Organisations are social structures created by people and they are supported in interaction, which can also be called work. Interaction means action between people. It is something that happens between people. It is the reality that is formed when different empirical worlds collide. It is also the place in which leadership happens.
When different people and their views meet, synchronisation and tension can occur. Often, we try to avoid tension between people and try to “solve” situations where different views and experiences strike sparks. However, the sparks speak of energy. By extinguishing them, something valuable can be lost.
TENSION – A THREAT OR A POSSIBILITY
If tension between people is interpreted as a threat, people may throw a fire blanket over the whole thing, even before the situation has been assessed, or the quality of or the cause for the sparks has been determined. Sometimes this is done even before any sparks ignite. When different views are considered a threat, people may avoid places where they meet differences and lay the foundation for too unanimous a herd mentality. Suffocating human emotions, reactions, and voices may also leave something building up under the surface, and this will eat up psychological security.
Rather than a threat, tensions could be seen as interesting opportunities to learn something new in a multi-dimensional world. Encountering differences enables people to identify their own philosophies, methods and language in relation to different philosophies, methods and language. In fact, everyone’s own normal becomes only one normal among others. This can thus open up the world.
METHODS FOR SUPPORTING TENSIONS
Tensions are created everywhere when people interact. Tensions are commonplace for organisations. In organisations, managers are often given the role of a referee whose job it is to solve a problem that is formed when encountering differences. It is also easy for managers to take up this role and tackle the problem presented to them by offering the easiest solution available. Instead of relieving tensions straight away, they can also be supported and managed.
It is not always easy to support “both and” tensions in a solution-oriented “either or” world. There are various ways to create a multi-faceted dialogue. Sometimes a situation within an organisation could be identified with a metaphor, for example. In this way, it can be briefly separated from everyday interaction and transferred into an object that can be examined together.
As part of a stories-based strategy process I carried out, a metaphor was created to view the organisation as a village. The collective image of a village started to live its own parallel life across the working community. The manager told me how the “village” became a place for them to transfer discussions to in a difficult interaction situation. By viewing a challenging situation within the framework of a village, they were able to review various emotions, experiences, and views. Interaction situations that got stuck in a rut transformed into an open dialogue that enabled the energy generated in tensions to be supported and creatively managed.
THE GREATEST COMPETITIVE EDGE OF THE FUTURE
A true competitiveness of future organisations is achieved with insights. The insights are formulated between people’s minds. They ignite like a light bulb when tensions between people with differing views are guided together within the organisation. Different kinds of people and expertise are led by supervisors, chairs, or facilitators who function as fuses that ensure that energy flows and no one is overloaded or burnt out.
The greater the tension between a phase and zero, the brighter the light of the light bulb. Could this be the case in future organisations: The better we can cherish diversity and utilise tensions between people as the energy for continuous learning, the brighter insights and greater competitive advantages we can produce? Perhaps management in the new era should not focus on relieving tensions, but enable renewal through them.