I still get these shocked reactions when I suggest that creativity is essential to good conflict handling. Well it is and to become better able to leverage creativity in your conflicts here are my Top Ten Tips on the subject:
- Temporarily at least, let go of the idea that the conflict is win-lose and think of it as potentially win-win
- In other words, suspend the prejudice that there is a fixed cake to be divided up and imagine a cake that can be grown through the conflict so there is more all round
- Ask the question ‘what if’ without any commitment to agreeing to it; do this in private or if some trust exists, jointly with the other side in the conflict on a clearly understood, no commitment basis. Do it repeatedly.
- Look at your interests in the conflict and the other sides’ and see if you can come up with a possible ‘what if’ that meets each interest; then try to come up with two ‘what ifs’ for each interest and so on
- Think laterally: what is the opposite of the solution you were thinking of?
- Think outside the box, the solution space you have in mind: draw that solution space in some form and see what is outside your automatic assumptions of what is possible
- Even look at or re-frame conflict as a creative tension that will generate new solutions to complex problems that will not be generated without the conflict tension
- Look at previous creative solutions to conflicts like the one you are facing; read about them, or try to remember the times when someone solved a conflict creatively
- Think of the abyss that may exist if the conflict is not solved to focus the mental stretch to come up with even more ‘what ifs’ that beat war or its equivalent
- When you have listed all the possible ‘what ifs’, take a look at them all and see if they suggest any more ‘what ifs’ and ask yourself: ‘Is this the best we can do?’
Of course, once you have lots of ‘what ifs’ you need to use the Creative Conflict Model of this blog to make sure you know your interests, the reality of the conflict and check which ‘what ifs’ are acceptable to you: get back in touch with your inner accountant. 🙂
The blog visits one of the world’s most creative conflict experts: Bill Ury of the Harvard Program on Negotiation on the right: