You don’t see that many articles about conflict management on the web. I suppose it is too much of a “downer”. But today was an exception. Amy Jen Su writes for HBR that we should figure out how to deal with conflict in a more strategic manner. Brava! I would go further. We should thrive on it.
I don’t mean that we should go around picking fights, kicking the dog, and cursing the cleaning lady. What I do mean is that managed conflict is as normal as breathing. We need it. Why? If we don’t have something to fight against, we don’t have anything to fight for. This is just the way of humankind. How do we deal with this? The answer is to gamify it.
What do I mean? Well, I do not mean treat it in a cavalier manner. Conflict is serious stuff. And we don’t focus on conflict unless the matter at hand is important. What I do mean is that we put the conflict in the context of the larger strategic issues (the “game”). In doing this, we can more easily see which issues are critical (worth pursuing) and which are not. In other words, our sensitivity to conflict with respect to a given issue should tell us a lot about our agenda.
In reality, I often see a mismatch. People fight to the death over trivia and let go of stuff that is hugely important. Oops!