You're reading...

The effects of conflict in driving forward innovation

Effective_TeamsI recently took part in a study being conducted by Vasilii Penny at the University of Westminster Business School which aims to investigate the effects of conflict in teams on innovation.  Vasilii is analysing the role that conflict plays in developing innovation and is using management consultants who work in teams as his source of data.

Knowledge worker teams (such as Management Consultants) with high empowerment and diverse areas of expertise are known to share leadership functions in teamwork.  Shared leadership can contribute to effective team functioning and have positive outcomes for team performance.

Conflict in teams has typically been characterised in three types:

  • Relationship – where issues arise between individuals and become personal
  • Process – where there are differences of opinion about how the team should work together and, for example, make decisions or assign responsibilities
  • Task – where there is disagreement over the “technical” aspects of the work being done by the team and what it has to achieve

The first two are generally acknowledged to be unhelpful and not enablers of positive outcomes.  The latter is believed to be an important source of innovation.  Task conflict has been linked to positive team outcomes such as innovation and is, to some extent, inevitable in many teams.  The challenge for team leaders is therefore how to reduce relationship and process conflict while allowing a constructive level of task conflict.  Team leaders also have to manage task and process conflict in a way that doesn’t result in relationship conflict.  One survey showed that relationship conflicts can consume approximately 18% of managers’ total time and is the most dysfunctional type of conflict.

Here’s some recent information on research carried out in the area of team effectiveness which reflects on the motivations of the team members.  It notes “If a team is composed of members looking out primarily for their own concerns, it seems almost inevitable that task and relationship conflicts will occur, and that team productivity will be minimal.”

Further research:

The role of conflict in team innovation (pdf)

A contingency model of conflict and team effectiveness (pdf)

Conflict resolution in teams (pdf)

The Value of Task Conflict to Group Decisions











Comments are closed.

Connect with Ian Seath

Find us on Facebook Improvement Skills Consulting Ltd. on LinkedIn Follow IanJSeath on Twitter


Copyright Notice

© Improvement Skills Consulting Ltd. and Ian Seath, 2007-18. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Improvement Skills Consulting Ltd. and Ian Seath with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

%d bloggers like this: