We have long taught that breakthroughs are most likely to occur when criticism is fully heard and the positive potential of conflict is mined. In her new book, Collective Genius, The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation, Professor Linda Hill, faculty chair of the Leadership Initiative at Harvard Business School, says that leaders whose organizations innovate best are those who act as “social architects,” creating a safe collaborative space where team members can “keep pushing and challenging one another.”
The research of Hill and her co-authors suggests that successful innovation leaders have a capability they call creative abrasion: They are able to spark heated but constructive debates that amplify differences as opposed to minimizing them. “Conflict is what generates a marketplace of competitive ideas,” says Hill in an interview with strategy+business.
Generating a wealth of ideas is pointless without a second capability, creative agility, which Hill says “is about testing and refining ideas with feedback, reflection, and adjustment…The idea is to act and learn as quickly as you can, and then make necessary adjustments. When you do an experiment, it’s OK to get a negative outcome, as long as you learn from it.”
We want to hear: What do you think about the link between conflict and innovation? Can you give us an example of productive disagreement on your team? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Barbara Barlow Powers
4/22/2015 01:28:44 am
I strongly agree with the idea that conflict sparks innovation. Too often, the goal seems to be to "make everyone happy", which can easily lead to mediocrity. Innovation, by definition, is the introduction of something new or different. Any time a new or different idea comes to the forefront, there should be discussion and varying viewpoints and opinions heard and considered. This provides a "fully-baked" idea when the innovation is introduced. A side benefit to this is the learning that occurs between the people involved in these discussions. We get to know each other better, and become a more productive team. :)
4/22/2015 05:11:13 am
Thanks for this Barbara. I so agree with your insight about innovation and diversity of opinion. Better decisions are the result of robust discussion -- as long as that dialogue is structured in a way that grows ideas rather than endless arguing! Appreciate your connecting with us on this topic.
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