A Little Creative Tension is Fun!

If you didn’t run away from the title, you’re probably still thinking, “Come on!  Really?” or something along those lines.  But, really, it is fun, and if you stay with me for a few more minutes, I’ll show you why.

“Creative tension” or “healthy tension” is the catch-phrase of the day.  It refers to the tension that forms as a result of different groups or people trying to achieve the best result while going about it in different, sometimes disagreeable, ways; and that can lead to tension or conflict, which ultimately results in a more creative solution.

I’m in the Global Sales organization for Celanese, and I can tell you that we have our fair share of “creative tension” with our product managers.  The Global Sales organization’s goal is to sell – no big surprise there!  But that means taking the customer’s input and finding a way to make it work; while the product manager’s goal is to achieve healthy margins for their products.  We’re all looking to grow our customer’s business and the Celanese business, but tension often occurs when the customer’s desires and the needs of our business are at odds — and Global Sales tends to get caught right in the middle.  The “creativity” comes into play when we work together to develop a collaborative solution that works for our customers and for Celanese.

My team manages the distributors that Celanese uses to sell its engineered materials.  Because the distributors are involved, it adds yet another layer of “creative tension.”  It requires daily and frequent communications and problem-solving with the product managers, i.e., lots of opportunity for creative tension!  And, with the passionate and enthusiastic people we have in our organization, the creative tension can drift to negative tension if we’re not proactive.  So, how do we keep the creative tension “creative?” … by holding a “creative” team-building event!

This past week, my team and our product managers came together for an evening of bonding over developing our painting skills at “Painting with a Twist” in Grapevine, Texas.  Of course, every team-building event involves food, and ours was no different.  The location we chose had plenty of room to bring food and eat on site, so we bonded over a crockpot of chili – comfort food to sustain us through the creative and somewhat uncomfortable challenge of painting a picture from a blank canvas.

The results were astounding! 

At the end of the day,, we all want to do what’s right for our customers and for Celanese;  and, we all have different ideas and ways of going about it that may conflict.  The key is to be creative, collaborative, keep it positive and work through to closure.  If you’re dealing with creative tension in your world, I highly encourage you to take a step back and do a team-building event.  It doesn’t need to be extravagant or expensive, it just needs to be fun and effective.  I guarantee you won’t be sorry you did!

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About the author


Maria Valehrach is director of the New Business Development group in EVA Polymers. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, golf, running and spending time with her husband and two dogs.

There are 4 comments. Add yours.

  1. Daniel Monikes says:

    Great blog Maria, and i know from the past that you have just the right personality to motivate a group of people in your own way. I especially liked the line: “we all have different ideas and ways of going about it that may conflict. The key is to be creative, collaborative, keep it positive and work through to closure.”. If we would always keep that in mind i am sure that both productivity and fun will be brought to an even higher level.

  2. Glenn Ward says:

    Saw a great article in the Harvard Business Review which further elaborates on this. The “5 myths of great workplaces” places “minimal conflict” as myth number 2, stating that healthy workplaces need tension and conflict to bring out the best in the team. Worth a read.

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