How Disney Creates a Culture of Collaboration and Constructive Conflict

By Bruce Jones, Senior Director, Disney Institute

Among the important skills all good leaders share, the ability to establish an environment of healthy, productive teamwork, nurture collaboration, and encourage the team to challenge the status quo is essential.
At Disney Institute, we believe and teach business leaders all over the world that leaders can develop vibrant, productive, and innovative teams when they are willing to push their collaborative teams toward constructive conflict.

Collaboration itself is not always easy to achieve, but it’s a critical step toward cultivating something that can be even more beneficial. This is where ideas like challenging the status quo start to become so important, and it’s why we define constructive conflict as conflict that is clearly focused on moving teams and the organization forward. It can happen only in a trusting and risk-tolerant environment that leaders must intentionally establish, operationalize, and sustain over time.
Conflict can happen within any organization and on the best of teams, and it is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s important to not simply avoid all manner of conflict but to create a culture within the team that understands and embraces constructive conflict.
So, how can leaders enable this type of culture within their organization? To start, they can work to foster an environment where team members feel comfortable doing three things:
Conveying and expressing their ideas with leadership and with each other in a way that is clearly understood.

Listening carefully and intentionally when other team members are speaking. Engaging in open and passionate debate of ideas and opinions.

A best practice to encourage constructive conflict on a team is consistently asking for input from all Cast Members. It can be as simple as asking, “What are your thoughts on this?” in meetings and intentionally listening to what each person has to say. It’s a leader’s job to make sure everyone feels they’re in a safe environment to share their ideas and to encourage them to speak up and offer their valued perspective.
If you would like to learn more about ways leaders can create a culture of collaboration and constructive conflict, check out our Disney’s Approach to Leadership Excellence professional development training course. Or bring our team to yours to explore and apply a full cultural transformation through a private initiative for your organization.
Think about it; how can you encourage constructive conflict on your team?
For more information, visit

via Harvard Business Review


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