constructive-controversy

Constructive Controversy In A Nutshell

Constructive controversy is a theory arguing that controversial discussions create a good starting point for understanding complex problems. A constructive controversy discussion is performed by following six steps: organize information and derive conclusions; presenting and advocating decisions; being challenged by opposing views; conceptual conflict and uncertainty; epistemic curiosity and perspective-taking; and reconceptualization, synthesis, and integration.

Understanding constructive controversy

Decision making is an inherently controversial practice because disagreement and conflict are inevitable. Controversy arises because people make decisions based on perspectives, experiences, and rationale that are unique to them.

Constructive controversy is a deliberative discussion method. It endeavors to solve problems through the identification and resolution of constructive conflicts among team members. Constructive controversy differs from debating, which is a competitive process where one opinion wins at the expense of all others.

Instead of suppressing a difference of opinion or alternative solutions, the model encourages individuals to consider the rationale behind opposing views. Each group member is encouraged to validate their reasoning while seeking to accommodate the reasoning of others. 

Ultimately, this approach results in creative solutions and high group morale. Individuals also develop higher self-esteem because of an ability to successfully navigate conflict.

Implementing a constructive controversy discussion

A constructive controversy discussion is performed by following six steps:

Step 1 – Organise information and derive conclusions.

During this initial phase, everyone formulates a conclusion based on their current (but usually limited) perspective. While each person has confidence in their unique perspective, high-quality decision-making results when alternatives are properly evaluated.

Step 2 – Presenting and advocating decisions

When an individual presents the rationale behind their conclusion, they engage in high-level reasoning strategies. This deepens their understanding of the problem or decision. It also helps the individual defend their position against the position of someone else. 

The continual and somewhat cyclical process of advocating and defending a position reinforces high-level reasoning. Over time, greater amounts of information are fed into the decision making process.

Step 3 – Being challenged by opposing views

In a constructive controversy, group members critically analyze one another’s positions to discern strengths and weaknesses.

Opposing positions encourage individuals to research information not currently known to them. This helps them appreciate opposing positions which may indeed be advocated after further research.

Step 4 – Conceptual conflict and uncertainty

When an individual has their position criticized or challenged by information that is incompatible with their views, uncertainty develops.

Step 5 – Epistemic curiosity and perspective-taking

Uncertainty can be unpleasant, but it stimulates epistemic curiosity – or the desire to obtain new knowledge to stimulate intellectual interest.

In turn, this strengthens the reasoning process and makes individual positions more robust. At this stage, there may still be disagreement within the group and any opposition should be dealt with intellectually and cooperatively. 

Each individual must have a desire to look at an issue from multiple perspectives and consider facts in different ways.

Step 6 – Reconceptualization, synthesis, and integration

Each member of the group has now presented their best case solution. However, teams following the constructive controversy process should avoid simply choosing one solution from the list

Instead, the goal is to synthesize (integrate) different ideas and facts into a single, unifying solution. Synthesis means viewing the issue from a variety of perspectives and generating several means of applying the evidence in practice. 

This requires probabilistic thinking, which favors high-level reasoning under some degree of uncertainty. This is in stark contrast to dualistic thinking, which advocates notions of right and wrong and authority that should not be challenged 

Key takeaways:

  • Constructive controversy argues that constructive differences of opinion provide a solid foundation for tackling complex problems.
  • Constructive controversy encourages individuals to consider and validate the rationale behind opposing views. Group morale then increases as each individual develops creative thinking and conflict management skills.
  • Constructive controversy is described in six steps. Each helps the individual progress from blind confidence in their ideas to a collaborative, high-level form of reasoning and better decision making.

Main Free Guides:

Connected Business Frameworks

satisficing
Simon’s satisficing strategy is a decision-making technique where the individual considers various solutions until they find an acceptable option. Satisficing is a portmanteau combining sufficing and satisfying and was created by psychologist Herbert A. Simon. He argued that many individuals make decisions with a satisfactory (and not optimal) solution. Satisfactory decisions are preferred because they achieve an acceptable result and avoid the resource-intensive search for something more optimal.
cost-benefit-analysis
A cost-benefit analysis is a process a business can use to analyze decisions according to the costs associated with making that decision. For a cost analysis to be effective it’s important to articulate the project in the simplest terms possible, identify the costs, determine the benefits of project implementation, assess the alternatives.
go-no-go-decision-making
In general, terms, go/no-go decision making is a process of passing or failing a proposition. Each proposition is assessed according to criteria that determine whether a project advances to the next stage. The outcome of the go/no-go decision making is to assess whether to go or not to go with a project, or perhaps proceed with caveats.
force-field-analysis
Social psychologist Kurt Lewin developed the force-field analysis in the 1940s. The force-field analysis is a decision-making tool used to quantify factors that support or oppose a change initiative. Lewin argued that businesses contain dynamic and interactive forces that work together in opposite directions. To institute successful change, the forces driving the change must be stronger than the forces hindering the change.
decision-matrix
A decision matrix is a decision-making tool that evaluates and prioritizes a list of options. Decision matrices are useful when: A list of options must be trimmed to a single choice. A decision must be made based on several criteria. A list of criteria has been made manageable through the process of elimination.
cynefin-framework
The Cynefin Framework gives context to decision making and problem-solving by providing context and guiding an appropriate response. The five domains of the Cynefin Framework comprise obvious, complicated, complex, chaotic domains and disorder if a domain has not been determined at all.
strategic-analysis
Strategic analysis is a process to understand the organization’s environment and competitive landscape to formulate informed business decisions, to plan for the organizational structure and long-term direction. Strategic planning is also useful to experiment with business model design and assess the fit with the long-term vision of the business.
ladder-of-inference
The ladder of inference is a conscious or subconscious thinking process where an individual moves from a fact to a decision or action. The ladder of inference was created by academic Chris Argyris to illustrate how people form and then use mental models to make decisions.
kepner-tregoe-matrix
The Kepner-Tregoe matrix was created by management consultants Charles H. Kepner and Benjamin B. Tregoe in the 1960s, developed to help businesses navigate the decisions they make daily, the Kepner-Tregoe matrix is a root cause analysis used in organizational decision making.
heuristic
As highlighted by German psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer in the paper “Heuristic Decision Making,” the term heuristic is of Greek origin, meaning “serving to find out or discover.” More precisely, a heuristic is a fast and accurate way to make decisions in the real world, which is driven by uncertainty.
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