There are 2 types of conflict in teams - conflict of opinions and conflict of personalities.
A conflict of opinion is a situation where you might have a different opinion to a situation from your teammates. For example,
How should that difficult customer be handled?
How to improve a certain process in your team?
What is the right thing to do in a difficult situation?
It may feel may feel counter-intuitive, but this type of conflict is good. It triggers creativity and team innovation for the following reasons:
It forces the team to seek and exchange more information.
Team members are prompted to unfold or explicate their differences in perspectives.
It forces the team to renegotiate goals and make better sense of the problems.
Without all the 3 factors, we won’t get Netflix, Grab or Google. In other words, a conflict of opinion is the fuel that drives innovation.
A conflict of personality Is a situation where you just cannot work with one of your teammates. Why? Because you just can’t stand them. For some reason or another, everything this person says feels unacceptable to you by the sheer fact it was said by that individual..
This type of conflict has the opposite effect on creativity and team innovation - it kills it. When it occurs in a team, basic functioning like information exchange and openness to other’s ideas become very difficult.
If conflict of opinion is the fuel that drives innovation, then conflict of personality is a giant speedhump that hinders speed and agility. The tricky thing is - sometimes it’s hard to tell one from the other.
Think about the last conflict you have seen or were involved in. Was it a conflict of opinion or personality?