Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional - Max Lucade
In organizations and organizational activity along with working for shared objectives, one inevitable phenomenon is conflict. When friction arises between people, or there is disagreement between results and plans, or when there are many viewpoints and opinions on any issue, conflict results. New experiences give rise to conflicts in one's mind. There is conflict between one's assumption and the reality. Conflict is as much a reality as harmony is!
Is conflict healthy?
Conflict is like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde! Conflict can be healthy or destructive, just like eustress and negative stress (stress = feeling of inability to cope with a situation). Perhaps it would not be inappropriate to recollect the Bhagavad Gita (a Hindu book) here. The book is about conflict management. Arjuna, the principal character in the book, has a conflict in his mind on whether to war with his cousins or not. Lord Krishna counsels him to help resolve the conflict in Arjuna's mind. Conflict is an every day affair. Choosing between alternatives as a part of decision making is itself a situation of conflict.
Conflict and learning
Conflict is the mother of learning. Gaining new behaviors or knowledge is learning. During PEDICON 2010 (at Hyderabad) trade stall activities, there was conflict galore. Pharma companies vied with each other to provide better in-stall activities compared to each other. In fact, the new dimension of in-stall activity is that it has become a form of experiential marketing. The conflict between pharma companies was to provide better stall experiences compared to each other.
Marketing is a value delivery system. One can market products, services, ideas, and experiences. At Pedicon 2010, Hyderabad, pharma companies tried to steal the thunder from each other through competitive offerings of stall experiences. Doctors were plied with samples, gifts, and services. If one stall offered instant photos for souvenir, others offered instant portraits as souvenirs. Freebies of bags, and other goodies were aplenty. Pharma marketers hired cartoon characters to strengthen brand recall (brand names were printed or put on the cartoon's dress) and families posed with the cartoons for take-home photos. Marketers of electrolyte energy drinks had a great time delighting doctors and taking commitments from them for prescribing the electrolyte energy drinks to patients for better recovery and cheer. Experiences for the senses were marketed fervently and intensely. Lucky dip draws were conducted to thrill and engage prospect and customer doctors. Hence, conflicts were spurring the value delivery process.
PEDICON 2010, Hyderabad was a scene of intense conflict. Seeing the other stall's success, conflict created learning for participants. Strategy was redrawn, new tactics implemented, conflict created new strategies and tactics! New relationships were forged thanks to all the conflict generated. PEDICON 2010, Hyderabad was a valuable conflict driven learning experience to participants.
Product and brand success creates conflict. When a brand A clicks, the other companies watch this and a conflict is generated in their minds. Nobody wants to be a part of failure. It is rightly said, failure is an orphan, while success has many parents! Hence, companies that experience conflict due to success of the competitor company brand, start embarking on a problem-solving behavior. Companies try to work out ways on becoming a part of the success experience and thus resolve the conflict. The ways adopted by companies, can include innovating new products that are superior to brand A, or companies may get in to marketing arrangements with manufacturers to market an alternative to brand A. All in all, conflict is a major force of learning and these learnings give rise to new forms of behavior by individuals and companies.
There are three reactions to circumstances of conflict. DOMINATION, COMPROMISE AND INTEGRATION are the three forms of responses to conflict.
When a person or company gets in to a conflict, he or she may dominate using his authority or powers. This makes the other person or company acquiesce.
When conflict happens, persons or organizations may work out compromise formulas or behaviors to ensure that the situation is resolved.
Integration is a sophisticated form of conflict resolution to establish win-win equilibrium in relationships. It is done with a sense of give and take and principles of mutuality.
Let us assume a MR faces a doctor who rebukes him for not being able to provide a sponsorship as per the doctor's need. The MR will then obviously try to integrate his solution to try and match the need of the doctor, to maintain win-win equilibrium.
Let us say, a MR gets in to a conflict with his or her superior on a work-result issue. The wise MR will have a communication that takes the concern of his superior. And through negotiation will try to provide a mutually satisfying solution.
Integration is a scientific method of conflict resolution. It is not made on ego. Conflict resolution is done here as a diligent process based on mutuality, facts and figures.
Conflict and marketing
Marketing has the avowed objective of providing delight to customers. This itself is a conflict. Hence, marketing can be construed as a process of CONFLICT RESOLUTION!
Marketers have to achieve customer delight in an integrated manner without being shortchanged by doctors, and doctors have to get their need or want or desire satisfied within the marketer's limits. Conflict resolution is a daily affair in marketing and sales activity!
Sales representatives are in daily conflict situations with stockists (distributors) to get their primary orders. MRs (medical representatives) have intense encounters to get POBs (personal order bookings) from dispensing doctors and chemists (pharmacies) at mutually acceptable terms.
The story of conflicts does not end there! MRs are under constant pressure from line managers to perform as per target requirements. So there is conflict to be handled there too - with company managers and other organizational personnel!
Conflicts in organizations
Conflicting situations are constant in organizations. Domineering and compromise based solutions (mainly I SCRATCH YOUR BACK YOU SCRATCH MY BACK) are common ways of conflict resolution, which have their limitations. Integration is the scientific but the hard way out.
The pharma conflict
The classic pharma conflict in today's society is whether it is OK to give freebies and junkets to doctors. The other side of the conflict from the point of view of Medical Council of India, is whether it is right for doctors to accept freebies and junkets from pharma companies. In this conflict, the patient is sort of becoming the sucker! There is no advocacy for patient rights. The process of this conflict will continue till transparency catalyzed by the media will lead to an integrated solution.
Conflict and success
Conflict is a part and parcel of societal and organizational life. Conflict as far as it is resolved through integration method, is constructive and better for all concerned. When a brand A causes conflict in the market, savvy integration marketers will see an opportunity there and will desist from bad-mouthing. Integration pharma marketers will resolve the conflict on the basis of mutuality. Conflict is a part of nature's design. That is why we see tremendous diversity in nature and society. Conflict is a resourceful phenomenon that can cause learning and better things - hence success.
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