Try taking a walk in the woods to resolve conflict.

istoc_canstock_2 men walking in woods

At Innovation Works, our tagline is  ‘colliding ideas .. sparking action’ we believe that our job as facilitators is to create the conditions (container) where people feel safe to speak up when they strongly disagree with others (colliding ideas).

Today when I read the Strategy & Business (S&B) article “Let’s Argue About It” by Eric McNulty, I shouted Eureka!  This is a great summary of how to productively (and kindly) address conflicting ideas.

Key messages from the article (which you MUST read). 

In the article, Eric shares Tufts University philosopher Daniel C. Dennett‘s four useful insights that help inform collaboration, negotiation, and conflict resolution in organizational settings:

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.  (In his blog, Eric refers to a process he uses called A Walk in the Woods.  The process comes from “1982, when U.S. and Soviet arms negotiators resolved an impasse at a summit after having a conversation during a walk in the woods.”  To learn more, view prezi presentation on Walk in the Woods in healthcare.)
  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

So why is this so important?

John Hagle of Deloitte Center for the Edge talks about the shift from scalable efficiency to scalable learning: “Economic history to date is primarily a story of ‘scalable efficiency’. We have reached an important turning point where success is not defined by scale, but by the ability to learn (and unlearn) more rapidly.  To achieve this level of unlearning and learning, we need to be capable of challenging each other’s ideas and being open to changing our mindsets and world views.  We need to seek out disagreement in a healthy and positively energizing way.

Invitation to consider how you might strengthen your innovation and collaboration:  Learn  to embrace conflicting ideas, creatively hold the tension (polarity management) and observe the third way that will emerge!

About Maureen (Mo) McKenna

She is a learning partner, facilitator and speaker. Maureen is a founding partner of Innovation Works - Follow her on TWITTER: @momckenna and on LINKEDIN: or EMAIL:
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s