In his instructive books, Patrick Lencioni has written about the importance of conflict to team dynamics. He explains persuasively that trust allows for the conflict that is required in order to reach commitment, accountability, and maximum results. This post can be viewed as an expansion of the conflict function of a team in which I pursue the relationship between conflict and creativity.
High functioning teams reach a potential that is greater than the sum of the individuals. This collective requires the coming together of multiple ideas and multiple perspectives into a single coordinated direction. Reaching alignment entails dealing with and integrating differences, often through conflict.
Any one creative idea is different from other ideas. In fact, the more creative it is, the more different it is likely to be. But difference is also the basis of conflict. In my view creativity and conflict are intimately linked. The more fully and openly individuals on a team express their new ideas, the more the ideas will vary from the suggestions of other team members. The very coming together and collectively joining in creative efforts to address challenges leads to differences. The intensifying of differences provides a basis for more creative options, but it also increases the likelihood of conflict.
While maximizing creativity requires the capacity to engage in conflict effectively, engaging in conflict also has the potential to increase creativity. The two can work together synergistically.
Conflict is characterized by opposing viewpoints. For example, ‘We should launch a new product now in order to get to market ahead of key competitors,’ assert several team members; ‘We should wait three months while we increase our social media presence,’ say two other team members.’ To satisfy such differing interests creative options are required. The opposing character of the perspectives provides the opportunity for the parties to generate creative options. More abstractly, creative possibility resides in the differences and the parties are required to unlock its potential.
Effective team members need to possess a tolerance for differences and a capacity to engage in conflict for the purpose of coming to the best synthesis from the variety of ideas and practices being offered up. In entering the fire together, which works best on a foundation of trust and caring, the members will create together what they could not create without the conflict.
To learn about the five functions of a team, namely trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, and results, read the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team or view Patrick Lencioni in the video below.
I am interested in any experiences you have had that shine a light on the relationship between conflict and creativity. Comment below and we can converse about them.