A black-and-white portrait of KenKen ZinserMake sense and make better

Conflict vs. confusion

In a messy, collaborative situation with lots of different people with differing opinions, you need to figure out whether you’re dealing with a true conflict of values and priorities; or just experiencing symptoms of confusion.

They’re both risks to any successful collaboration. Conflict grinds systems down and brings movement to a halt. Confusion obscures purpose and misdirects resources until you no longer know where you are.

To squash confusion, create a brave space. Too aggressive and you risk spooking people back into silence. In the real world it’s perfectly normal to be confused. About a project, or a question, or an acronym. Help people feel comfortable vocalizing what they don’t know, what’s keeping them up at night.

To tackle conflict, cut to the chase. Strike a tone that is assertive, not aggressive. Ask people directly: what do you want? If we handle this your way, how will the world be different? Why is that so important? And who is going to make it happen?