What is conflict? What can conflict create? These were the first two questions discussed at the Global Leadership Café held at the Tsukiji Honganji Temple on June 26, 2014. The diversity of input on these questions and the core question, What Can We do to Encourage Creative Conflict? were not only insightful, these conversation led to a major shift in the way conflict will now be experienced by some of the participants.

GLC V Summary

The evening began with some social networking and then each participant took a seat at one of the 10 tables set up with paper, colored pens and playdough. After an introduction to our topic, we took a moment to get quiet and check inside to see how we were feeling about the subjectmatter we were about to discuss. Once done, we were introduced to the playdough and asked to work together in pairs to create a specific form that we independently chose without telling our partner what that choice was. Each striving to impose their form on the combined portions of playdough, conflict was created. This process was an opportunity for us to see how we deal with conflict in our lives. Some of the creations ended up being quite clever, like the elephant and ball looking like an elephant with a skirt, and an egg and nest becoming an egg in a nest.

After this exercise we were asked to place ourselves in a line across the room indicating how we feel about conflict. Those who relish it up front ,and those who try to avoid it in the back, and everyone else where they stand relative to these two attitudes. More insights were gleaned here.

And then the conversations began. Two rounds with the first question, What is conflict? And then two rounds on What can conflict create?

Cultural differences became obvious, as we described our own conflict experiences at home, work and in the world. One table determined that there are two kinds of compromise: compromising on the issues and compromising within oneself, where we compromise our own values by being quiet and going along with someone else’s way of thinking.

The second question led to discussions about how we can creatively deal with conflict, such as reflecting the other side’s position, playing with the energy, establishing a safe space, creating an agreement that conflict is OK, active listening (nonjudgmental, respect of differences, asking questions), looking for the worst possible solution, and going deep to recognize the emotion as well as the logic.

Our third question, (How do we encourage creative conflict?) brought forth ideas such as: love conflict, set clear objectives, ask provocative questions, agree to disagree, embracing our differences, clarify and agree on the vision and then encourage all ideas to come out, role playing, develop yourself, find a common goal, show the benefits and find out each other’s investment.

When we concluded the conversation we were once again asked to get quiet, go inside and ask ourselves, “How do I feel about conflict now? This was when we realized how impactful our café’s can be. In this case several of the participants who had placed themselves at the back of the line when we were asked to line up according to how we feel about conflict, discovered a totally new attitude within themselves that they will take forward into how they live their lives.

The evening ended with sharing our discoveries so we could mutually benefit from them. And the post-its they were written on helped me share them in this report.

Another successful adventure in collaborative leadership; domo arigato to all who came together to co-create this inspiring café.