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FROM CHAOS TO ORDER: EXPLORING NEW FRONTIERSIN CONFLICT MANAGEMENT

Abstract
Key words: Conflict management, chaos theory, complexity theory, interpersonal conflict, new sciences, quantum mechanics, quantum skills, quantum organizations
Twenty-first century organizations are bombarded with continuous change, and change, whether personal or organizational, often generates conflict. This theoretical paper examines conflict through the lens of the new sciences, specifically the scientific theories of chaos, complexity, and quantum mechanics. These scientific theories provide a new conceptual metaphor for viewing conflict as necessary for both individual and organizational evolution. The authors present not only a new conflict paradigm, they propose a new skill set as well and suggest that these skills can be used by managers and organization development practitioners to
create quantum organizations— organizations that embrace conflict and use it for continuous transformation.

Introduction
One of the most notable characteristics of twenty-first century organizations is continuous change. Unstable economic conditions, rapidly changing technologies, global competition, workforce diversity, and new organizational structures are only a few of the factors contributing to an age of exponential change. Furthermore, major change, whether in society, the family, or the firm, generally creates significant chaos. Where there is chaos, there is often stress, and stress frequently becomes the progenitor of conflict. Hence, in this era of radical change and considerable chaos, many organizations are experiencing increased tension which often manifests as interpersonal conflict.
Conflict, of course, has always existed—even in simpler times. Where two or more people are gathered together, there is a potential for conflict. As human beings interact within organizations, differing goals, values, styles, and situations create tension (Walker, 1986; and Bolman & Deal, 1997). In addition to these interpersonal and behavioral factors, traditional organizational structures promote conflict. Functional silos and a plethora of different skill sets and technical specialties lead to communication challenges that often result in conflict. These factors, along with many others, make conflict an organizational reality.

This paper purports that interpersonal conflict is not only unavoidable, it is necessary for
individual and organizational evolution. Each conflict situation offers organizations, and the
individuals who comprise them, opportunities for transformation. Conflict challenges the status
quo, providing a breeding ground for innovation. Managers who try to eliminate conflict are
operating under an outdated paradigm. If organizations are to thrive in the twenty-first century, a
new view of conflict is required.

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