Interdisciplinary teams solve complex problems with high performance potential. But rarely does cooperation work without differences. […]
Carl Gustav Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, already recognized that differences and opposites bring to light the true potential of people: “The greater the contrast, the greater the potential. Great energy only comes from a correspondingly great tension of opposites.“ If we transfer this to today’s corporate world, we can say with certainty that versatility determines corporate success. Above all, interdisciplinary teams achieve above-average performance and are not without reason among the predestined problem solvers of our time. The different strengths and different educational backgrounds of the individual team members enable differentiated problem analyses and creative solutions. Speed and flexibility are standard when dealing with problems.
Interdisciplinary cooperation – a conflict rarely comes alone
Conflicts usually arise due to different paradigms, technical languages and personal differences. Often a material conflict is accompanied by a relationship conflict. The one accordingly conditions the other. In particular, relationship conflicts pose great challenges for teams, because unspoken problems sooner or later always find a way to the surface. And this usually ends in an inevitable confrontation, which rarely remains factual.
Conflict does not necessarily have to be negative. It can also have a positive effect if it is used constructively in an agile team.
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Unresolved relationship conflicts have serious consequences, especially for interdisciplinary teams, because they destroy creativity. The explanation is simple. Creativity requires different perspectives and ideas in order to emerge. Interdisciplinary teams benefit from their different experts. Those, in turn, often tend to put their own knowledge and point of view in the foreground. They see themselves as the most important source of ideas and leave other opinions out. Conflicts are inevitable. If there is no equal exchange, creativity suffers.
If there is now one or the other relationship conflict, managers often resort to team building measures. But the effect of such fun events is usually not long-lasting. After a short time, the teams are back in their old waters, because the cause of the conflict has not been solved.
Interdisciplinary Teams – 5 steps to Success
Interdisciplinary teams work best when they learn to deal with conflicts effectively and sustainably. However, personal differences not only have disadvantages, but can also inspire innovation and growth. How to turn a negative conflict into a positive growth factor is simple. The solution consists of five steps:
1. Serenity through preparation
In order to successfully manage conflicts, one must first accept them as normal and self-evident and have solution methods at hand. By anticipating conflicts and being aware of potential sources of conflict in the different project phases, a team can take countermeasures. Typical sources of conflict are, for example:
- vague project objectives
- different priorities in implementation
- different work styles or value systems
In addition, the different characters in the team and their network of relationships must be clear. In this regard, individual emotions often become dangerous accelerators of fire. This can be prevented with targeted preparation and emerging conflicts can be de-escalated in good time.
Conflict-free team building: Team members should have already met and worked together. It would be counterproductive to start the team building phase with a constructive conflict.
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2. Open approach
“Houston, we have a problem” – Call the child by name. If a conflict is felt, it must be addressed. Ignoring, repressing or denying does not bring one closer to the solution. On the contrary. Conflicts seething in the background often intensify tension and intensify emotions. If the team members know how to deal with emotions professionally, then the conflict will also be resolved faster. Calling frustration, anger or disappointment by name defuses emotionally charged discussions.
3. Analysis of needs, desires
Just as in the first step different characters must be aware, in the third step it is important to work out their values, needs and wishes. Because values and needs are behind the respective points of view or positions. Respect, recognition and appreciation are just three examples that significantly influence a person’s conversation or actions.
Barriers to freedom of expression in the team must be identified and eliminated: irrational need for harmony, too strong consensus orientation, strong opinion makers, camp formation, authoritarian project managers or product owners, zero tolerance for errors, etc.
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4. Mutual understanding
If I know that my counterpart attaches great importance to recognition and appreciation, I can also drop a “Thank you, excellent” if the work is well done. If you understand why your counterpart acts like it, it is easier to respond to it. Similarities create understanding, trust, and attachment. While the different positions of the team members on the one hand distance them far from each other, the common needs and mutual understanding reconnect them on the other hand.
Seek a qualified consensus: Rules must be defined for situations in which the team does not reach an agreement. For example, the team calls an independent expert or the project manager or the product owner decide.
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5. Strength through versatility
Solving problems is the specialty of interdisciplinary teams. Once the personal differences have been resolved, they can work towards a common goal again. The versatility of the individual team members and the acceptance of this heterogeneity leads to long-term success.
Common goals as a North Star: Debates can easily further distance participants of an agile team from each other. Common understanding of the goal and mission of the team creates the opposite and has a balancing effect.
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If no agreement is reached despite these steps, mediation by a neutral mediator can be another solution. The resolved conflict now opens up space for solution-oriented discussions and innovative strength, which, as Gustav Jung said, is greatest the more different we are.Child by name. If a conflict is felt, it must be addressed. Ignoring, repressing or denying does not bring one closer to the solution. On the contrary. Conflicts seething in the background often intensify tension and intensify emotions. If the team members know how to deal with emotions professionally, then the conflict will also be resolved faster. Calling frustration, anger or disappointment by name defuses emotionally charged discussions.
* Stefanie Krauss is the owner of Tech Mediation Krauss. She specializes in the optimization of work and communication processes in IT.