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What Bruce Lee Can Teach Leaders About the Benefits of Conflict and Challenging Ideas

Only organizations and leaders who cultivate an environment where ideas can flow freely and be challenged without judgment can make it. Here's how to make sure your company encourages the right kind of conflict

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Can company leaders claim employees are their greatest asset without providing ongoing forums for open idea exchange?

Bruce Lee, a brilliant philosopher and martial artist, warned us that untested ideas guarantee unrealized potential. He created Jeet Kune Do — not as a new style, but as a general epistemology (theory of knowledge) to be open-minded to all styles to find what works — and along the way, “absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.” Lee’s genius extends way beyond  as truly strengthening an organization (and one’s character, for that matter) requires ongoing ideation and adaptation.

In weak corporate ecosystems, forums for exchanging ideas are nonexistent and/or there are negative consequences for voicing an opinion against the prevailing orthodoxy. In the extreme, it may cost your . To a lesser extent, perhaps you’re viewed as “combative” (even if you respectfully voice your ideas) and watch the “yes” people get promoted.

In either scenario, an  is created where strong employees who value idea exchange will eventually look elsewhere, further weakening the ecosystem left behind. For boats to rise, the tide must rise. In corporate ecosystems, organizations and leaders that cultivate “just right conflict” through the octagon of ideas will actualize the ecosystem’s highest evolutionary fitness — the cultural tide that will push the boats to rise.

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