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The #1 Under-Utilized Resource for Creativity on Teams



What is it? It’s our differences. Yes, you heard me right – our differences.

Our differences are the power source for creativity and innovation on teams, but currently, our differences often simply divide us and create misery!

Let’s look at the global level. Take a look at the newspaper headlines, or listen to the news, and you are sure to read or hear about someone making someone else right or someone else wrong. We are quick to make what did happen, is happening, or will happen – right or wrong.

Mistake: Stuck In Advocating

Think about your workplace, a team you are on, or the last meeting you were in where a hot topic was being discussed, was there more advocating and defendingfor a position, or listening and inquiring about another person’s idea?

We’re guessing there was more advocating.

What we notice when we start working with teams is in the meeting one person will make a statement about why their idea is best, followed by the next person’s monologue about why their idea is the best. Then someone will try to sound like they are listening and say, “I hear you, and here’s my take on it.”

That is not listening or inquiry.

Mistake: Stuck in Right and Wrong

Now, consider a situation at home, say the last time you and a partner, child, or parent disagreed about an issue or a big decision. Were you curious or interested in their different point of view, or were you more focused on making your own point and winning the discussion?

Most of us just want to get our way, believing we are right. The other person’s opinion threatens us. So we make them wrong.

We aren’t that good at using our differences. We didn’t have good role models at home. We weren’t trained in it at school. So we are often uncomfortable with the tension and ambiguity that differences bring up inside us and between us.

It is not easy for us to tolerate that tension and ambiguity inside ourselves or between us. As a result, we’ve learned to control, overcome, or get rid of issue. Thus, we tend to fight, avoid, or transcend the gap between us.

Also, we equate two people having different opinions as someone is right and the other is wrong. That is too simplistic, and I’ll say it, an immature way to look at the world.

Access the Creativity In Differences

To access the creativity that can be an inherent outcome of differences, we need to recognize that our differences aren’t about who is right or who is wrong. Instead, our opinions are about the way we each see the world, and how we each put the pieces together uniquely.

That makes our differences an opportunity.

If we can slow down and get interested in how the other person came to their conclusion, there is more space for new possibilities to emerge.

Teams Get To An “Ah’a!” Answer

It takes interested curiosity to drive genuine listening and inquiry. Most situations are not urgent. What creates the urgency is your own discomfort. If you can tolerate your own internal discomfort and access your curiosity, there is time to slow down, to listen, and to inquiry about how come this other person came to such a different point of view than you did.

We have found time and time again that curious inquiry about a different perspective can provide new information and choices otherwise not currently part of your own inner experience, knowledge base, or emotional landscape.

This is the where disparate ideas combine creating “Ah’a!” answers on teams. That is where magic lies.

In Summary

Our differences are the power source for creativity and innovation on teams. The key is to tolerate your own discomfort, become curious and inquire how the other person came to their conclusion.

Sure, in the end you may still choose to agree to disagree. You may decide you have all the information you need and carry on with what you initially thought was ‘right,’ but even in those scenarios you will likely have the buy-in from the other person because you took the time to genuinely hear their point of view.

On the upside, you may also have just gotten the most valuable “Ah’a!” puzzle piece that you could not have ever seen from your original point of view! That possibility is what makes utilizing our differences the power source for creativity on teams!


CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

Check out their website: www.thriveinc.com. Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.


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