Conflict Canvas

A one-page form for a conflict description

We all know it: when we want to solve difficult problems or are looking for innovative ideas, there is often a bittersweet moment. That's the moment when we realize that the solution idea is actually great, has tremendous potential and could be of great benefit; if it weren't for that one drawback. If only there wasn’t that one aspect which unfortunately is made worse by our new solution (in the worst case, there could also be several aspects).

What now? Should we (1) discard the idea because it is disadvantageous? Or should we try to find (2) an optimum between the advantage to be achieved (as much as possible) and the disadvantage to be accepted (as little as possible)? Or do we even look for (3) a breakthrough solution, something completely new that generates the desired benefit for us without the undesired disadvantage?

Given the choice, we would certainly not find it difficult to decide between these 3 alternatives. We would probably favor the breakthrough solution (3) and consider optimization (2) as an alternative, because if we think the idea is great, we would be extremely reluctant to reject it. I could well imagine that you also feel the same way in such situations.

Let's get back to that bittersweet moment when we perceive the conflict, when we realize that we haven't really reached our goal yet. But this moment should not frighten or even discourage us. Instead, it should encourage us. We should be downright greedy for such conflicts, because new and attractive opportunities almost always arise from the resolution of a difficult conflict. But before we can resolve it, we need to recognize, analyze and understand it.

Especially in a professional context, we often solve difficult problems or conflicts not alone, but as a team. To do this, it is important that all team members have a common and clear picture of the conflict, that this conflict is made explicit for all to see.

This is exactly where the Conflict Canvas we developed comes into play. The essential aspects of a conflict description can be clearly presented in writing and graphically on one page.
What do the individual fields mean?

conflict canvas

Parameters in Conflict: First, the parameters that form the conflict have to be named. On one side the property that should be improved, on the other side the property that should not be made worse. This can be done in a colloquial form, in a domain-specific form (technical language) or in an abstract form (e.g. TRIZ system parameters).  What are the differences?


If we make a car lighter, there is a risk that it will not be stable enough in case of an accident (colloquial language).

Automotive lightweight design must not lead to reduced crash safety (domain-specific jargon).

The weight of a moving object should be improved (reduced) without worsening (reducing) the stability of the object (TRIZ system parameters).


Description: The parameters can be backed up and detailed with further information, for example, through further explanations or also through qualitative or quantitative measured variables.

Why? Here you should describe what causes the conflict and explain what the problem is. For example, lightweight automotive construction is a solution contribution to reducing the energy consumption and thus the harmful emissions of a vehicle. Vehicle stability is important for protecting occupants against injury. The conflict arises when lightweight design measures (e.g. reduction of material thickness) lead to lower stability.   

New Questions: What new questions arise from the identification of this conflict? Such questions often form starting points for ideas for solutions. Examples: How might we increase environmental friendliness without reducing weight? How might we avoid accidents altogether? Which TRIZ solution principles are particularly successful in the case of a conflict between these TRIZ system parameters?

Analogy:  Think of similar conflicts in other domains. In this example, you could e.g. think about furniture, travel bags, bicycles, or even bridges. Maybe there are already good solutions in other domains that just need to be adapted?

Visualization: In many cases, visualization is a powerful enabler for understanding a problem. This can be any type of visualization, self-made or professional drawings, blueprints, or even photographs. In certain cases also a process visualization or a system model might help. Use what you think is most promising.

Rating: Complex problems are often characterized by several conflicts. Which of them should you tackle first? To determine this, an evaluation of the importance could be useful. Of course, you can define the criteria for the importance yourself; these can be complex or quite simple. We have had good experience with assigning importance points according to which problems we would most like to work on next (because we implicitly hope for the most from them).

Thus, the conflict would be explicit; each team member now knows what it is. On this basis, the search for solutions and innovative ideas can begin. TRIZ users could use the conflict matrix and the 40 solution principles, Design Thinkers and others could use their preferred methods and ideation tools.     

Would you like to try the Conflict Canvas?
Nothing could be easier. You can download it for free from our store. It is part of the Easy Playing Kit for our Game of Conflicts.

And hey, once you've tried it, write to us and let us know if you like it.

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