STEM for girls – more than a learning process

The old stereotype of girls being bad in science, technology, engineering, and math – that area known as STEM – is, unfortunately, as alive as ever. Research proves that someone doesn’t even have to personally believe this stereotype to be negatively affected by it. Just by being a commonly held notion, it influences women’s choices and the way they judge their work. For example, even women who perform as well as men in math think they’re doing worse than they actually are, undervaluing their own efforts [1].

When it comes to school-age children, this pattern is reflected in the fact that female students underestimate their grades in math, while their male classmates overestimate theirs. This tendency will likely result in fewer girls going on to pursue math-related careers, lacking the interest, motivation, and confidence to do so [1]. They eventually start believing that they can’t compete with boys and that their male classmates are inevitably better in STEM subjects.

Other stereotypes claim the problem is the fact that, biologically, women are better with social skills, while men are naturally better in math-related fields. A study done in over 65 countries around the world, with boys and girls doing the same science test, showed that in the majority of countries girls actually scored higher than boys – but not in the United States [6].  This outcome tells us that the notion of girls not doing well in the STEM field is not a biological fact – it is a cultural idea and a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Studies also show that it’s not really that boys outdo girls when it comes to math skills, but rather that boys tend to choose more math-oriented subjects, while girls have less interest and confidence in their math abilities as they begin middle and high school [2].

This can be partly blamed on the media – it’s been proven that women will show less interest in educational and professional options after being exposed to TV commercials showing them doing stereotypical, feminine tasks [1].

Therefore, if we’re to work on having more girls in STEM, the key is not to simply teach them STEM. We should interest girls in these subjects and give them confidence in their abilities. Here are some ways to do this.

Build up their confidence

Images children have about themselves are highly significant when it comes to their achievement in school. A confident child is ready to learn, cooperate with others, and behave as a responsible individual, especially with the guidance of a teacher and counselor [5] .

Confidence is particularly vital when it comes to girls and STEM education. By convincing girls that they can do well, their performance will improve [1]. And if they’re confident about their work, they’ll naturally feel more comfortable pursuing a career in the STEM field. If girls believe they can’t be as good at math and the sciences as boys, the first step is to build up their confidence – make them feel secure enough to ask questions, to show their abilities, and not to undermine their results.

In order to pursue careers in STEM in the future, girls need to be sure they’re good at what they do and capable of changing their mindset. Be sure to help them acknowledge their abilities when they’re young and continue to remind them that they are capable, often all the way through their formal education and into adulthood.

Keep unrealistic expectations at bay

It has also been noted that when girls learn that they are better in one area than boys, they seem to feel they’re expected to be better in all of them [1]. While girls who are better in math tend to have very good verbal skills, (hence so many women choosing careers that have a social element) [2] it is important to assure girls that it’s okay to be good at one thing, and not at another, and that learning is a process that takes time. They don’t necessarily have to be good in all STEM subjects if they’re doing well in only one.

Successful STEM programs are those that encourage girls to learn from their mistakes – since they will make mistakes in a process [2]. Making sure that girls in STEM programs know it’s okay to try, to make mistakes and to explore until they find their own particular interest, is one of the keys to having successful girls in the field. Also, make sure your expectations are not over the top. Perfectionism and making unreasonably high demands will likely backfire.

 

Introduce successful role models

Having a positive role model (such as a successful woman who has a career in a math-related field) has a “liberating effect” on girls and diminishes the stereotype. The presence of a positive icon proves to girls that it’s possible to achieve success in an area that is traditionally male-oriented [1].

First, you can talk about those women who, throughout history, have excelled in science and math fields. History books and school curricula don’t place much emphasis on the influence women had in the past, so learning about women who were important for science is a great start. From Hypatia (Hellenistic philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer), to Ada Lovelace (considered the first computer programmer) and Marie Curie (conducted pioneering research on radioactivity), history is actually full of women who were essential to the advancement of science.

However, don’t forget to include others to whom history hasn’t been so kind, such as minority women. Mae C. Jemison was the first African-American female astronaut, biochemist Ruby Sakae Hirose (American of Japanese background) did groundbreaking research on blood clotting and thrombin, and Chinese-American physicist, Sau Lan Wu, helped discover boson consistent with the Higgs Boson – just to name a few. It will help girls from different backgrounds to identify better and learn that there are remarkable women from their cultures who succeeded as well.

Make sure that girls meet one-on-one with women working in the STEM field. This provides an added benefit, especially when girls find that these role models have interesting lives outside their labs [2]. Influenced by the pervasive stereotype, even girls themselves sometimes have a negative image of women working in STEM career, describing them as “meticulously dressed” or “unkempt looking”, doubting the ability for these women to balance their work with spending time with their family [3]. In this case, it’s good to find out what kind of stereotypes girls hold, and find a role model that can break them.

Importance of the individual and communication

Most studies about girls and STEM show there is a huge benefit in gathering a diverse group of girls together, paying attention to each one of them, and keeping the activities fun. Educators must strike a balance between holding girls to high expectations and providing freedom, socialization, and engaging STEM activities. Girls in focus groups said that an important part of this is the teacher’s understanding of adolescents and their culture [2]. There is significantly more to learning than just transferring knowledge, and individual attention and communication with and among students is really important to a good learning process [4].

While the culture is part of the process, it’s clear that girls from the same background can have different ideas and expectations, role models, and images of what science actually is [4]. This is why approaching each girl individually is important, as well as building a rich environment for children, teaching them to find similarities with different cultures, as well as differences in their own.

If a girl was really shy and lacking confidence, persistence, caring, and encouraging more engagement was key to making progress [2]. It is possible to reach all kids but on their own terms. This is again why finding the best ways to communicate is of vital importance, and why STEM education can’t ever be separated from soft skills.

*

Girls and STEM education, therefore, is not just a learning process, but a process of communication, building confidence, working with a group as well as with the individual, and helping them see they are so much more than a stereotype. This journey can be fun for the girls and for you, too. Remember that by motivating and teaching girls in STEM you are not just giving someone a new skill, but helping build a diverse, better, and fairer future for all.

We practice what we preach – our hard skills specialist, Aniko, is a woman and so is a large part of our international team. Additionally, all our programs welcome girls to join them and share their invaluable input with their team members. That is why if you are a parent of a girl who wants to participate in the first ever global online STEM camp, we strongly advise you to look up and enrol into one (or more!) of our projects.

[1] Selimbegovic, L, Chatard, A. and Mugny, G. 2007. Can we encourage girls’ mobility towards science-related careers? Disconfirming stereotype belief through expert influence. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 22 (3), 275-290.
[2]  Mosatche, H. S, Matloff-Nieves, S, Kekelis, L. and Lawner, E.  K. 2013. Effective STEM Programs for Adolescent Girls: Three Approaches and Many Lessons Learned. Afterschool Matters, 17, 17-25.
[3] Yael M. Bamberger, Y. M.  2014. Encouraging Girls into Science and Technology with Feminine Role Model: Does This Work? Journal of Science Education and Technology,  23(4), 549–561.
[4] Wheaton, M. and Ash, D. 2008. Exploring Middle School Girls’ Ideas about Science at a Bilingual Marine Science Camp. The Journal of Museum Education, 33 (2),  131-141.
[5] Moon, M, and Wilson, D. 1970. Teacher-Counselor Cooperation: Building Self-Concepts and Confidence in Children. The School Counselor, 17 (5), 364-366.
[6] Sterling ,D. 2013. Inspiring the next generation of female engineers. TEDx Talk. Found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEeTLopLkEo

Nobel Explorers’ Projects – Explained By Our Hard Skills Specialist

Yours truly had the pleasure of talking with Nobel Explorers’ hard-skills specialist a couple of days ago. I wanted to find out more and to give you, dear reader, an exclusive peek into Nobel Explorers’ story, programs, and all the benefits your child can get by signing up for them.

Aniko, Nobel Explorers' hard skills specialist.

Aniko, Nobel Explorers’ hard skills specialist.

Hey Aniko! Thank you for finding the time to talk to me. First of all, could you tell our readers what it is that you do in Nobel Explorers?

I am a hard-skills team lead, and I’m also the content creator and instructor of the Coding and Web Design project. Basically, this means that I am the person responsible for the content of the projects in the sense of all the technical skills, how much coding goes in, how the content will be organized, etc. Of course, for different projects we have different developers who tackle their specific area of expertise, and I oversee and coordinate to make sure everything is aligned with the way we do learning in Nobel Explorers, with the way we do PBL (project-based learning), and with our overall goals in the team. In terms of my work on the Coding and Web Design project, I am the person who does the content, chooses the materials, who works with the Explorers, who guides them on their journey to create their first website, to code it, design it, to make it come to life and share it with the world.

That’s quite a lot of work! I’m wondering, how did you get into STEM? Could you share a little bit about your educational background with us?

Well, this is a tough one. My background is quite versatile, and I strongly believe that in 2018 coding is no longer a life path on its own, but a required skill for any type of work that you do, and I don’t think coding skills are limited to coders and programmers anymore but that they can be utilized by many professions. One of the reasons I’m saying this is because my starting point and university education set off as linguistics, which is a social science. I got into coding by attending a program really young, but other things got in the way and I stopped pursuing that side of my interests.  Then, somewhere along the line, I realized that there’s a way to combine linguistics with the coding that I had been neglecting, and I started working in a field called computational linguistics or natural language processing. This basically meant that I was working with natural language data, but applying artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to work with these kind of things. So this was my entry point into coding. I realized there are so many things I can do, and I also had this visual side of my interests where I really liked to create beautiful things, so it was like – ‘Okay, I know Python already from artificial intelligence and there’s Python in web development, so what can I learn in web development further than this?’, and it became kind of a side interest, so now I have two parallel careers, or maybe even three! (laugh)

Quote by Aniko that says "I don't think coding skills are limited to coders and programmers anymore. They can be utilized by many professions, like biology, astronomy, or psychology."

Like a side career of a side career! (laugh) You’ve mentioned just now that you don’t think coding is limited to programmers only anymore. Which other professions do you think can benefit from coding?

We’ve seen a lot of professions advance from the automation that programing brings. You can automate everyday tasks and make your life easier in any profession. Some of the professions that I have seen coding bring huge benefits to are biology, astronomy, and many more. Oh, there’s psychology as well! There are programming languages developed for stats, for getting information out of data.

Good point – I remember working with those during my university years. In your opinion, why is it important to be knowledgeable about STEM? What makes STEM so crucial in today’s society?

I think there are several aspects to this. I think coding will become a tool to facilitate our work and enable us to do more things in the future and do them better, more precisely. There are some things computers are really good at, and some things humans are really good at, and I don’t think… There’s often this fear that computers will replace us because they do better math, but I still think that there’s a human component to whatever we do and that we will be dared to use coding skills and programing and automation to our benefit, to enable us to do more and do better.

Since you’ve touched on the topic of programming and math, I have to ask – Do we need some prerequisites in order to start coding? Do we need to know math, for example? Or can anyone learn how to code?

I don’t think there’s a set of requirements. Coding is a wide field, so if you’re not really good at math, you can probably find an area that relies more heavily on logic, functional programming… In that sense, you will use some concepts from math, but it won’t necessarily be calculus or algebra that’s needed for it. Even in areas like machine learning where algorithms rely heavily on some concepts from math, there are ways that the code is organized so that you can actually use it and do amazing stuff with it without an understanding of the high-level math concepts that are behind those algorithms.

That’s good to know! I’m wondering, what drew you to Nobel Explorers in particular?

Nobel Explorers was one of those things that felt right from the first moment. I loved the company story, I loved the motivation behind it, I could really resonate with the long-term vision. As time was passing by, I felt like I was discovering all these new layers of Nobel Explorers that I did not see initially or that have developed in the meantime, and it has always been a positive surprise. There are always new challenges ahead of us, but we have an amazing team with versatile backgrounds and experiences, and there is no way we don’t come up with a solution if we put our heads together.

Could you tell us a little bit about the programs?

NE programs are designed as a way to engage Explorers, and they are conceived around something called PBL (Project-Based Learning), which means that the way we learn and the way we teach in NE is a really hands on experience. So there is not a lot of theory, not a lot of teaching where everybody’s just listening to one person sharing the knowledge, but we have real-life tasks with real-life values, and everything our Explorers learn is focused towards achieving a certain goal. So you will never code just for the sake of coding, you will code to create a website, to solve a real-life problem, and the one thing we really make sure happens is that the project does not end with the Explorers’ time with us, but that they create something that is maintained in the real world. For example, once they create a website, that website is accessible to everyone, it’s spread to the community, and they can even work on it further if they wish to.

What is it that makes Nobel Explorers’ programs different from other projects you’ve worked on?

I think one thing that Nobel does in an excellent way is to try different approaches to education. We constantly go through testing and adapting to make sure that we’re giving and sharing the knowledge in a way that is fun, that is accessible, and that has real value. I’m not sure if all of these components are unique and if no one else does them, but definitely the combination of all the different aspects  is definitely unique to us. The fact that we integrate teamwork and collaboration in an international environment –  I think that’s the magic recipe and the secret sauce.

You are a hard-skills specialist, but I assume you work very closely with the other people in the team. Could you tell us what made you include soft skills as well in your program? What makes them so important?

As I said, coding and STEM are only tools. Coding is a skill you can acquire, but in order to create really good, unique things that are amazing, always takes the joint effort of a team. And soft skills enable us to collaborate and communicate and share ideas in a way that ensures  they are being heard which, in turn, ensures that we can bring our knowledge together and not just work as individuals. Because as a team, we can always achieve more.

So kind of like Steve Jobs didn’t start out alone but he had Steve Wozniak with him?

(laugh) Something like that.

What is your message for parents who are thinking about joining the NE programs but are not sure about it?

If you are thinking of NE vs. another program, apart from us having amazing content, the outcome is that in a really short time, we teach kids or anyone working on our projects a lot of things. For example, in the Coding and Web Design project, we manage to organize content that takes somebody who didn’t know how to code, and in 13 meetings, or 26 hours of time with us, they learn to code a website from scratch, organize it, make it visually appealing, and publish it on the web. If you ask me, that is pretty amazing.

Become a Nobel Explorer today or contact us if you have questions about our projects.

Styles of Conflict Management

We’ve already begun a discussion about conflict in our article Conflict Can Be Good, where we concluded that conflict is inevitable and part of all of our relationships. We discovered that conflict can be good and has many benefits when managed appropriately. Given this,  it’s best to embrace the inevitability of conflict and learn how to manage it.  Learning conflict management doesn’t mean subscribing to only one pattern. Clearly, everyone has their own styles of conflict management.

Uniqueness and patterns in managing conflicts

Each person has a unique style which reflects their own unique wants, needs, and values. However, there are specific global patterns in conflicts that can be identified based on how we deal with such challenges. The important thing to remember is that no one style is a pure typology and inherently better than any other.

You must be wondering, What are the benefits of being aware of my own style? Well, as you recognize your style you can better understand its strengths and weaknesses. Also, you can increase your ability to adopt different styles relative to the inevitable conflicts that arise in all interpersonal relationships as you learn when each style is best to employ.

Styles of Conflict Management and their Representative Animals

According to two researchers, Thomas and Kilmann, we can identify five conflict-handling styles: competing, collaborating, avoiding, accommodating, and compromising. To illustrate these styles, they selected specific animals, because various personality traits can be represented in a more balanced strengths-and-weaknesses framework this way.

The Competitive Shark

Do it my way or not at all!

This is the typical attitude of the shark. Sharks use a forcing or competing style to achieve their goals. They have a need to win – therefore, others must lose. When competing, an individual pursues his or her own concerns at the other person’s expense, using whatever power seems appropriate to win their position – even if it means being uncooperative, threatening, and intimidating. They strongly defend a position they believe is correct or simply try to win.

If the shark’s decision is truly correct, a better decision can result. However, it may result in hostility and resentment toward the shark, or damaged relationships.

This style may be appropriate for emergencies when you need quick, decisive action, and people are aware of and support the approach, or when unpopular decisions need to be implemented. 

The Collaborative Owl

My preference is … What’s your choice?

Owls use a collaborative or problem-confronting conflict management style. Owls value their goals and relationships. They gather information, look for alternatives, dialogue openly, and welcome disagreement. Owls view conflicts as problems to be solved and work to find solutions agreeable to all sides.

The advantage of this strategy is that relationships are maintained (because both sides get what they want) and negative feelings are eliminated. On the other hand, this takes a great deal of time and effort to synthesize everybody’s ideas.

The appropriate time to use an Owl style is when the issues and relationship are both important.

The Avoidant Turtle

Conflict? What conflict?

Turtles avoid, withdraw, deny, or delay conflicts. They would rather hide and ignore conflict than resolve it – this leads them to be uncooperative and unassertive. Turtles even tend to give up personal goals.

This may help to maintain relationships that would be hurt by conflict resolution, but conflicts  and negative feelings may linger, too.

This is often appropriate when the issue is trivial or the relationship is insignificant.   Sometimes it can be effective when the atmosphere is emotionally charged and you need to create some space.

The Accommodating Teddy Bear

Whatever you say.

Teddy bears use a soothing or accommodating conflict-management style with emphasis on human relationships. They agree and flatter because they have a need to please everyone involved. Therefore, teddy bears often neglect their own desired outcomes to satisfy those of the others. There is an element of self-sacrifice.

Sometimes accommodating maintains relationships, but the bear may be taken advantage of.

However, it’s good to use this when you really don’t care about the issue or when you realize you are wrong (and the other party has a better solution).

The Compromising Fox

I’ll give you this if you give me that.

Foxes use a compromising conflict-management style. Individuals who use this approach are concerned about goals and relationships. They have a strategy of a little something for everyone – they tend to find mutually acceptable solutions that partially satisfy both parties.

Foxes are willing to sacrifice some of their goals while persuading others to give up part of theirs. Compromise is assertive and cooperative.

This way it is possible to maintain relationships and find solutions, but compromise is not always ideal.

Compromising is suitable to use in situations when complex issues have no clear solutions or when people in conflict have equally important solutions.

How to use styles of conflict management?

Imagine that you’re going out with a friend. You want to go to the movies and relax. However, your friend wants to go shopping, because they’re attending an important event that evening and want to find a really nice outfit. How do you decide where you’re going?

You love your friend, you want them to be happy, so it’s okay if you please them and go to the shopping center with them.

But, let’s imagine the second scenario – everything’s the same except that today’s the last day that movie is playing! And you really want to see it… What would you do this time?

Would you choose to be a compromising fox? If I help you buy an outfit for that event, you go to the movie with me.
What do you think about these scenarios? How do you choose how to react? The fastest way is to consider your concern for goals and concern for relationships. Check out the graphic below.

Abraham Maslow said If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see each problem as a nail. Likewise, if you have only one predominant conflict resolution style, there are inherent limitations or blind spots, which is why we’ve sought here to help you expand your usual conflict style by introducing other styles and approaches.

 

In Nobel Explorers, we want everyone to learn how to manage conflicts in the most effective way. So, if you find this article useful and want to practice the skills significant for managing conflict – negotiation, check out which projects we offer.

 

Resources:

[1] Eckstein, D. (1998). Styles of conflict management. The Family Journal, 6(3), 240-243.

[2] Thomas, K.W. and Kilmann, R.H. (1974). Conflict Mode Instrument, Sterling Forest, New York.

8 Benefits of Working in International Teams

People are more connected today than ever before. Once upon a time, you had to travel for days to get from one place to another. And if your destination were on the other side of the ocean, it could take weeks! But today, all we need to do is type a message and click send. Even better, we can log onto Skype and speak face to face with someone who’s thousands of miles away from us.

And while chatting on social media and sending pictures to one another is a great way to spend time and connect, there’s another uniquely valuable use for it – creating digital international teams.

What Makes Digital International Teams So Great?

The list of benefits is endless,  so we’ll only mention some of the most important ones:

  • Productivity
  • Creativity
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Understanding of other cultures
  • Offline time
  • Learning to think quickly
  • Future employment

And that’s just for starters! So let’s dive into them and learn how you can enhance your skills by becoming part of a digital international team.

Productivity

When you have an international team at your disposal, chances are the flow of ideas will be endless. Some of your coworkers will come up with ideas that would never have crossed your mind, and you’ll do the same! Thanks to your different experiences, you’ll all have completely different mindsets, which will allow for some incredibly interesting ideas.

And if you’re part of a digital international team, chances are you won’t be tied to the usual nine-to-five office routine. This will allow you to motivate yourself and work under your own conditions, which is a huge boost for productivity [4]. You’ll find it much easier to focus if you’re sitting in an old T-shirt drinking a cup of tea and listening to music, than if you’re sitting in an office chair in dead silence just praying for the clock to move faster.

Creativity

This is closely connected to productivity.  If you have all these people from, say, Europe, Asia, or Africa in your team, you’ll be constantly surprised by how differently they think about certain things. Now, imagine how important that can be when it comes to brainstorming! Why is that? Well, mostly because there’s no right or wrong when it comes to brainstorming. The more ideas you can think of, the better! Your coworkers will not only pitch in with their personal experiences, they’ll also teach you about what works in their own environment. Similarly, they’ll learn what works in yours, so you get the chance to try out lots of  new things together [4].

Problem Solving

In the nineties, a study done in Ireland connected an international team of exchange students who weren’t even all on the same continent, and teamed them up in a simulation-like game. They were supposed to agree on big decisions together and solve complex problems while competing against other teams. They were given the opportunity to practice real-life problems and situations in a safe environment –  something that’s called a “micro-world” [1].

And guess what happened?

They were able to develop decision-making, problem-solving, and teamwork skills while working across continents [1]. Through applied learning, or project-based learning, these students practiced incredibly important skills in a purposeful way – not just for learning itself, but for an actual outcome [1]. What’s more, they were more motivated to work, as the more they worked, the more they learned and the better results they were able to see! And they were able to learn much more since this kind of approach promoted further learning and was more interesting for them [1].

Both the organizers and the students in the simulation agreed that overcoming any technical difficulties was well worth the end result [1]. (And now in  2018, we don’t even need to worry about the technical issues so much!) As it turns out, this simulation (and such simulations and games in general) can predict the future success of a student very well [1].

Communication

According to Forbes, communication is one of the most important skills every Millennial should be able to use effectively in the workplace [5]. Communicating can be hard, especially if there’s a difference in opinion. You might ask yourself: How do I give proper feedback? How do I learn not to take things personally, but understand them as a way to better myself? This is a skill that, like any other skill, needs honing. And what better place to do that than as part of an international team? International team members will likely have completely different opinions, given that they all live in different environments.

If you have a good manager/facilitator, an international team can give you an enormous advantage when it comes to handling conflict, or communicating in general. If you practice and learn how to communicate with people from other parts of the globe, chances are that solving a conflict with your coworker who lives just down the street will be a piece of cake [3].

Understanding of Other Cultures

Our world is ever-changing and ever more connected. Anywhere you go, you can see people from other cultures working, living, or simply visiting. Being a part of an international team is an invaluable experience for anyone seeking to understand these cultures better. You’ll be able to hear first-hand about their thoughts, ideas, and way of life.

If you decide later on in life to go to another country or even a different continent to pursue your passion (or adventurous spirit!), you’ll find it much easier to adapt if you’ve already been in contact with more than just one culture [3]. And that’s especially important if you’re required to fit into the office culture of another place – the expectations, the social mores, the work ethic. You’ll be much more attuned to  all of these or at least more capable of learning quickly if you’ve already experienced something similar.

Offline Time

As we already mentioned, a digital team means you won’t be forced to be at your desk every day at 9:00 a.m. sharp and remain there for the next eight hours – yay! Instead, you’ll mostly get to work on your own time, and given that your team members may live in different timezones, they won’t be able to give you an answer as soon as you post something [2]. This means that you’ll get some offline time instead of checking your phone for messages every two minutes, and you’ll be allowed to work whenever you feel like it. Are you a night owl? Great news: you won’t have to start fueling yourself with coffee as soon as you get up!

Learning to Think Quickly

Entering a virtual room of people whose customs you’re not very familiar with is anything but comfortable. It’s exciting, sure – but it’s stressful to a certain degree, as well. What you’ll need to work on in order to succeed in such a new environment is becoming adept at picking  up social cues quickly. If you learn how to “read a (chat)room” [3] as soon as you enter it – voila! – you’ll become a much better team member and much more productive, and you’ll start feeling more and more comfortable with each new meeting or in any similar situation.

Future Employment

All of the above benefits will also help you get to this step –  the final, tangible benefit of landing a job [3]. But besides charming your future employer with your soft skills and a resume that says you have experience working in an international team, that same team will likely offer you a great chance to network.

Imagine you’re applying for a job in Norway, and it just so happens that one of your ex-coworkers is Norwegian! You can, for example, ask them about what is usually expected of the applicants for such a position. And even if you’re not actually applying, but simply thinking of finding a job there, why not ask them if they know anyone in that field? They’ll have no trouble recommending such a talented, versatile young person as yourself.

If this article has piqued your interest in becoming part of a digital international team, take a look at nobelexplorers.com and all the projects we offer. You may well find something you like!

References:

  1. Doyle, D., & Brown, F.W. (2000). Using a Business Simulation to Teach Applied Skills – the Benefits and the Challenges of Using Student Teams from Multiple Countries. Journal of European Industrial Training, 330-336
  2. https://medium.com/@Cityholic/advantages-of-working-in-a-global-team-780d5d10f277
  3. https://www.theinterngroup.com/our-blog/7-benefits-of-working-abroad/
  4. https://www.bmmagazine.co.uk/opinion/go-global-the-benefits-of-an-international-team/
  5. https://www.forbes.com/sites/katehayes/2017/09/05/the-soft-skills-that-matter-most-in-the-workplace/#618cdafd6c2e

 

Conflict Can Be Good

What do you think of when you hear the word conflict?

Fighting? War?

Anger? Frustration?

Many people view conflict as bad, negative, and tend to avoid it. They believe that conflicts lead to “ugly” feelings, mistrust, damage to relationships, etc [1, 3]. True, there are indeed many possible negative consequences. Given this, can conflict be good? As with almost anything, conflict has advantages and disadvantages. So, the answer is yes – conflict can be good!

Conflict has the capacity not only to cause harm and pain, but also to create a positive change for us [1, 3]. A possible reason for its bad reputation is that conflicts are often poorly managed and handled in painful ways. Under appropriate conditions, conflict can provide important benefits.

10 Benefits of conflict

So, what are these beneficial effects? Here’s some of the advantages that well-managed conflict might include [1, 2, 3, 4]:

  1. Conflicts focus attention on problems that need to be solved, but which have previously been ignored or neglected.
  2. Creation of energy, focus, and the motivation needed for solving problems.
  3. Released negative emotions (anger, tension, anxiety, sadness…) and better control of emotions.
  4. Conflicts may prevent disagreement from becoming more intense or damaging.
  5. Enhanced quality of many decisions– the critique of someone’s ideas by others encourages a more thorough evaluation of them.
  6. Also, discussion of incompatible ideas may result in adoption of a more open-minded approach to issues and problems.
  7. Facilitation of understanding of other people’s perspectives on the problems.
  8. Increased closeness with each other and relationships clear of irritations. If the conflict is among groups, it leads to increased loyalty and cohesiveness. This further results in enhanced performance and productivity.
  9. Stimulation of curiosity, interest, and information search. Conflicts also encourage the consideration of new ideas and approaches and leads to facilitation of innovation and change.
  10. Growth– conflicts may promote cognitive, social, and moral development.

Conflict and emotions

So, under what conditions can conflict be beneficial? Let’s start with emotions. Conflict often creates the arousal of powerful negative emotions: anger, frustration, suspicion, etc. Also, it can cause stress and anxiety, which can lead to loss of sleep, decrease in productivity, and failure to be innovative or creative [2, 4].

At the same time, conflict situations often require the careful processing of complex information such as the opponents’ motives and intentions, their strategy, and the impact of their moves. This means that in order to solve the conflict constructively, you need to put in a great deal of cognitive effort. However, the likelihood of effective completion of these cognitive tasks is significantly reduced by the presence of powerful emotions [4]. So, what can we do about that?


A great way to master your skills in managing conflicts and making them constructive is to participate in Nobel Explorers, the first international STEM camp that focuses on soft skills as much as on the hard skills. In Nobel Explorers, we are aware of how powerful conflict can be and how important it is in negotiation. That’s why participants of all our projects work hard on mastering their conflict resolution skills with the help of our soft skills facilitators. And they earn cool badges like these below while doing that, so it is also fun!

Soft Skill Badge awarded to those who are able to identify if it's necessary to cool off or address the difference in opinion right awaySoft Skill Badge awarded to those are able to identify the point and nature of contention for participants in the conflict Soft Skill Badge awarded to those who are able to confirm with the other party if there is really a difference in opinion


How to deal with negative emotions

How can we maximize the probability that conflict will produce positive outcomes? In order for conflict to have benefits, it’s important either to avoid the arousal of negative emotions or to take active steps to reduce their presence [1].

Two foxes charging at each other.

It doesn’t have to look like this!

 

We can avoid arousal of strong feelings of anger and related emotions. That can be done in two ways:

  • Putting effort into inducing participants in the conflict to focus on the potential gains that may be obtained from a favorable resolution. In other words, try hard to show the participant(s) in conflict the advantages of choosing the resolution you think is best.
  • Providing participants with information as to why an opponent has adopted a particular stance. Here, you don’t need a third party – you can enumerate for the opponent arguments for the position you represent. This way, their reactions may be considerably more favorable and less emotional.

In many situations, it’s impossible to prevent the arousal of negative emotions among the persons in conflict. In such cases, there are two steps that can reduce such reactions:

  • Induction of positive affective states that are incompatible with anger or frustration. You can’t be happy and angry at the same time, right?
  • Exposing persons in a conflict situation to mild flattery, a small gift, etc. For example, lower your voice and tell them how good they are at managing conflict.

Now when you know how to handle negative emotions in conflicts, there’s one more thing –practice! The more you practice, the better you will be.

But why is this so important?

Conflict is inevitable

The reality is that conflict is part of all our relationships – at home, at school, at work… This being the case, it’s best to accept its inevitability, understand that it isn’t necessarily bad, and to practice managing it.


Other than learning how to handle differences in opinion, in Nobel Explorers you will also be able to practice a very cool skill that will help you turn every conflict into a constructive one and find a win-win solution for it.

Remember, The World Economic Forum listed soft skills as the skills you’ll need to thrive in the future since a lot of the jobs will be automated and taken by AI. One of those skills is negotiation and it has a lot to do with managing conflict! So, sign up for Nobel Explorers and master your future-ready skills!


Resources:

[1] Baron, R. A. (1991). Positive effects of conflict: A cognitive perspective. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal,4(1), 25-36. doi:10.1007/bf01390436

[2] Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, F. P. (2013). Joining together: Group theory and group skills (12th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

[3] Rebroadcast: Discussing Conflict With Clair Canfield On Monday’s Access Utah [Audio blog interview]. (2016, December 6). Retrieved July 20, 2018, from http://www.upr.org/post/rebroadcast-discussing-conflict-clair-canfield-mondays-access-utah

[4] Zillmann, D. (1979). Hostility and Aggression. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.