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Hidden Potential: Embracing Conflict Can... > EMBRACING CONFLICT - Pg. 3

both the potential for innovation and creativity and the seeds of team dis- agreements and discord. It's inevitable that the members of a team will experience conflict, but the most effective teams find ways to manage members' differences, leverage their disagreements, avoid polarization, and capitalize on their diversity of perspectives. For many teams, conflict exists at the root of some of their best ideas as well as some of their worst failures. Imagine for a moment what the world would be like if people had no differences--if we all looked alike, acted alike, thought alike, and behaved alike. It sounds like one of those grade B horror movies on late- night TV. Without differences, the world would have the same awful plot, minimal action, and worthless dialogue, and life and work would be a bore. The natural differences among us provide definition and identity. Differences in perspectives, emo- tions, values, goals, needs, interests, knowledge, and styles are the build- When we ask people to share words that come to mind when they think of conflict, they usually use words like anger, frustration, and dis- tress. Less frequently, we hear terms like opportunity, energizing, and problem solving. The vast majority of team members readily concede that they think of conflict as negative. Differences in perspec- tives, emotions, values, goals, needs, interests, knowledge, and styles are the building blocks of innovative ideas and satisfying solutions. conflict results in heightened creativ- ity and improved decision making. This is the kind of conflict people describe when they use positive words. A second kind of conflict, which researchers call relationship conflict or affective conflict, is less about solving problems and more about finding someone to blame. When people use negative words to describe conflict, they are talking about rela- tionship conflict. Because people most commonly use negative terms to describe conflict, this suggests that they are experiencing mainly rela- tionship conflict. Researchers have determined that relationship conflict leads to poorer productivity in teams. People pull back from one another when this type of conflict emerges. Less communi- cation leads to insufficient vetting of options and consequently to poorer quality decisions. It also results in less buy-in to whatever decision is made, which affects the quality of implementation.