We all have some sort of reaction to conflict. Whether we shy away from it or are confrontational by nature, it can be difficult to navigate in the work place. Yet in this talk, management thinker and TED business veteran Margaret Hefferman discusses the benefits of conflict for businesses.
In her traditionally engaging manner, Hefferman begins with the story of Dr Alice Stewart and her fight in the 1950s to convince the medical community of the sever danger of X-raying pregnant women. Key to Alice’s success was her collogue and thinking partner George. George’s job was to challenge Alice’s findings, creating conflict around her work, and as a result Alice’s conviction in her own findings were strengthened. Together they built constructive conflict.
The kind of conflict Hefferman is referring to in her talk is the collaborative kind. For her, conflict is a form of thinking, and a driver of change. Yet this kind of collaboration is something that is notably absent from our businesses, with 85% of executives in the USA and Europe afraid of conflict. If we are to get the most out of our people, and allow them to develop the skills they need, we have got to encourage and engage in constrictive conflict. What’s more, as Hefferman rightly states, ‘we have to get really good at it’.
By Laura Stewart