradictory elements are revealed and explored, and alternative solutions are found and tested.”

“The problem solver acknowledges the tension between opposing task elements, yet understands that combining them tempers the undesirable side effects of each element alone and leads to new solutions that integrate both elements.“

Instead of eliciting such ‘either/or’ thinking, paradoxical frames elicit the type of ‘both/and’ thinking that can result in the discovery of links between opposing forces and the generation of new frameworks and potential solutions.

Therefore, Conflict and Integrations of opposites ideas are the keys of paradoxical frames.

Unfortunately, the reality is quite different.

How to foster constructive conflict?

We don´t have many opportunities to practice ¨healthy conflict¨ resolution. Studies find our desire for ‘like-minded others’ is hard-wired, but this desire doesn’t help to find contradictory elements, right?

Chris Krandall, KU professor of psychology, said:

“You try to create a social world where you’re comfortable, where you succeed, where you have people you can trust and with whom you can cooperate to meet your goals.”

“To create this, a similarity is very useful, and people are attracted to it most of the time. There is little room for influence to occur when partners are similar at the outset of relationships.”

An example of how diversity can drive innovation: The three friends and the stranger study.

Katherine Phillips, a social psychologist, made the following study.

She gave dossiers with information about a crime to groups of four students. Their task was to find out who committed the crime.

These groups were not the same, some of them were four friends, but others were three friends and a stranger. Anyone of them had extra information about the case.

Do you know what happened?

The groups of three friends and the stranger got better results finding the murderer than the group of four friends.

Surprisingly, the group of four friends were very satisfied with the job done, they spent a nice time and they thought that they have found the murderer.

On the contrary, the group of three friends and the stranger didn´t enjoy at all and they thought they didn´t do a good job, but they performed better than the other groups.

Managers need to foster diversity and constructive conflict at the workplace

Diversity helps us to look at things in new ways, these new inputs may be in conflict with our previous thinking, and this healthy conflict could come up with a totally new idea.

Companies need to create the conditions under which the formula “Diversity-Conflict-Solution” may flourish.

Enterprises should consider diversity when they build their teams. Diversity not only means race and gender but also personality, talent, and experience. All of them are important traits to consider when creating a diverse work group.

If we follow these steps we will have the right foundation for a “healthy conflict” environment at the workplace.

Do you want to learn more about soft skills? I recommend you to read the last Sarah Lin’s post: “Boom Your Business Success with Creativity”

George Orwell said: ¨Perhaps a man really dies when his brain stops when he loses the power to take in a new idea¨.

P.S. Before you go, you may also be interested in the following articles:

How Effective Internal Communication at Work can Boost Revenue

Improve B2B Sales with Entrepreneurial Spirit

Why Creating a Knowledge Sharing Culture is Key for B2B Growth



Chema Lopez

A Madrid Polytechnic University International MBA has worked as global marketing director in B2B and B2C international leading companies implementing global marketing and communication strategies to ensure business objectives and to optimize brands reputation and visibility on a global level.

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7 Replies to “Conflict Enhances your Complex Problem-Solving Skill”

  1. There is a really comprehensive problem solving toolkit within Theoty Of Constraints toolkit to identify and solve complex problems/conflicts. . iThe method is called Thinking Processes or Logical Thinking Process or as most recent one Adaptive Systemic Thinking (they slightly differ in content, but are all powerfull methods). I highly recommend.

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