145: Encouraging Innovation Through Conflict with Jeff DeGraff

Professor Jeff DeGraff shows how to stir up some constructive conflict to encourage innovative thinking in the workplace.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The extraordinary value of arguing
  2. Who are the four types of people at the workplace and what creative tensions emerge among them
  3. Effective ways to create constructive conflict at work

About Jeff

Jeff DeGraff is called the Dean of Innovation because of his influence on the field. Dr. DeGraff is a professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. He has advised hundreds of the world’s most prominent firms. He has founded a leading innovation institute, Innovatrium, with labs in Ann Arbor and Atlanta. Jeff’s thoughts on innovation are covered by Fortune, Wired and the Harvard Business Review to name a few. Jeff writes a column for Inc. magazine and has a regular segment on public radio called TheNext Idea. He is the author of several books.

Listen to the podcast Here

 

Items Mentioned in this Show:

It’s easier to start from scratch than it is to get out of a creative rut. That’s because we know a lot more about what sparks creativity than we do about what blocks it. The Greeks believed that inspiration came to us through muses who literally visited us. Freud insisted that creativity was a kind of sublimation, a way of dealing with repressed inclinations. Jung theorized a collective unconscious, structures of mind that all people have in common. Today, psychologists like Kay Redfield Jamison describe creativity as a mood disorder, a mild form of madness.

We have countless answers to the question of what drives people to be creative, but the better, tougher–more elusive–question is its opposite: what stops people from being innovative? Why do so many of us have trouble overcoming creative dry spells? There are, of course, tons of studies attempting to address just that, yet many of them are biased by fundamental attribution errors. That is, these theories attempt to impose orderly patterns on complex, ineffable cognitive phenomena. For example, recent reports reverse-engineer the lives of geniuses like Einstein and Edison and identify the qualities that made them creative as symptoms of disorders like dyslexia. To attribute these late visionaries’ talents to psychological conditions is to suggest something improvable and to falsely assume causality. Further, it is to give a tidy explanation for what are, in actuality, the messy realities of the human mind. (more…)

[In the part-two installment of this three-part article, I showed how the two major growth strategies–push and pull strategies–both fall short when it comes to meeting the demands of innovation. Here are three approaches to effectively confront the unique obstacles that innovation throws our way.]

Play some wildcards. Wildcards are unexpected events that actually happen with regularity. These are big occurrences with wide-reaching implications: scientific discoveries, emerging technologies, environmental changes, social trends, political and economic developments, weather calamities, disease outbreaks, and large-scale conflicts. When these things arise, most people are caught off guard. (more…)