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Difference and challenge in teams
Difference and challenge in teams

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This short course used the metaphor of the bee colony (where difference and challenge are used to further the collective aims of the organisation). You went on to look at 3 mini case-studies of managers who want to develop better teams – and how they – and how you – might recognise and come to value difference and challenge in teams.

Many of the scenarios presented in this course have looked at areas of disagreement. What we have tried to convey is that although the ‘overall direction of travel’ needs to be the same for the team as a whole, deviations from each other’s individual path should be allowed.

The very direction of travel is influenced by the team itself (recall the river, whose course is influenced by both the existing terrain and the river itself) and there are many well-meaning suggestions on which routes to take (recall the bees, and their different ideas on where to gather nectar: group decisions are formed on the basis of diverse individual perspectives).

Some of the text may have annoyed you, or challenged the way you think about certain terms. For example:

  • Conflict, historically, has been a strongly negative term and the thought of ‘embracing’ conflict may appall your team. Yet, there you can recognise some value in opposition and the ‘challenges’ that need to be made to ensure the robustness of decisions and outcomes for the team.
  • Compromise is, for many, a positive and peaceful term – something we often want to have much more of in the team. In this unit we’ve thought about what it means to put up with a ‘mere’ compromise – and whether by aiming for compromise positions (where some of the team get some of what they need, and others in the team have some of their different needs met) we are missing out on more truly collaborative solutions (where everyone in the team feels that they have contributed to the development of a solution as a whole: ‘we have created our way of doing this’).

We hope ‘provocations’ like this – and the reflections we’ve encouraged, have been useful to you, whether your team suffers from too much conflict or too much compromise – whether the development journey you are travelling on is too rough, or too smooth.