Innovation, not Conflict in the workplace

Five steps to help your staff appreciate the value of diverse thinking of others, which supports the creation of challenging and creative teams

Businesses grow through innovation, or more precisely, innovative staff.  So we need to explore how we create and encourage innovation without creating conflict.

How do your staff see things?

The thought of working for an employer where all working relationships are harmonious sounds appealing but to achieve this, you need all the staff to have a similar outlook, think in similar styles and basically, agree with each other. It is well known however, that the best way to problem solve or develop new ideas, is through looking at situations from different angles and being prepared to challenge current thinking. This also sounds like a recipe for conflict!

Edward De Bono identified that the best ‘mix’ of staff for decision making and problem solving was having people who thought differently from each other. Any quorum requires somebody who relies upon their gut instinct (red hat), another who values logic (white hat), an optimist (yellow hat), a cautious thinker (black hat), a creative thinker (green hat) and a leader who is the ultimate decision maker (blue hat). The good news is that even if your business departments don’t naturally contain individuals with these diverse thinking styles, everybody has the ability to think in any of these guises if specifically requested to do so.

The risk is that some of the different styles may clash with each other e.g. Red hat with white, and yellow hat with black.  Then you end up with conflict instead.

Therefore, to create diversity of thinking in the workplace, it is important that all staff are trained, or educated, to respect differing views and priorities to their own.


How to achieve respect and challenge instead of conflict

  1. The starting point is for your staff to recognise their own styles of communication. There are many types of personal styles questionnaires available, which will categorise an individual’s own style.


  1. There are also conflict questionnaires available for staff to complete. This will allow them to identify their own ‘natural’ way of tackling conflict.


  1. Once these styles of questionnaires have been completed, form small discussion groups with your staff, including individuals with different personality styles/conflict preferences. Encourage them to talk through their style and to give examples where they have used their approach style. This will help demonstrate the diversity of thinking within the group and that not everybody ‘thinks the same’.


  1. Run a team problem solving exercise which requires the whole group to get involved. The best type would be where an exercise can at first be completed on an individual basis – and scored – then as a group basis and scored. You will nearly always find that the Team score is in the top 10% of the scores when compared to the individual scores.  This proves that at least 90% of staff are likely to produce a better decision if working with other staff who think differently to them.


  1. Lastly, run a De Bono’s Hat exercise, thinking of a work related problem to run through the hats. However, deliberately allocate hats of ‘opposite style’ to each individual and instruct that they must contribute to the debate in the styles of their allocated hat only.  This allows each individual to gain an appreciation of how to approach a problem in a different style to their own and allows them to see the value of their co-workers who think differently to them.

Managing constructive conflict and productive teamwork are essential traits for any business that is growing. Take advantage of Unlock Staff Potential’s Conflict Management Training, Problem Solving Training and Teamwork courses.  Contact us for a bespoke quotation.