Resources: Blog Post

October 15, 2015

Need employees to be more innovative? Seek tension, not harmony.


There is no way to keep epic tensions from happening between employees and managers.

For example, employees may want better wages and benefits, while managers need to cut expenses.

The problem is that leaders don’t really know how to handle tension properly. It makes them uncomfortable. And so, managers often slip into behaviours that make the problem worse.

But here’s the truth: tension is actually good for business.

Here’s why: it’s the tension between the current way of doing things and the desired way of doing things that sparks innovative thinking.

The brain science

The human brain requires tension to innovate and do its best thinking.

You read that right: our brains are actually energized by tension.

In other words, cognitive tension is brain fuel. When the brain senses dissonance, it goes to work to find it.

Where does this show up at work?

Because the brain’s natural response is to interpret any tension as a threat, leaders will often do one of three things to remove that tension from the system:

  1. overpowering others,
  2. complying entirely with the other party (at the risk of meeting their own needs), or
  3. avoiding the situation entirely.

These three reactions remove the one element required for breakthrough innovations: creative tension.

As a result, leaders create simplistic, black-and-white engagement “solutions” that never really get to the true root of the problems at hand.

Why does this matter?

When managers slip into avoid, overpower, or comply mode, this produces a crisis of belief in employees: “Will anything meaningful ever come out of this engagement thing?”

But when leaders learn to stand in the middle of tension to deal with competing priorities and create sustainable solutions, they can create surprisingly amazing innovations.

And not only that: their actions can create innovative energy among employees too!

How to make this work

Juice has identified seven brain science principles that can help leaders shift their engagement strategies, unlock results, and experience the benefits that come with true employee engagement.

And not only that: seven tips to immediately make it work.

Brady Wilson will be leading SCNetwork’s next session on Wednesday, October 21.
Register here: Innovation, Not Just for the Innovative: A Strategic Organization Lever You Can Grow

Brady WilsonAbout the Author

Brady Wilson is co-founder of Juice Inc, and an author, trainer and speaker. For 20 years, he has worked with numerous companies, including American Express, BMO, BMO Harris, Loblaw, PHH, The Co-operators, Yum! Brands Canada and some of the world’s largest Fortune 500 companies.

This blog originally appeared on Juice Inc.’s blog and is based on content from Brady Wilson’s latest book, Beyond Engagement: A Brain-Based Approach That Blends the Engagement Managers Want with the Energy Employees Need. Posted with permission.

Filed under: conflict, crisis, innovation, leadership Tagged: conflict, crisis, innovation, leadership
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