Monday, August 22, 2016
Research: Every Team Needs a Devil's Advocate
Isn't it nice when everyone at work seems to get along? Decisions are often made easily and unanimously and life seems to flow smoothly among the cubicles.
But a new study says that such harmony may have a downside. Specifically, researchers found that teams can benefit from a "skewed conflict." While that may sound like another "Divergent" sequel, it means that a small group -- or even just one person -- plays devil's advocate and pokes holes in a team's approach to a problem.
A key finding is that these naysayers need to be constructive with their criticism, and not pummel the team with verbal jabs. Criticism that isn't offered respectfully and in a constructive way only leads to conflict and undermines the effort to search for better answers, researchers say.
This research is important because it's been a challenge to find the right balance in team dynamics. If everyone disagrees, then there is chaos and nothing gets resolved. If everyone agrees, then the answer to a problem may not be the best one because no one pushes for a better way. But having a small group disagree with the larger group seems to strike the right tone and get the best results, researchers say.
The key for managers will be finding the devil' s advocate who can offer constructive criticism and push for better answers without alienating team members.