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Conflict May Enhance Team Performance

Creative differences among team members can lead to more inspired thinking during the idea-generation process.

(originally published by Booz & Company)

Representational Gaps, Team Integration and Team Creativity: The Mediating Roles of Conflict and Coordination

Laurie R. Weingart, Gergana Todorova, and Matthew Cronin

The Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon, Working Paper No. 2008-E11

Date Published:
March 2008

Conventional wisdom dictates that team conflict leads to poor performance. This study suggests the opposite is true: Team conflict can actually enhance performance and creativity. The authors surveyed 21 teams of students from design, engineering, and MBA programs who worked together to develop a product. Teams that disagreed early on were forced to confront their differences and agree to mutually acceptable terms. Teams with fewer obvious differences came to terms more quickly, but because team members were not forced to challenge their thinking, their work was not as creative or inspired. Some level of variance is important in the creative process. The authors also found that it was necessary for groups to resolve conflicts by taking everyone’s interests into account rather than going with the view of the most outspoken person on the team.

Bottom Line:
Creative differences among team members can lead to more inspired thinking during the idea generation process.


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