Conflict and complexity

Why conflict and complexity are important


Societal problems vary with respect to their level of complexity. In this context, the word “complex” is not a synonym for “difficult”. We differentiate between simple, complicated and complex problems. Treating a complex problem as if it were simple risks increasing tension and possibly making it more complex. We believe that it is important for the process designer in particular, but also the facilitator, to understand complexity in order to be able to adjust the process accordingly.


We regard conflict as a natural process in any living system. It is an opportunity for the development and growth of society, organisations and relationships. Whilst polarity is an essential phase in a successful process, there is always the risk that such polarity can become a conflict if is not resolved or transcended.

Consider an example of a project that starts well. There are good intentions all round and communication between all involved parties is free from friction. Issues arise where parties are not in full agreement with each other and some degree of tension arises. If this is not resolved right away, the tension will grow or surface in other issues. For us, this is quite natural. The tension is an indicator that some form of adjustment is necessary – either in the structure of the organisation, the flow of communication, the relationships, the goals or in the practical implementation of decisions. This is no problem as long as the issues are facilitated well and resolved. Should they, however, fail to be resolved, the ensuing conflict could have negative, even disastrous effects on the project.

The Dialogue Triage

Making sense of complex challenges

The Dialogue Triage is a tool that takes into account both the levels of complexity and conflict escalation in order to understand:

  • The nature of the problem and what  kind of dialogue is required
  • Risks
  • Opportunities
  • Design and facilitation capacity required
  • First aid advice

By answering questions relating to each of its axes you will identify a square on the matrix that will provide you with some hints as to how to proceed.

Contact us for more information about the Dialogue Triage and how it can be used