IN MOST ORGANIZATIONS, PEOPLE squabble over creative differences, turf, and budgets. They butt heads over all manner of political issues, big and small. The more people there are, the more matters they have to fuss over. It’s just a fact of work—and life. The difference between conflict in a dysfunctional company and in a high-trust organization is not whether there’s conflict, but how people deal with it.

There is a distinction between conflict that works and that which does not. Where debate is a pretense, it gets the organization nowhere and does more harm than good. By contrast, if the debate is truly a process whose objective is to find a good answer within an open marketplace of ideas, then it is powerfully ...

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