52. Constructive Conflict (definition)
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A lot of conflict is bad. If Alisha gets so frustrated that she picks up the apple and throws it at the board chair’s head, that’s the bad kind of conflict – no matter if she’s right or wrong about the whole cake thing. A lot of boards are afraid to disagree openly with each other because the directors are worried that they might spark the bad kind of conflict. Of course, bad conflict doesn’t always mean people are throwing things at each other – it’s basically just when disagreements become personal. If a director doesn’t understand why Alisha could possibly think the apple is a cake, they might just get annoyed and treat Alisha poorly or dismiss her point of view – that’s bad conflict, even without the food fight.
But when a board is so afraid of bad conflict that they avoid disagreeing with each other no matter what, then they miss the opportunity for CONSTRUCTIVE conflict. Constructive conflict can be a super good thing. A lot of what we learn from other people comes from constructive conflict. We disagree with someone, we listen to each other’s perspectives, and we both come out of it knowing more and better things than we knew before. When Alisha (the professional ultra-realistic-apple-shaped cake maker) first suggests to her board that the apple might be a cake, the board’s first reaction might be to laugh or to roll their eyes. Hopefully, though, someone is curious enough to ask Alisha about her cake theory (she’s the expert, after all). Maybe they won’t be convinced at first, and might even think Alisha’s theory is pretty out there. But eventually, the board might be inspired to examine the apple a little closer – do a little poking and prodding, or maybe take a bite. In the end it’s probably an apple, but the board will probably examine the *next* apple a little closer. And what if it HAD been a cake??
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