Study: Conflict and contradictions within corporations foster innovation

Colleagues during a business meeting

New research from York University’s Schulich School of Business has shown conflict and contradictions within corporations not only foster innovation but can also create a competitive advantage and drive strategic change and renewal.

Moshe Farjoun is a Professor of Strategy and Organization at the Schulich School of Business, York University
Moshe Farjourn

Moshe Farjoun, a professor of strategic management/policy at the Schulich School of Business, co-authored the research paper together with Peer C. Fiss, a professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California.

Titled, “Thriving on contradiction: Toward a dialectical alternative to fit-based models in strategy (and beyond),” the paper was published in the Strategic Management Journal.

The following abstract from the paper summarizes the findings:

“Prior thinking suggests that firm strategies should focus on achieving fit between the firm’s different elements such as activities, organizational structures, and policies, and that tensions and inconsistencies should be eliminated or minimized. Using the examples of firms such as Amazon, Intel, Netflix, Oticon, and Patagonia to illustrate key aspects of their model, the authors, Professors Farjoun and Fiss, argue that the established view overlooks the important role of contradictions in fostering innovation and competitive advantage and driving strategic change and renewal.

“Conflicts and contradictions pose their own risks. Yet, given the potential for their firms to thrive on contradictions, managers and strategists should neither dismiss these challenges nor be paralyzed by them. Instead of stamping out tensions and contradictions, managers can apply a process of ‘disciplined incoherence’ where they relinquish some control while drawing on organizational arrangements and their own creativity and skills to allow contradictions to develop.”

A copy of the full study is available here.