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Conflict and Creativity with Brad Rose

Updated: Nov 18, 2019

We can’t wait for you to meet Brad Rose- a participant in one of our leadership development programs who says he walked away with tools he actually uses!

In our conversation, he shares a tool that has been useful for him with his team and at home.

He’s found that this tool helps find a shared vision, brings out the creative side in the team, and helps get all ideas out on the table so they can work together as a more cohesive group.

We had such a fun chat with Brad, his enthusiasm and honesty about finding the beauty of conflict in his own life really lights us up and we can’t wait for you to hear.

And after you’ve had a listen, let us know how you will be using the tool we talk about.

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Full Transcript:

CrisMarie: Hey, welcome to the show, Brad Rose.

Brad Rose: I am so excited to be on this show, and that was a lovely intro, by the way.

CrisMarie: Thank you. Now, you work at Everi, and you're a leader in the creative world. Can you say a little bit more, just to give our listeners a frame of who you are and what you do?

Brad Rose: Sure, yes. So Everi, it's a company. We do a lot of things. My division is, we make slot machines, and so I lead a studio in Chicago, about 50 people, and we are responsible for making anywhere from like 15 to 18 different, unique slot machines a year. So, I work with artists, composers, developers, and it's a wide range of creative folks. And, yeah, that's what we do. That's it.

CrisMarie: Now, Brad, I've seen some of your games, but some people, when they think slot machines, they just think you pull down the lever and there's those numbers and the fruit. But that is not what you're talking about. Or, I guess it's a version. Tell me where I'm wrong.

Brad Rose: You're right, it is a version. That's what I thought, too. So, I've been in this industry now, started my 21st year in this industry just a couple months ago. And when I was first recruited, I was like "Ah, really? I'm gonna make slot machines. What's that? That's boring, like I pull a handle down: bar, cherry, seven." And when I walked in for my first interview, it was with a company that was making the very first Monopoly slot machine, and all this time I was like, "Oh, wait a second. This could be cool. They're interactive, there's a lot of multimedia, we work with license products."

And so, yeah, I mean, think of any social game you may play on your phone or any video game you may play at home; that's basically what we are bringing to the gambling floor, kinda wrapped up as a slot machine. That said, we still do make those one-arm bandits, the old-fashion ones, but yeah, where it gets real fun and real creative is bringing those multimedia experiences to a slot machine.

CrisMarie: What's the coolest game that you've been a part of developing?

Brad Rose: Oh wow, that's a good question. How about the coolest game here at Everi?

The coolest game so far, here at Everi, is probably- well it's two. It's a tie. It's Shark Week, which is out right now, which is just a ton of fun. We've actually put a bunch of slot machines together, kind of banked them together, and take a player who's playing the slot machine basically into the water, under the water, where there's just sharks everywhere. And it's been a lot of fun, and I always have a little bit more fun working with the branded games, because it's great working with their creative teams as well, and making sure that you're representing their brands. So currently, Shark Week.

But the other one, which has been amazing for us is a game called Zap. And Zap is unlike anything I've ever worked on, and it's unlike anything that's every been on a casino floor. And that one, that is a game that has no real symbols. It really came from the germ of the idea of what would happen if we just had someone gamble and hit a button, and it just says win or lose, lose, win. And our game designer just envisioned this awesome game where it's like energy going up to an orb, and when it hits it, as the energy's getting closer and closer, it finally hits it and awards you some money. It's been quite a big hit for us. It was actually nominated for an award last year, and that one's great because I love innovation. Anytime we can innovate is just so exciting.

CrisMarie: That's fabulous. So Shark Tank, no, Shark Week, the brand is Shark Tank? Is that true?

Brad Rose: No, no.

Susan: It's a very different show.

Brad Rose: Very different show. You are not pitching concepts to me that I'm gonna buy. No, this is Shark Week. This is the show that you'll see on the Discovery channel. Yeah, and it takes you to all the different encounters with sharks. I mean, to be honest with you, it's really... I think people just like sharks. And so, to have the actual brand recognition of Shark Week helps a little bit on a floor and on a sea of slot machines; it helps people have some familiarity. But, yeah no, this is Discovery's Shark Week.

CrisMarie: We don't have the Discovery channel, so I've not seen the show.

Susan: I figured out what you were talking about because I thought, he's talking about sharks. And as you're talking about this, it really strikes me that, because you're in such a creative space, I imagine that you have some appreciation for conflict and how it plays a role in creativity, and at least in the creative world, and I'm curious, because we sure think it plays a big part, in wondering how you feel about that and how you feel about conflict when maybe it's not just in the creative space but in the interpersonal space or workplace?

Brad Rose: Yeah well, make no mistake. Yeah, there's lots of conflict. When you're dealing with creative folks, it's almost an everyday thing. Just, you know, everyone has different opinions of what something should look like, and the art in any game has the most eyeballs on it. And what you might like, someone else might not. And then, just from that, conflict can exist.

It's funny, the timing of our podcast is great because I was just at lunch with somebody, and they point-blank asked me, they said, "Brad, do you enjoy conflict?" And I actually said, "Yeah, I kind of do. Like... I think it's okay. I think it's healthy and I think you need that debate, you need to be honest." I don't like when you run from it, because I don't think you progress or can evolve as a team. I like to hit conflict head-on, and I think we become stronger from it, here as a team, as a studio. I use it in my relationships outside of work, as well.

CrisMarie: That's neat. Even we were doing some research on creativity, and even if you take our human brain, where creativity stems is when we take in two opposing ideas and they... something happens in our brain, and it can spark new ideas. I think that happens within us, but I also think that happens interpersonally, between us.

Brad Rose: Yeah, I completely agree. And that's, you know... I think when people just necessarily hear the conflict, it's like, "Aw, I can't work with this person." And sure, there's that, as well, but a lot of it is just with the ideas themselves. And yeah, I agree. That's great. That was the definition, you said?

CrisMarie: Yeah well, that's what happens in our brains, that's the chemistry or the neuroscience behind creativity in the brain.

Susan: And, I mean, we've taken that and apply it to a team, where you want to have those smart people, and you want to have different opinions because that's the only way you're going to come up with a new game, I'm sure you know that. And you want to have a shared vision or something that you're going after. And it seems like that should be easy, but when you put a bunch of subject matter experts together who are passionate about their jobs, they usually don't agree, and so you do get into that place where I want my idea to go through or something like that, and unless I can do something different, well it takes us right into conflict.

That's that spark that could either be used to separate like you said when people go off and they don't deal with it, you miss the wealth of the people on your team. And you have to lean into it, even if it's uncomfortable. I'm sure that's how you guys have come up with some of your best games.

Brad Rose: That's absolutely right, and you know, add another element of egos in there, as well. I think sometimes I refer to my job as a manager of a baseball team. I have to manage a lot of these egos. Everyone can play. You're here, you're on the team because you're good enough to play, but then how do I make sure that the grizzly veteran is making sure that his voice is being heard? Or the new rookie who's just joined the team for the very first time is having their voice and their opinion heard? And sometimes it's just having to work around that.

And again, I come back to with it being such a creative process, a creative thing we are making, there are so many different opinions. It's not... We're not just making a widget where here's the directions and just go; here's the assembly line, just build and build, and rinse and repeat. It's not that. Every day, it's different. And, a lot of times it's hard, wanting to make sure that people's voices are heard and people are feeling like that what they're contributing is worthwhile. And just within that, conflict arises.

CrisMarie: I love the analogy to you managing a baseball team and those dynamics that occur. That makes a lot of sense. Now, we met because we were leading a leadership development program that you were in, and we were offering tools. Do you have a favorite one that you've actually taken away and used? And if so, what is it and how has it come up, either at work or even at home?

Brad Rose: Yes. Well first, I should say I'm a little bit of a geek when it comes to the training. I've kind of always liked it. I've always read a bunch of the self-helpooks. Some of my favorites... There's this new one called the Beauty of Conflict, that I've started reading.

CrisMarie: Yes, we like that one.

Brad Rose: But, I'll tell you that without a doubt, the thing I left when I worked with both of you a few months ago was the check your story. That was like, if you even look at my notes from when I was there, I'm circling it, I had arrows around it, some additional notes. I love it, and it's like wow, like I feel like I've kind of been doing this along my career, but it really helped form it for me of, "Okay, here's how you have to do it."

So, I was so excited to come back and first talk to my team about it. First, I talked to my leadership about it. Then, I talked to my entire staff about it. And then, I had people in my staff check their story with me. And then, we were checking stories with each other. And it's been about a couple months since you first taught me that, and it is amazing to me, walking around and hearing people talk about checking your story, and that's how powerful it's been. And it's really... I love it because it wasn't just, "Oh, Brad's saying it so let's just listen to it." People are actually utilizing it and that's been great.

And it's interesting, so then when I hear... Because people are excited to tell me, "Hey, Brad. I checked my story with somebody." And I ask them about it. The one part we were missing for a while, and I'm not sure we're all there yet, and to me it be the hardest part, I always say, "Ah, but you're not telling us how that made you feel." And feelings are tough, right? It's hard to express your feelings sometimes. So that's why I always tell them... So we're working on that. I am absolutely trying to help everyone work on that when I'm involved, you know. I'm believing that these are going on without me around, too, so...

Yeah, it's been great, and I think it's been great outside of work, too. It's awesome. My wife and the other day were like, "Okay, I'm going to check my story on that."

CrisMarie: Well let me, just because I don't think many listeners have been introduced to this tool, but the idea is we take in information through our senses and it processes through our own, individual, personal filter, and we tell ourselves the story. Now, we think that's a true story, and it drives how we feel, and then, what we want, and how we act. And so, the tool that we taught Brad and his peers was actually recognize you're telling yourself a story; it's not a fact. And let somebody know how you came to that conclusion and then be interested and check it out and see if it fits for them or not, because sometimes we make up things and think we are... Obviously, this person is x, y, or z.

Susan: Well, and so much of the way that we make up our story has to do with that personal filter that we all have, which relates to bias, which relates to all of the significant emotional events of our life and our culture and all of that. And unless you have some understanding about that, you don't even realize that the world is all... pretty much everything is just a story, and based upon how we put the pieces together. So, that's why we think it's so important. And I'm so glad. I love that you guys are using it. And I also really like that you recognize the feeling part of it is super critical. And we do tend to avoid that.

CrisMarie: We also often avoid even... We tend to want to ask questions like, "Are you mad at me?" versus, you know, "I notice your brows furrowed. I'm thinking you're upset, but I want to find out. And I'm a little worried about that, if you are. I want to find out if you are or aren't." You know, like breaking it down versus just asking a question.

Brad Rose: Yeah, I'm telling you. It's been so powerful for me and my team. And it's so simple, right? It's so simple. What both of you are saying, it's right. I mean, and you use it, and it's not just for work, it's everywhere. I use it everywhere. And it's just amazing how much, if you don't check your story, how much you can let your mind run rampant of just believing something that can be totally wrong. Or, you find out you were right, and now it's out there, and maybe now there's something to work on. So yeah, I love it.

CrisMarie: And do you have like a concrete example of when you've used it and it's made either at home, let's say with your wife, or at work, either one.

Brad Rose: Sure, um-

CrisMarie: I didn't prep you for this, so...

Brad Rose: Well, I'll use a work one. We don't... But sure, yeah. Let me try to think of a good one. Maybe I'll just think of any one and I apologize if it's not the best one, but there's definitely... So we've gone through some recent changes here in my studio. One of the leaders is no longer with us, and so one of the people who was reporting to that leader has been running a meeting a certain way. And so, it was evident some people were in there, and it was evident where I needed to say, "You know what, I need to check my story here because really what I've now... I give the context of I'm seeing how you're running this meeting. It's a game meeting. I'm seeing how you're running this game meeting, and I noticed how you pointed at that person and that made me feel uncomfortable watching you do that, and I wondered if were you taught that by that leader that that is the appropriate way to get the response from that individual?"

And then the answer was kind of like, "Yeah"... Then the answer was like, "Yeah, I was told that if you want to single somebody out, you know, boom, you put your finger out there and you say this issue we're having..." Like okay, well... Good to know. Let's maybe not do that, right. It was, again, I don't know that that was the best example, it was the first one that came to my mind.

CrisMarie: Oh no, I think that's a great example.

Brad Rose: But you know, it was something like that. And it was interesting... And by the way, I actually checked this story in front of everybody. This is with that team member there, too. And I can see that team member saying, "Thank you for asking that, because I've been kind of feeling that." Right? Or, so we talked that through and yeah. I mean, I've got to tell you something, the next meeting I sat in of that individual, it was a 180 and it was wonderful. It was great.

CrisMarie: That is interesting, and you know what? And you bring up a great point, too, that you did it in front of the team. And this is one of the things that we teach, which a lot of people are reluctant to do. Like no, no, no, you've got to go one off and check out your story, but we think if the behavior is happening in front of the team, like it didn't even involve you and you were uncomfortable. I imagine other people were uncomfortable, including the individual that was being pointed at. So, if it's not done there, and all of a sudden it disappears, it's not as transparent, and we think it helps develop that muscle and let people know, "Hey, it's okay to do this on the team. Because we want healthy relationships."

Brad Rose: I think that's right. That's absolutely right. And it's, you know, what I'm hoping it does, too, is just creates a safe space to let people communicate, so...

Susan: I also really like what I think I heard you do, Brad, and that was you kind of really owned it is, I don't know if the other person, if that person was uncomfortable but I realize that I would be uncomfortable. And I'm wondering why you do it? What's that about? And I like that you offered... You didn't make them wrong, you just sort of said... You let them know, "This would be uncomfortable for me and I'm not sure the purpose." And gave them a chance to respond, which I think is great, and you did add, you gave them a way to say it came from a previous way of being taught to do something. So, I think that's great.

Brad Rose: Yeah, and it's... Well thank you for that. Thank you both because the whole check your story has really helped. I'm sure I... It's funny... Thank you for saying that was a good example, too, because I feel like that was probably one of the weaker ones. I've had so many other ones, too, and they've been great. And I think a lot of times though, I have encouraged the check your story in front of the group. Be vulnerable, let people know that you're approachable and all that. And I have witnessed it myself recently, as well.

And it has been great and it's interesting, just this morning, I had a sync-up with one of my employees, and I went back to... I told them this morning, I said, "I love... I just want to come back to you and say, when you checked your story last week with that individual, that was great, and it was handled so well and you told them how it made you feel." And so I was very encouraging to them to just continue to do that, because it's great.

CrisMarie: That's awesome to give them that permission and reinforcement because it often takes courage to be willing to speak up and say, "Hey, wait a minute, this just happened. This is my story, I want to check it out. This is how it made me feel." So, I love that you're encouraging it. And you're right, it takes courage and vulnerability to be willing to not just make the other person wrong but to lay it out and see what fits for them or not, and then have curiosity on what is going on for that other person.

Brad Rose: Yeah, and it's so amazing sometimes when you check you story and it's good that you did because wow you were way off.

Susan: Yeah, I tell you, that could be... Sometimes it's kind of humbling how far off a story can be, you know.

CrisMarie: But can you imagine if you just stayed with that wrong story and ran with it? And maybe you thought they were a problem and you started gathering evidence of why. And, you know, it's what creates politics and organization and factions and silos, when people don't check out their stories. And I really appreciate what you said earlier, Brad, like even if it is true, at least you're clear and there's a way forward from that place with that clarity.

Brad Rose: Absolutely, it's just so much more efficient to get there. Like, why would we waste... You waste your time and I think, but it comes back to what I really think is, it's... People are scared. I think maybe they're either, you know, I don't know if it's they're insecure to speak up and share their feelings or if they don't want to hear, but I tell you. Especially now, really talking about my team here is, but we all have the same common goals. Why allow those stories to divert us from those goals? Tackle them head-on and you'll know one way or another and we can move forward. And I'll tell you, I am seeing it. I think my team is stronger today than it was before I went to your training.

CrisMarie: Oh my goodness, like the angels are singing behind us. That is such great news to hear that. And you're right, it is more efficient. Rather than having the meeting after the meeting, if you had to do that all the time, it wastes so much time.

Great well, Brad, do you have any final thoughts, like what's the number one takeaway you can share about conflict?

Brad Rose: It's beautiful... You know, I don't know if I have final thoughts. I'll kind of reiterate some of my original thoughts. I think without conflict, I don't think you can get to a better product without having some conflict along the way. And it's how you manage it and it's allowing the different opinions to topple on top of each other, and then use these different techniques, like the check your story, to make sure it doesn't derail us. Without conflict, I don't think we get as great of slot machines as we're making.

CrisMarie: That is awesome. I love it.

Conflict leads to bottom-line creativity and results.

Brad Rose: Great. See, that was said so much better than me.

CrisMarie: Brad, thank you so much for being willing to take the time to have this interview. This was really fun, and I love what you're doing with it. You're definitely making more of it.

Well, thank you. Thanks to both of you. You guys have really helped me and I'm looking forward to continuing our relationship together to improve me as a manager. So thank you.

CrisMarie: Absolutely.

Susan: Take care.

Brad Rose: Alright, bye bye.

CrisMarie: That was so fun to have Brad on the show.

Susan: It was. And it's so, you know... I love talking to him, one, because in his work that he does in designing games, it's so much of a creative process. And so, to hear him talk about how it applied just in that creative realm but also what he's since took away from the work that we did in leadership development and how he's been applying it in the way of checking out stories and things like that, I thought that was great.

CrisMarie: Yeah, and he really... he has made the most of check out your story, which I think is fabulous because he taught his team. And for those of you that are wanting to know about more of that model, check it out. It's in our book, The Beauty of Conflict, both our books. And it's also, we have “How to Have Tough Conversations at Work”. And I imagine we'll put a link in the show notes so that's easy for you to get to. And that's a little worksheet, so if you have a tough conversation, you can break down the bits, prepare for it before you go and have it, which is really often what people are like, "I don't know how to have that conversation."

Susan: Yes, and I really appreciated how he shared that it is... it doesn't go perfectly. You keep working with it and you keep trying it, because so many times people want the conversation to go smooth, well, respectfully, and those are all things that are really tricky. Especially when you're trying to be somewhat authentic and real. It's going to get messy. And, you know, he was saying, yes, there's been pieces that he misses, like a lot of times that feeling piece. And so he's learned as he's practiced it, "Here's where I made this note" and been willing to kind of keep trying. So, keep that in mind.

CrisMarie: Yes, okay. Take care. Until next time.


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.

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