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How Business Leaders Avoid Conflict (Collection) by Michael A. Roberto

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4. Stimulating the Clash of Ideas

“Truth springs from argument amongst friends.”

—David Hume

If an organization has become saddled with a culture of polite talk, superficial congeniality, and low psychological safety, how can a leader spark a heightened level of candor? What specific tools can leaders employ to ignite a lively, yet constructive scuffle? To answer this question, let us begin by examining the story of how one chief executive created a decision process that was “confrontational by design.”1

In early 1997, Steven Caufield, the CEO of a leading shipbuilding firm, began to consider the formation of a strategic alliance that would strengthen his firm’s ability to win the intense competition to design and build a new generation of vessels ...

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