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Importance of Conflict in Decision Making
15 Jun 2020

Importance Of Conflict in Business Decision-Making Processes

It’s simple. Conflict improves decisions except when it does not. Thus, we realize the importance of conflict in business decision-making processes by balancing. That lies someplace between no conflict and damaging conflict.

Importance Of Conflict The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Importance Of Conflict in Decisions; The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Conflict is like fire. If one knows how to use it, it can do wonders for decisions and innovations. If not, then everyone just gets burned.

Conflict produces more options and better decisions. It produces more significant innovations. That’s the good.

The bad occurs when conflict gets out of hand. It’s not hurt feelings and poor implementation that’s the worse. It’s failing to reach a decision that is. Conflict can paralyze.

The ugly is not dealing with the conflict. Here, the meeting’s takeaway is to table a decision for further analysis. The illusion is that “letting the dust settle” will exhaust the conflict.

Keeping Conflict’s Dark Side In Check

The best bet is to tap this conflict. That means first knowing the techniques or strategy to handle conflict. This means overcoming the challenge of advocates becoming too wedded personally to a view. If it’s not adopted, it seems a personal failure.

So, the strategy is to detach them from those views. Questions such as these can temper those ties:

  • What are the downsides of this action?
  • What change of conditions might cause this idea to not work?
  • What’s the likelihood of success? Failure?
  • What’s the likelihood that those conditions won’t occur?
  • If you were to argue against this action, idea, plan, etc., how would you do it?
  • What contingencies should we plan for if this does not work?

As implied by these questions, the strategy is to change the advocate’s mindset.  It moves from the positives to the downsides, risks and probabilities. This moves her from advocate to analyst.

In more important strategic decisions, a “wargame” structure used by the military works well. Here, teams form. Each takes charge of advocating for a view. They then present their arguments to the group.

The key is forming the teams. Don’t put strong supporters on the team put its strong opponents. Arguing for an opposing view is a great way to see it. Again, this helps detach personalities from options. It also helps those who disagree to say they were part of the solution.

Simple Minds And Conflict

Striking the right balance with conflict is tough. Balancing anything is tough for humans, period. It’s just simpler to pick black or white, conflict or no conflict, little thought needed.

Add that most people don’t like conflict. They don’t like to partake in it. They don’t like to observe it. We end up with mush decisions. People are simply content to play bobblehead and say, “yes,” to anything that will avoid and stop conflict.

Of course, good leaders don’t let others cheat themselves like this. Unless of course, they’re simple too and seek the easy way out.

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