On the Bloomberg Businessweek website, Sharon Nunes discusses the concept of working outside the "comfort zone" and creating successful collaborations from the conflicts and creative tensions that exist within networks and teams.
In situations where members of a team have strong differences of opinion, Nunes advises: "Sometimes the best solution... emerges when opinions are challenged and colleagues need to negotiate with one another to reach consensus.
"While it's not always comfortable working outside of your comfort zone, it often can result in more creative problem-solving."
The trend for large corporations to use networks of people both within and outside the organisation can be a source of major differences, says the author. These networks might include customers, business partners, governments or academic organisations, depending on the industry in question.
Nunes explains: "By using the collective intelligence of such networks, an organisation can get work done more efficiently, identify what needs to be done, and take action.
"We see our networks not just as collections of people, but also as a collective means to accomplish our business goals. This approach differs greatly from the top-down, homogeneous approach of decision-making of the past."
However, it requires a special understanding and skill to capitalise on the expertise within these networks. Nunes offers some tips on managing such situations and encouraging diversity of thought.
The first is: surround yourself with people different from you. The author says: "The tendency of many managers is to hire those who look and think as they do… It's a better approach to break out of your comfort zone and embrace a cacophony of styles and opinions to achieve more innovative – and sometimes breakthrough – results."
Nunes also recommends encouraging active collaboration to drive results. Although this can cause conflict where people are reluctant to have their views challenged, a constructive dialogue can be built because "by challenging others, the whole becomes better than the sum of its parts".
The author also advises managers to "hold their ground" and take ownership of their ideas. However, at the same time Nunes insists that "winning isn't everything". She admits: "That may seem counterintuitive, but compromise has a place in business.
"You can set the expectation that a debate or disagreement will result in a common understanding, rather than creating a winner and a loser."
She adds: "That's especially important in today's global marketplace, especially with a diversity of cultures, where it is essential to understand the point of view of others."