Constructive Controversy

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Constructive controversy is a process through which two individuals or groups of individuals seek to reach an agreement when their ideas, opinions and information are incompatible to those of the other (Johnson, Johnson and Tjosvold, 2006). The process is based on a strong cooperative goal and involves “deliberate discourse [of the advantages and disadvantages of proposed actions] aimed at synthesizing novel solutions” (Johnson, Johnson and Tjosvold, 2006, p.71). Participants cope constructively in conflict situations by using differences in understanding, perspective and knowledge as valued resources to find a solution integrating the best thoughts that emerge during the process (Deutsch, 2006). In an organizational context, skillful participation in constructive controversy can lead to higher-quality decisions and solutions to complex problems. During the role play of the ROC case study in class, some participants reflected that while they felt thrown out of equilibrium initially when asked to assume the opposite position, the process opened their minds to new information and helped them engage in a higher-level cognitive and reasoning process. The value of constructive controversy lies in the thought process it induces when participants adapt to and accommodate the perspective of the other (Johnson, Johnson and Tjosvold, 2006). Individuals are more likely to derive conclusions that are enriched by new ideas and information which otherwise may not have been taken into consideration. Coming together to create a solution in the constructive controversy process also fosters stronger relationships among individuals which is crucial to organizational health. The positive feelings and commitment individuals feel in joint decision-making raises interpersonal attraction and produces greater perceptions of peer task support (Johnson, Johnson and Tjosvold, 2006). Individuals are encouraged to manage conflict constructively when the next problem arises and the result...
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