Breaking the Paradox: Understanding How Teams Create Developmental Space

Karin Derksen*, Robert J. Blomme, Léon de Caluwé, Joyce Rupert, Robert Jan Simons

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Past research shows that teams working on a complex task need developmental space to be successful. They can create this space in their interaction by undertaking four activities: creating future, reflecting, organizing, and dialoguing. These four activities refer to two orientations: the performance orientation, limiting the space, and the sensemaking orientation, opening up the space. Teams need them both, yet it seems inconsistent and impossible to achieve together, thus a paradox. In this exploratory research, we address the way in which teams experience and handle that “developmental space paradox,” and how it affects team success. Individual team members (N = 70) from 12 teams were interviewed. Successful (n = 7) and unsuccessful (n = 5) teams were compared. The results show that successful teams experience this paradox differently than the unsuccessful teams, and that both categories choose other coping strategies to handle this paradox.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-380
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Management Inquiry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • group decision making
  • groups/group processes/dynamics
  • teams


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