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Conflict and creativity in inter-organizational teams: The moderating role of shared leadership

Nan Hu (School of Management, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China)
Zhi Chen (School of Business Administration, Shanghai Lixin University of Accounting and Finance, Shanghai, China)
Jibao Gu (School of Management, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu, China)
Shenglan Huang (School of Business Administration, Shanghai Finance University, Shanghai, China)
Hefu Liu (School of Management, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Article publication date: 13 February 2017

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to examine the effects of task and relationship conflicts on team creativity, and the moderating role of shared leadership in inter-organizational teams. An inter-organizational team normally comprises employees from collaborated organizations brought together to conduct an initiative, such as product development. Practitioners and researchers have witnessed the prevalence of conflict in inter-organizational teams. Despite significant scholarly investigation into the importance of conflict in creativity, a deep theoretical understanding of conflict framework remains elusive.

Design/methodology/approach

A questionnaire survey was conducted in China to collect data. Consequently, 54 teams, which comprised 54 team managers and 276 team members, were deemed useful for the study.

Findings

By testing our hypotheses on 54 inter-organizational teams, we found that relationship conflict has a negative relationship with team creativity, whereas task conflict has an inverted U-shaped (curvilinear) relationship with team creativity. Furthermore, when shared leadership is stronger, the negative relationship with team creativity is weaker for relationship conflict, whereas the inverted U-shaped relationship with team creativity is stronger for task conflict.

Research limitations/implications

The main limitation is cross-sectional, which cannot establish causality in relationships. Despite this potential weakness, the present research provides insights into conflict, leadership and inter-organizational collaboration literature.

Practical implications

The findings of this study offer some guidance on how managers can intervene in the conflict situations of inter-organizational teams.

Social implications

Managers are struggling to identify ways to effectively manage team conflict when a team of diverse individuals across organizational boundaries are brought together to solve a problem. The findings of this study offer some guidance on how managers can intervene in the conflict situations of inter-organizational teams.

Originality/value

This paper provides understandings about how relationship and task conflicts affect team creativity in inter-organizational teams.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

We wish to thank the reviewers and handling editor for valuable suggestion and advice, which led to an improvement of this paper. This paper is supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (71371177).

Citation

Hu, N., Chen, Z., Gu, J., Huang, S. and Liu, H. (2017), "Conflict and creativity in inter-organizational teams: The moderating role of shared leadership", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 74-102. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCMA-01-2016-0003

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited