Tacking Amid Tensions: Using Oscillation to Enable Creativity in Diverse Teams

Sam R. Wilson, William C. Barley, Luisa Ruge-Jones, Marshall Scott Poole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Diverse teams may potentiate greater creativity through divergent thinking. Yet research suggests these teams face a dilemma: the very features that make them promising are associated with persistent communication challenges that threaten their effectiveness. We turn to the literature on dialectical tensions to argue that a process of oscillation, consisting of repeated alternation between moments of divergence, emphasizing the differentiation of perspectives, and moments of convergence, emphasizing integrating ideas to produce coordination, may mobilize the tension between differentiation and integration effectively. We explore the utility of our framework by applying it to the experiences of a diverse cohort of researchers who engaged in a purposefully designed oscillatory process to generate research projects related to climate resilience. Our multimethod evaluation of this case indicates that oscillation was effective for creative idea generation. This work contributes to both practice and scholarship in interdisciplinary teamwork support, creativity, and organizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-28
Number of pages24
JournalThe Journal of Applied Behavioral Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • collaboration
  • convergence
  • creativity
  • divergence
  • diversity
  • group processes
  • teams

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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