Can conflicts be good for creativity?


When collaborating on an idea using IT or social media, disagreement is inevitable.

You may all have differing opinions and agendas, but what matters in the end is how you solve any disagreements and move forward. What are the bigger goals you wish to achieve and how would you all like to feel when the end result is delivered? If people don’t have any opinions or objections about a new idea it may mean that they don’t care.

Here are some of my best tips for you to open up your mind and handle conflict:

  • Aim to build a discussion and start dealing with the issues to reach a solution.
  • Don’t bring up issues from the past. If you never bring the current conflict to the forefront, it’s likely that it will never be resolved. Talk, communicate and show your feelings. It’s ideal to meet up with the other person. If this is not possible, call them on the telephone (don’t text). Never email about conflicts. You can make a suggestion in the email to meet up, but don’t have a long discussion in an email. People pay attention to different things in an email and you will misunderstand each other. 
  • Consider how the other person thinks and you’ll open up your mind and understand the world around you better.
  • The less you judge the situation the more open you are to seeing a new solution. Spend time with people who you don’t always agree with as you will learn a lot. 
  • Whenever you’re in a conflict, focus on the issue not the person. If you focus on the person and attack her/him you may burn bridges. Burnt bridges can be very difficult to repair. It takes a long time to build confidence and trust and you can ruin it all in just one ill-considered moment.
  • Act in an open and honest way, the people around you will see this and respect you. If you have a hidden agenda people will sense it and this may return to haunt you.

One of my Finnish former colleagues used this expression: ‘Put the cat on the table’. It means: get to the point and discuss the problem. The Finns have a very straightforward way of communicating. You might find this a bit scary depending on your cultural background, but it can be worth a try. Clear the air and get rid of negative feelings and let new positive energy in.

Conflict can often be good for our creativity, making us more aware of what we believe in and how far we will go in order to move a project forward. This awareness is necessary to reach a higher level of effectiveness and creativity.

Photo credit (cc) University of Texas Arlington


naming conflicts

You're making a lot of great points, Sofie. Starting with the first one - "start dealing with the issue".

People are really scared of conflicts, but in my experience, being the one that names an underlying conflict, gets you a lot of respect and helps build rapport and relationship. People are just afraid of doing it, afraid that things might take a bad turn, but if you come from a point of honesty and integrity, it almost never will.

I had a person on my team I had problems working with. Whenever we tried to communicate, it was as if everything that could go wrong or be misunderstood, would be. I told him straight out "we have issues working together, something just doesn't work between us, but I want you to know that I really appreciate your input, exactly because it is never the one I would have come up with and therefore is twice as valuable". Since then we never had another conflict. I was absolutely honest in what I said, but I also knew that until I named what was going on between us, he would never believe that.

Thank you!

Thank you for sharing your story. I think many people can recognise themselves in your story.