Organizations are complex ecosystems made up of various actors such as managers, experts, workers, and supporting staff. These actors interact with different mechanisms such as processes, activities, rules, strategies, and models to deliver value to the market in a profitable way. To achieve their intended performance indicators, organizations are exposed to constraints in their approach to allocate limited resources such as time, information, energy, know-how, money, and productive capital for various business activities. Resource allocation and use are dynamic aspects because fluctuations occur both from the interior and exterior. These constraints and fluctuations generate organizational conflicts.

An organizational conflict is a negative correlation at the workplace. This means that an attempt to reach a target concerning a given parameter lowers the capacity to reach targets related to other parameters. Conflicts are also situations related to disagreements and misunderstandings between members of the company that lead to effective or perceived dissensions. When the opinions of team members upon goals, values, attitudes, or the ways to run different activities are in contradiction, conflicts naturally occur.

In principle, the wise way in an organization is to act preventively, not correctively. It is better to reduce the causes that generate conflicts, such as fuzziness in allocating responsibility, lack of clear definition of roles and interdependencies that lead to interpersonal tensions, misalignment between personal and organizational goals, competition on internal resources between teams, and other conflicts of interests. It is better to approach conflicts in a more structured way. Organizational conflicts belong to different clusters. Some may fall into the category of interpersonal conflicts, others into intergroup or intragroup categories, others into task-related conflicts, and others into process conflicts. This clustering is important because conflicts differ in specificity, frequency, intensity, and effects.

The problem

Unrealistic managerial goals can be, in many cases, a core cause of conflicts. Wrong directions of evolution dictated by managers can represent another critical cause of conflicts. These two examples of causes generate longer-term conflicts and organizational tensions. Sometimes, disruption of the communication channels and communication styles leads to organizational conflicts. In other cases, misunderstanding messages is the source of conflict. Weaknesses in traceability and accountability of activities and processes can easily provoke conflicts when targets are not met. Conflicts inflame and consume a lot of energy and time, thus lowering the capacity of the organization to fulfill its goals and slowing down its agility. This affects competitiveness in many ways. Therefore, introducing effective processes to prevent conflicts, as well as to correct them as fast as possible in the case of an occurrence, must be one of the core preoccupations for managers.

Surprisingly, the majority of organizations pay very little attention to this aspect. Of course, conflicts are tackled when they occur, but not necessarily in a professional way. By contrast, in many cases, conflict treatment turns into conflict aggravation and perpetuation, especially in pyramidal organizational structures and “Wild-West” cultures. Consultants and manuals recommend various tactics and principles to handle conflicts. Usually, they fall into the rule of mitigation, which is about finding a balance between the conflicting parties. It is called a win-win approach, but this is only an illusion because neither of the parties is fully satisfied.

Tackling the problem

The intelligent way to tackle conflicts is to open a window of opportunity that expands the space of discussions and analysis, as well as the space of negotiation. Thus, instead of focusing on a small space of action, the key idea is to enlarge the space of action and change the shape of this space. In the new context, the conflicting parties might see robust and sustainable ways for conflict resolution. This requires a completely new way to see reality and a paradigm shift in the mindset of interlocutors.

I am introducing the concept of structured innovation, also known as systematic problem-solving. This concept reveals a new dimension of innovation, which defines innovation as the process capable of generating a conflict-free solution to a given challenge. By treating the problem from this angle, a powerful resource is unleashed. Instead of thinking about how to make an improvement relative to the current state, I ask to quantify the gap between the current state and the ideal state (or the ideal final result). The goal in this paradigm is not to generate improvements, but rather to reduce to zero the gap between ideality and current reality.

I developed a tool for the structured approach of conflicting problems in management, which I coined SAVE (Structured Activation of the Vectors of Entropy). The core philosophy of this technique is based on three pillars. The first pillar states that in any system the message is distorted due to the strong and frequent interactions between the constitutive elements of the system. The second pillar states that the higher the internal dynamics of the system, the higher the level of unpredictability of the information reflected by the system. The last pillar stipulates that because of the first two pillars, it is desirable to explore as many projections of the system as possible to better understand its complexity.

With SAVE, the first step is to identify the conflicting parties and the underlying causes of the conflict. This requires a thorough understanding of the current state and the desired outcome. Next, the conflicting parties are brought together to participate in a structured process to identify and explore potential solutions. The goal is to expand the space of discussion and analysis to create a new context for conflict resolution.

SAVE invites the people from the table to work together to define the ideal result (or putting this into a more rational way, we can call it the target result or the desired result). After that, SAVE uses a set of stimuli to direct the way of thinking of the belligerent parts. The type of stimuli and their order is well-defined by SAVE. They are called directed-stimuli and force people to follow imposed patterns of thought to express their ideas. Many people would say that this limits the space of ideation. But this is a false impression because people think best when they are in the face of constraints. For SAVE, constraints are seen as means to unleash the Cartesian way of thinking and to provoke nonlinear logic.

Moreover, by putting the same vector in front of all parts, entropy is reduced. Once a stimulus is selected, people must find a solution to transform the current system into a new one, hopefully into one that solves the conflict. If the result is not acceptable, a new stimulus is extracted from the pool, and it is applied to the already transformed system from the previous step. SAVE uses only ten stimuli (or vectors), which have been selected after years of empirical research and tests. The order they are applied has a precise logic, too.

In SAVE, constraints serve as a means to unlock Cartesian thinking and encourage nonlinear logic. Additionally, by applying the same vector to all parts, entropy is reduced. Once a stimulus is chosen, I must find a solution to transform the current system into a new one that can resolve the conflict. If the outcome is unsatisfactory, I extract a new stimulus from the pool and apply it to the system already transformed from the previous step. SAVE employs ten stimuli, which have been meticulously selected and tested over several years. The order of their application is also based on precise logic.

When solving a problem, the first step is to place oneself in the shoes of others, which can uncover hidden resources that can resolve the issue. If there is insufficient energy to solve the problem, the logic is to look for a new opportunity by balancing current behavior with something more attractive. If that is insufficient, the recommendation is to intensify the situation by introducing examples of higher consciousness to eliminate the current behavior of the system. If the situation demands that the action continue, then the idea is to orient the system as a whole in a direction that highlights a common potential danger. At this stage of system transformation, new perspectives are activated, allowing the system to consolidate where various shortcomings are identified by compensating with resources generated through collaboration. The system can only evolve further at this level of transformation by infusing unconventional resources that are currently invisible due to the present way of thinking or the captivity of the current mindset. The leverage effect is activated at this level. Further positive effects can only be achieved by reconfiguring existing resources or transforming negative elements into beneficial ones.

The ten steps are: activate resonance, introduce neutral elements, act against the pack spirit, activate the centrifugal forces, apply multi-level connections, apply asymmetry, harmonize individual and collective goals, transform to prove more value-added, apply the prisoner dilemma, and apply the shipwrecked paradox. These vectors are applied precisely in the order mentioned above. In my practice, I have resolved most cases after the fourth or fifth step.


Let’s take a look at a short example to better understand the process. Imagine a small engineering firm with 30 employees, where the experienced staff is not supporting their less experienced colleagues, resulting in lower productivity and quality of work. The underlying cause is an unspoken fear that younger employees are more motivated and committed to their work, leading to a reluctance to provide guidance and support. The goal is to ensure that beginners reach productivity and quality levels that are not less than 20% of the experienced staff.

At the start, the system is made up of the beginners, the experienced staff, and the way they are organized. To tackle the issue, we will apply the following vectors:

V1 (Activate Resonance): Organize teams of two people, pairing a professional with a beginner, and assign difficult tasks to the beginners. The professionals will have responsibility for ensuring the team meets time and quality targets. The team’s salary will be conditioned by meeting these targets through bonuses or penalties.

V2 (Introduction of Neutral Elements): Correlate the annual salary increase with the quality of the work team and its contribution to business profitability.

V3 (Anti-Wolf-Pack Spirit): Condition project allocation and bonuses for each team based on the team’s previous performance. If teams have the same value, allocate projects based on additional criteria related to the innovativeness brought to the previous projects.

V4 (Activate Centrifugal Forces): Create several positions of Black Belt masters to move to different teams and work alongside them. Their responsibility will be to keep the project within budget, time, and quality, as well as to improve individual performances. Professionals will assess beginners and propose individualized training programs, revealing hidden issues and tacit knowledge.

This is just a small example of how structured innovation tools can be used to solve organizational conflicts in a nonlinear way. This approach reveals new opportunities and unleashes a wider space of maneuver.


The SAVE technique is designed to be flexible and adaptable to different types of conflicts. It can be applied to interpersonal conflicts, intergroup or intragroup conflicts, task-related conflicts, and process conflicts. The technique works by activating the vectors of entropy, which are the forces that disrupt the system and create chaos. By identifying and activating these vectors, the system can be reorganized and stabilized to achieve the desired outcome.

One of the key benefits of the SAVE technique is that it is a structured approach to conflict resolution. It provides a clear framework for addressing conflicts and enables the parties involved to work collaboratively towards a solution. This helps to reduce the negative impact of conflicts on productivity, morale, and relationships within the organization.

Another benefit of the SAVE technique is that it promotes innovation. By expanding the space of discussion and analysis, it creates opportunities for creative thinking and new ideas. This can lead to the development of new solutions that are more effective and efficient than traditional approaches.

In conclusion, conflicts are an inevitable part of organizational life. They can arise from a variety of sources, including resource constraints, communication breakdowns, and differences in goals and values. To effectively manage organizational conflicts, managers need to adopt a structured approach that focuses on expanding the space of discussion and analysis to create a new context for conflict resolution. The SAVE technique provides a powerful tool for achieving this goal. By activating the vectors of entropy, it enables the conflicting parties to work collaboratively towards a solution that is innovative, effective, and sustainable.

I hope this article inspires managers and team leaders to explore new ways of managing organizational situations and creating better working environments for everyone.


Credits: Stelian Brad