There are many misconceptions about innovation. While some people believe collaboration is key, others possess the innovation-killing idea that creativity is the sole responsibility of the technology department. However, one of the deadliest barriers to innovation is the notion that conflict should be prevented.
Though leaders often fear conflict and seek to eliminate it, cultivating constructive conflict in the workplace through a diversity of perspectives is necessary for sustained creativity.
In their new book, The Innovation Code, Jeff and Staney Degraff list four steps to create constructive conflict in an organization. After studying innovation for years in Fortune 500 companies, they believe the best way to create this constructive conflict is to gather a diversity of worldviews and use them to create innovative solutions:
1. Assemble a diversity of perspectives.
According to the authors, we all have a dominant worldview, which can be our biggest hindrance to creativity. So in order to innovate, all four dominant worldviews should be represented: Artist, Engineer, Athlete, and Sage.
The Artist seeks radical innovation and pursues revolutionary breakthroughs like Steve Jobs. The Artist takes chances and adapts quickly. The opposite is the Engineer, who is systematic and disciplined, similar to Warren Buffet. Engineers improve efficiency and value consistency.
Athletes are forceful leaders and competitors like Tim Cook, who looks to generate profit and revenue. To manage the team's innovation you need the athlete's opposite--the Sage. Sages are diplomats and facilitators. They create strong relationships through effective communication and trust like Jack Ma.
The book provides more in-depth descriptions of the four worldviews as well as a test to discover which one is your dominant creative type.
2. Engage in conflict.
Once you assemble your diverse team, your next step is to create "meaningful" dissent. Meaningful dissent is not disagreement. It is about understanding a multiplicity of views to arrive at a hybrid solution.
Allow the Artists to engage with Engineers, and Sages with Athletes. To create meaningful dissent, you need to be patient, open minded and give equal time for opposing points of view. Keep your team on track by providing goals, milestones, and a timeline.
3. Establish a shared goal or vision.
To arrive at an effective solution to your problems, your group needs to have a shared goal or vision. Though this may seem easy since everyone should know what the problem is, complications happen along the way.
It is important to ensure everyone works toward the same goal. To verify, each member of the team should describe the problem (i.e., their idea of the current vision/goal) at each stage of planning and execution.
4. Construct hybrid solutions.
Your constructive conflict should lead to a hybrid solution. Brainstorm and combine solutions that don't come from just one dominant worldview, but rather from multiple perspectives. The key to creating hybrid solutions is taking two great, but very different ideas, and figuring out the best way to fit them together.