We need more conflict in our lives.

We need more conflict in our lives.

Management expert Margaret Heffernan postulated this counterintuitive lesson learned in her years running businesses and organizations in her TEDGlobal 2012 presentation.

Her insight has great implications for successful mediations.  I have always contended that mediation is conflict at its best and her insight bares this out.   Heffernan has developed five guidelines for productive disagreement:

  1. Appoint a devil’s advocate
  2. Find allies
  3. Listen for what is NOT being said
  4. Imagine you cannot do what you all want to do
  5. After a decision is made, declare a cooling off period

These are counterintuitive guidelines because it is assumed in mediation as well as life that we need to avoid conflict; smooth it over if we have to and compromise if all else fails.  Our job is not to avoid, smooth over or compromise, it is to find a better way.

Margaret Heffernan (born 1955) is an international businesswoman and writer. She was born in Texas, raised in the Netherlands, educated at Cambridge University and settled in the UK near the city of Bath.

She is the author of five books: The Naked Truth: A Working Woman’s Manifesto about Business and What Really Matters, How She Does It (published in paperback as Women on Top), Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril, A Bigger Prize: Why Competition isn’t Everything and How We Do Better, and Beyond Measure – a short book commissioned by TED.

While Heffernan’s first two books focused on these issues as they impact women in the workplace, her overarching theme has been the need to recognize and release the talent that often lies buried inside organizations, under-valued and under-rewarded because it is unconventional. Heffernan’s voice is primarily one of critical challenge, taking little at face value and regularly questioning received wisdom.

Ken_Strongman_003smAbout the Author: Ken Strongman (www.kpstrongman.com) has years of experience and a growing national reputation as a mediator and arbitrator.  He has successfully resolved more than a thousand disputes in the fields of construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, and employment.  He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.

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