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Profiting from the Clash of Ideas

Constructive Conflict Leads to Better Decisions and Results

Michael A. Roberto

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 ...

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