Rock, Paper, Scissors, …ELVIS!: Creative Conflict strategies

Updated: Feb 18, 2019


My six-year-old son and I created a game. It is in fact, the best, most fun game in history (at least according to my son).


It’s called “Rock, Paper, Scissors, …ELVIS!”


The beauty of this game is the rules – or lack thereof. Basically, the rules are the same as regular “Rock, Paper, Scissors” but with one tremendous wrinkle.


You start by saying: “Rock, paper, scissors, Elvis …shoot!“


And then, in addition to the usual choices (rock, paper or scissors), you can say anything else that comes into your head. You also have to act out whatever you say. You can use your whole body, not just hand gestures.


We all know that rock breaks scissors, paper covers rock, scissors cut paper – but does rock beat Elvis? Does paper cover octopus? Can scissors cut lightning? Does school bus beat wizard?


Usually, the answer is…I have no idea. You have to go with your gut, debate it or think about it. You can’t operate on autopilot.


When two unexpected and ridiculous pairings are made, my son and I have to make a quick judgment as to which ones wins. This task necessarily requires unusual creative thinking. It breaks you out of the well-known, predictable rules of the game.


By injecting creativity, something rote and predictable becomes something energizing and unexpected.

In fact, the more ridiculous the parings, the more fun the game becomes.


Most workplace conflicts are mundane and repetitive. Once again, someone dominates the meeting and doesn’t let others talk. A co-worker sends another nasty-gram via email but doesn’t talk to anyone face-to-face. There’s hurtful gossip going around (I’m looking at you, submarine).


And each time, we respond in the same way and nothing changes. Or maybe, as usual, we fail to respond at all.


Do the unexpected this week. When someone throws scissors (hopefully not literally), throw pudding. When someone throws paper, throw manatee.


In other words, use a skill or response you’ve never used before. Do something new that will break the usual patterns of behavior for you and others.

If you need to confront someone who has repeatedly failed to respond to one-on-one conversations, make it a group conversation. If lecturing isn’t getting results, which it rarely does, tell the team you want them to generate the solutions this time.


If you tend to take over during conflict, hang back and let other leaders emerge. If you are usually reserved, assert yourself this week.


Often, an unexpected break in the routine responses to conflict is all it takes to generate a new and interesting result. Harness the power of the unexpected.


When it comes to creative conflict at work, be The King.


Check out the Leading Conflict store for practical and hard-hitting resources that will help you put these ideas into action.


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