Project Management

Influencing Innovation

Martin Abbott and Mike Fisher

Team innovation can be greatly influenced by conflict (either productive or destructive), experiential diversity, a sense of empowerment, and organizational boundaries. An Agile approach can help, though there are pros and cons to consider. Spotify offers a real-world example of how it works.

Conflict can be either productive or destructive, depending on the type. Cognitive conflict brings diverse perspectives and experiences together. Brainstorming sessions are often seen as examples of cognitive conflict, whereby teams attempt to gather a set of alternatives superior to what the team members could arrive at in isolation. It’s likely that each of us has participated in at least one brainstorming session that was incredibly productive. The session probably started with a leader setting the agenda, making sure everyone knew each other, establishing some ground rules around respect and time limits, and so on. What ensued might have been a 60- to 90-minute session in which people built upon each other’s ideas. Not everyone agreed, but ideas were exchanged in a respective manner such that roadblocks to solutions were raised and ways around them were discussed. This collaboration resulted in creative and innovative ideas that likely no one would have generated on their own. Everyone probably left the meeting feeling glad they had participated and that the time …

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"Humor is but another weapon against the universe."

- Mel Brooks