Constructive Conflict: 4 Steps to Create Innovation Generating Teams


Conflict, when well managed, can breathe life and energy into workplace relationships that inspire more productivity, creativity and innovation.

How, as a leader, do you start to create the kind of organizational dynamics that harness the power of constructive conflict?  Read on…

Read the book “The Other F Word”

Authored by Danner and Coopersmith, this book shows how successful leaders and teams can use failure and conflict to re-engage employees, drive productivity, and spark growth within organizations. This practical read features a framework for how leaders can:

  • Reduce the fear of failure that stifles initiative, creativity, and engagement

  • Harness failure as a catalyst to drive innovation

  • Openly communicate and engage in productive conversations with their team about failure and conflict.

Create the right climate

A culture of constructive creative conflict starts with the mindset and commitment at the top leadership levels. These elements are crucial to consider - and incorporate into leadership behaviors - as you launch this effort:

  • Trust

  • Transparency

  • Respect for differences and other points of view

  • Safety – an environment that makes it safe for dissent and open opinion

  • System to proactively welcome and capture ideas

  • Training, practice and support in team-building, problem-solving, respectful discourse, conflict management

Engage with your team

Once you’re armed with information and commitment from leadership, you are ready to engage your team personally to foster a creative culture that encourages constructive conflict.

Hold a team meeting. Start by setting the expectation of an open and respectful conversation. Ask your team the following questions, invite feedback; and listen carefully. Leading by example is of course the best way to teach them what respectful discourse and constructive conflict looks like. (It may be beneficial to bring in a facilitator who is outside of your team/organization to ensure that everyone feels comfortable thinking and talking and speaking up, including the team leader.)

  • What are the things we can do to eliminate the potential for negative conflict outcomes [during this project]?

  • What agreements can we put in place to make sure we all feel safe addressing conflict when it arises?

  • In order for this team to be successful/effective, what do we need to count on from each other?

Be sure to capture the feedback, and move forward with this effort with the awareness that changing behavior and establishing new habits take time and patience.

Assess where you are so you know where to go

 In order to carry forward what you’ve done so far to build your innovation-inspired team, assess exactly how your team is functioning in terms of the positive conflict outcomes that spark innovation. We have designed a (new-and-improved upgrade) tool for just this purpose: the Innovation Estimator™ . This free easy-to-use tool is one we often deploy with client teams to identify: how your team compares to a dataset of high-performing teams; the costs associated with not being innovative; and to answer the question, “Do you work well enough with conflict to get the job done?” The link will take you to a page where you and your team can take the questionnaire yourselves.

Remember, your team is your most important investment in growth. You hired each member for his or her skills, intelligence, experience, and creativity–not to be part of “groupthink.” To learn more about harnessing that creativity and talent, grab the Innovation Estimator™ or schedule a conversation with us here.