Who has conflicts with whom?: a social capital approach to conflict and creativity in teams
Extant team conflict research treats conflict as a shared perceptual team property whereby it is assumed that all of a team's members experience equivalent amounts of conflict. This traditional approach is silent concerning whether team members vary according to how much conflict each team member experiences with each of their team members. This customary treatment of team conflict as a shared perceptual property of the team has led to inconsistent findings in the empirical record concerning the predictive power of the team conflict construct for predicting a team's creativity. In an effort to provide conceptual and empirical clarity to this issue, the present dissertation utilized social capital theory and analysis to examine the relationship between team conflict and team creativity. With its explicit focus on dyadic interactions, social capital is argued to be a more appropriate lens than the conventional paradigm for understanding how and why conflicts between team members influence team members' ability to be creative. It is argued that a social capital approach provides a more rigorous and appropriate test of the theoretical and empirical justifications for the team conflict--team creativity relationship. The dissertation attempted to replicate and extend the findings of previous studies of team conflict and team creativity by utilizing measures of conflict derived using both sociometric and psychometric methods. Results from a lagged study of 132 teams engaged in a complex, 10-week business game simulation revealed that team conflict was predictive of team creativity using the traditional, yet less precise, psychometric method, but was not predictive of team creativity using the sociometric method. The study's inability to replicate previous research findings using the social capital approach calls into question the validity of traditional team conflict approaches for predicting team creativity. Further, the discrepant findings open a new line of inquiry addressing when and under what conditions the social capital approach to conflict predicts team creativity.