Avoid conflict? Not if you want to be creative.

Bright ideas

Creativity good. Conflict bad. Right? Not so, says Jagoda Perich-Anderson, in her post for Caotica, “Conflict and Creativity are Kissing Cousins.” While we welcome creativity as a means to resolve the uncomfortable state of conflict, she points out that conflict spurs creativity. Conflict requires creativity to break the logjam.

In a previous post, I talked about the importance of divergent, creative thinking in decision making. As she points out, this is a skill anyone can develop. She presents several techniques to find creative solutions in a conflict situation. These apply to any tough decision, even if there is not conflict between people. Even in individual decisions you have conflicts, say between near-term satisfaction and long-term goals, or between cost and benefit. Every decision is a balancing act. Here is a summary of some of her suggestions and how they apply to individual decisions.

Soften your original position.

Consider other ways to get what you want, or at least most of what you want. A few years ago I did a kitchen remodel. I had several requirements: the stove could not be below a window, the refrigerator could not be in the corner, and the oven could not be next to a door, among others. I made myself crazy trying out various arrangements, none of which worked. I finally hired a kitchen designer, who came up with a workable solution with the oven next to a door. Yes, it really wasn’t necessary to have counter space on both sides of the oven. I could soften my original position. This also shows how an outsider can often help you see what you can reasonably soften.

Defer judgment to develop new ideas

Nothing shuts down creativity faster than judgment, even if it is positive. “That’s a good idea” inhibits creativity as it funnels you into seeking similar ideas. The goals for generating creative ideas are quantity and variety. Go for weird to break down assumptions, preconceptions, and walls. Start with unrelated ideas and look for connections.

Explore alternative ways of looking at the problem

Jagoda Perich-Anderson suggests three ways to do this, which apply just as well to individual decisions.

  • Expand it.
  • Reverse it.
  • Break it up and rearrange it.

Using creative thinking just might lead to great ideas far beyond the conflict that initiated it. Has that ever happened to you?

The best person for the team may not be the best person for the team

The diverse team

The project managers were always fighting to get the best people in the company on their teams. Yet, often this resulted in dysfunctional teams. Why? Many of these power teams consisted of all bosses and no workers. That’s an extreme example, but it points up the importance of bringing a diversity of experience and thinking style to a team.

Sallie Krawcheck

in her blog calls diversity “The Secret to Putting Together an Insanely Successful Team.”

Paul B. Brown, on his Forbes blog, says “Great Minds Think Alike…And That Is Exactly The Problem.”

We naturally want the best people on our teams. We naturally want people who think like us. Yet, rather than bring in one more excellent team member just like the others, the team will grow with a member who asks the questions that nobody else is asking and provides insights that no one else has seen.

This is true in individual and family decision making as well. I recently ran a workshop that included the Six Thinking Hats. One of the participants later told me that it helped her understand why her husband was often so negative—he was providing the black hat perspective, the important consideration of risks and issues. She was more comfortable in the optimistic yellow hat and had been annoyed with him for shooting her down. Now she realized that they probably made better decisions as a couple because of the varied thinking styles.

What is your experience?