Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Is there enough conflict in your school? Too much consistency , worse still compliance, kills creativity.

We hear a lot about TEAM ( 'together everybody achieves more' ) these days in regard to school cultures; and also that 'there is no 'I' in team'. My own experience would say otherwise, or at least suggest, that without some conflict nothing much changes and as a result many new ideas are not taken advantage of. With this in mind it was interesting read about the role of constructive conflict in school improvement in recent article
Conflict is a natural part of being human.
 In our efforts to cooperate with one another we have all have differences of opinion about how best to accomplish our common goals. It is natural to want to protect our individual interests when confronted with ideas that may require us to change.
 Most conflict is unsettling and leaves us ill at ease and so we tend to avoid it, or suppress it, and even when this avoidance fails, we work quickly to restore harmony. Unfortunately the very differences we try to suppress may well have the capacity to advance our collective efforts or at least make us think more deeply.
 So if conflict were used more sensibly it could become a spur for creative change. 

Treated more constructively controversy can become a creative force and given this how organizations treat conflict, or dissent, could be to their advantage. The trick is to keep the conflict at some optimal level and also to keep participants responses appropriate.
 Trying to avoid conflict , in contrast, can sap the organizations energy and enthusiasm and handled badly can create rigid thinking and even hostility. 

To make use of creative conflict requires a culture based on trust and respect for all and an understanding that conflict is a dynamic process.

School leaders ( and class teachers) need to constantly struggle with the balance between harmony and constructive tension. Innovative principals appreciate the value a certain amount of debate. 

For principals the struggle is between teacher autonomy and school wide preferred practices and protecting teacher time and energy from too many changes while at the same time valuing the need to develop new ideas.
 As well many teachers prefer a culture of isolation in preference to joint work so it takes time to develop more supportive environments so everyone sees the value cooperation, debate and controversy. 

Conflict is present within our schools whether we like it or not
 All to often schools wanting to present a united front do not always appreciate those from within or outside the school who challenge them . Maintaining a constructive level of conflict requires skill and an open environment and a respectful attitude to all involved. The trick, it seems, is to maintain courtesy in the face of criticism. 

So it seems 'together everyone achieves more' works only if there still remains an 'I ' for individual in teams! 

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