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Constructive controversy research in the business organizational context: A literature review

Albert Vollmer (Center for Organizational and Occupational Sciences (ZOA), ETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland)
Sarah Seyr (Center for Organizational and Occupational Sciences (ZOA), ETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Article publication date: 30 September 2013

1393

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present the state-of-the-art in empirical research on constructive controversy in the context of business organizations and to outline strategic implications both for research and practical application.

Design/methodology/approach

Literature search on constructive controversy in relevant databases identified 33 empirical publications from 1980 to 2009. The paper analyzes and summarizes characteristics of the studies, methodological approaches, and empirical findings.

Findings

The literature review reveals that most studies are conducted in the industrial and service sector. Authors mostly apply a quantitative approach using interviews, experiments, and surveys. Empirical findings show that constructive controversy supports decision making, learning, interpersonal relationships, and productivity. In most cases goal interdependence is taken as independent variable.

Research limitations/implications

There is a need for further consolidating the findings either by experimental verification or by field studies. A processual and longitudinal approach should be emphasized and the methodical repertory should be expanded by applying qualitative methods like observation. There is a need for expanding the scope of constructs and analyzing post-modern collaboration forms. Linking controversy to organizational processes like organizational learning would lead to a deeper understanding of innovation processes in organizations.

Practical implications

The implementation of the controversy procedure can support organizational processes like decision making, problem solving, learning, and innovation. This offers opportunities to expand the research field.

Originality/value

This article provides a systematic review on constructive controversy in the business context for the first time.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors want to thank the reviewers for their constructive and encouraging feedback that helped improve the publication.

Citation

Vollmer, A. and Seyr, S. (2013), "Constructive controversy research in the business organizational context: A literature review", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 24 No. 4, pp. 399-420. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCMA-07-2011-0055

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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