Image: Cooperation, exemplary image. ;)
The famous robbers cave field experiment conducted by Muzafer Sherif (1954, 1958, 1961) investigated how and why group conflicts occur.
Sherif argued that conflict between groups (intergroup conflicts) occur in case of two groups are in competition for limited resources (like e.g recognition etc)
The research group arranged an artificial competitional environment (which does not necessarily reflect real life conditions) where friction conflict and frustration between the groups was likely to occur.It didn’t take long and the predictions of the researchers came true, the two groups had become strong rivals and behaved hostile to each other. The conflicts only subsided as the researchers began to create situations in which the opposing groups had to solve problems together, thus creating a common goal and vision to achieve these goals.
Sherifs studies could teach us a little bit about organizational conflicts like eg silo thinking, political and ego driven processes, etc – which we are often confronted with in our work as experience designers and which have a direct impact on product development and at the end of the day: the users’s experience. The experiemnts also emphasize how important it is to have common goals and therefore a common vision.
The study was and is ethically questionable and was also biased. Nevertheless I think it can teach us about how intergroup conflicts occur, what to do against it – also in organizational structures and teams.
Sherif, M. (1954). Experimental study of positive and negative intergroup attitudes between experimentally produced groups: robbers cave study.