Can Conflict Lead to Innovation?

conflict create innovation

The Relationship Between Conflict and Innovation

Suzette Kent has been serving as the Federal Chief Information Officer at the Office of Management and Budget since early 2018 and in that time has been addressing a number of challenges related to IT and cybersecurity recruitment, modernizing IT best practices, and private sector partnerships, and more. All of these challenges are ones that we’ve also seen in the private sector (especially in older organizations). But she made an interesting statement about the future of government technology innovation when she spoke at the Professional Services Council event that provides her answer to the question: can conflict lead to innovation?

Kent noted that many of America’s best public-private sector partnership inventions emerged in times of conflict, citing WWII discoveries and noting how we are in a new time of conflict today that also necessitates collaborative creativity.  She said, “we’re in a different kind of battle. We’re in a cyber battle, and we’re in a technology battle, and we need that same kind of dialogue and that same kind of push to continue.”

So, is necessity really the mother of invention? Well, it turns out there are a lot of researchers that think so.

Doug Upchurch, Chief Learning Architect at Insights said “the two main benefits of healthy conflict are innovation and improvement.”

A Harvard Business Review article detailed how Pixar has always been able to stay at the top of their game, because they have a collaborative process that is geared towards fostering and organizing conflict in order to nurture innovation.

And because a shared sense of duty or mission can be highly motivating, there are other researchers who say large-scale conflict (like war) can inspire technological advances that are used for non-combat purposes, as well, like the telegraph or railroads.

Kent believes that this conflict is empowering three things: a mandate for leadership to act, a recognition of the power of technology, and resources to meet our goals. What do you think this means for government?

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