Managing for Innovation: The Two Faces of Tension in Creative Climates



Part of managing for innovation is creating the appropriate climate so that people can share and build upon each other's ideas and suggestions. Yet, there are increasing pressures and potential unproductive levels of tension within organizations. This article points out the distinction between two forms of tension that appear within the research on organizational climates for creativity as well as the conflict management literature. The Debate dimension is described as reflecting a more productive idea tension and the Conflict dimension suggests a more non-productive personal tension. A series of studies, across multiple levels of analysis, are summarized and a new study is reported in order to highlight the finding that relatively higher levels of Debate, and lower levels of Conflict are more conducive to organizational creativity and innovation. A practical model for the constructive use of differences is shared, along with a few strategies for reducing the negative tension associated with Conflict and increasing the positive aspects associated with Debate.