Transforming Conflict Into Creativity

Dec 05, 2014 No Comments by

Unnecessary conflict is a serious waste of time.communication conflict

It’s also an incredible waste of money.

According to a 2008 study sponsored by the team that publishes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), U.S. employees spent an average of 2.8 hours per week dealing with workplace conflict.

If we consider just the salaries and paid benefits of these fighting folks, that amounts to around $359 Billion in lost productivity.

Hayden DM HaydenHayden D. M. Hayden has devoted his professional life to not just dealing with conflict, but teaching others to handle the inevitable sources of human discord in simple and effective ways. He’s authored a great book on the topic called “Conscious Choosing for Flow: Transforming Conflict Into Creativity and I’d like to share a few highlights here along with a recommendation.

Why It Matters: Hayden starts by offering a few insights into the negative tendencies that often play out in the way people work and interact. He argues that these innate (and somewhat self-centered) tendencies are wired into our brains and if left unrecognized and unchecked, teams and organizations will squander a host of daily opportunities to accomplish great things together.

You’ll recognize many of these potentially destructive behaviors if you’ve ever been on a team that struggled to work together:

– Failing to set clear shared expectations

– Listening to plan our response instead of listening with empathy

– Failing to engage, avoiding confrontation or shutting down to protect our perceived self-interest

– Leaning more strongly into our preferred style when placed under pressure instead of opening our mind to alternative methods, perspectives and views (Accurately summed up in the book as “Under Stress, We Tend to Digress”)

Sound familiar?

An Ounce of Insight Can be Worth Its Weight in Gold. I especially like how Hayden reminds us that much of how we interact with our fellow humans is based on the how we choose to interact – as individuals and in teams. That power of choice is the basis for identifying and addressing areas where we are challenged.

Emergenetics-w-commentMost people don’t spend much time studying their natural tendencies, even fewer take the time to attempt improving them. Many of us fear that identifying our behavioral profile may open us up to the embarrassment of others knowing our weaknesses, but the exact opposite is true.

I have found that one can only improve what one understands and gaining personal insight can be the start of leveraging our strengths and addressing our inherent gaps.

There are many good personal discovery tools available that can help us better understand how we tick. Most of us have heard of MBTI. I’d also recommend Emergenetics and the Enneagram.

Hayden makes the point that through self-discovery and conscious choosing, we can build our practical competence to be more effective in interactive settings without thinking about it. This is what some call “unconscious competence”. He refers to this ability to act in an habitually productive way as “flow”. This term maps well to another of his insights: “Where focus goes, energy flows”.

enneagram graphic from wendy appelQuestions, Questions, Questions: Next, the author lays out ways that we can establish an honest context for effective interactions by committing to curiosity. He highlights how we should frankly account for each other’s needs and feelings since they actually drive what we fight for when we try to work together.

Then he shows how building our questioning skills can open the door to making the kind of connection that will help us achieve viable, productive “flow”.

Since good questions are the key to genuine curiosity, it only follows that we will gain progressively better understanding if we constantly work on asking better and better questions and circling back with our mates to verify facts and understanding.

Regarding questions, I personally like to apply this rule of thumb:

Open Minded + Open Ended = Better Insight.zen in a business suit

Apply Conscious Choosing for Flow to Get Results: As we start to interact more effectively, this book’s approach recommends that teams engage in a solid problem-solving process for getting work done called the STAR Process for Results.

You’ll want to check out the book for the full details, but I’ll summarize the STAR Process for Results as:

* STOP and ask questions to capture the needs of individuals, the team and the organization. Verify that you have a true shared understanding of the problem, the context and everyone’s needs before seeking solutions.

* THINK of ways to address the needs. This part of the process should leverage the diversity of opinions and experiences of your team to generate strategies to consider and options that can be evaluated. Use consensus-building techniques to select a shared approach from the options.

STAR Process in Context* ACT on your chosen approach by capturing and executing on the commitments people make while tracking accountability for the work as well as the timing and follow-up needed to ensure the solution maintains positive momentum.

* REVIEW your progress against measurable goals and modify the approach as needed to meet the expectations of the individuals, team and organization.

The STAR Process for Results is especially good at organizing what can look to be a daunting process. At one client, we blended it into our consensus decision-making process and our Agile software development process to produce an easy-to-follow technique for teams working through challenges. It can take some time to get everyone committed to using it, but the shared positive outcomes will prove to be worth the effort.

Flow and Brains Working TogetherWrap-Up: In Conscious Choosing for Flow, Hayden D.M. Hayden has captured many of the traits and processes that lead toward positive relationships and the achievement of shared results. He’s illustrated ways that we can consciously choose to change our habits and thus become better communicators, better problem-solvers and more productive human beings.

One of my favorite things about the book is that Hayden has peppered the material with personal stories of how he has screwed up some of this human interaction stuff and learned from the experience.

I’d have to agree that I have also learned more from my mistakes than I’ve ever learned from my successes!

I highly recommend Conscious Choosing for Flow and the techniques as being sound and useful for Change Agents and their teams.


Questions for Chatter:

  1. Think about a time when you found yourself defending a point to your team mates only to discover that you haven’t shared the “why” behind your needs. How did opening up about your underlying motivation help build shared understanding?
  2. Have you ever worked on a team that achieved real “flow” as Hayden describes it? What elements of this experience have you built into your permanent individual and team “habits”?


Here are links to get the book and contact information for the author:

Author & Website: Hayden DM Hayden

An informative video called “Formula for Flow”:

Where to Get the Book: Visit to order a signed copy or Amazon for an unsigned copy.


tbr Blue Line




Change Agent Skills, Change Communication, Change Execution, Change Leadership, Stakeholder Readiness, Team Dynamics

About the author

I help people and teams succeed with big changes... never a dull moment!
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