“Teams that utilized conflict in their process consistently outperformed teams that focused on cohesion. In a summary of [one] study’s results, the researchers write ‘Our findings show that debate and criticism do not inhibit ideas but, rather, stimulate them relative to every other condition.”
Debate = Innovative Team Problem Solving
Don’t start any fights! It’s important to provide a method of interactive and representational argument for your team. Otherwise, you may descend into chaos and hurt feelings. Nobody wants that.
As IDEA suggests (and their logo implies), you should create a “participatory learning environment where individuals feel safe to explore ideas and view topics from a variety of perspectives” in order to boost innovation and generate more ideas.
Here’s a few problem solving strategies that work:
(1) Assign a Dissenter or “Devil’s Advocate”
Assign one person to find and present reasons why every idea may not be feasible. Now it’s his or her job to challenge everyone. It’s not personal! Well, as long as everyone sticks to debating rather than arguing.
Debates are typically:
Formal and intellectual
Concerned with factual events, or theories
About persuading an opposing group to an alternate viewpoint
Arguments are typically:
Informal and personal
Not always concerned with factual correctness
About things both parties are aware of, thus no opposing viewpoints are involved
(2) Pixar “Plussing”
Anytime someone comments on another’s work, that comment must contain a “plus” — a way to improve or build on the work. This technique provides a foundation for the criticism. The original idea is something to still build upon rather than dismiss as a whole in this scenario.
Instead of assigning team roles, plussing keeps critiques positive as a whole.
These are both strategies that can be incorporated into events, meetings and even company culture. If you’re trying something new, start with more structure like a team building event.