A primary advantage of working in groups rather than alone is to benefit from other people’s ideas. People differ in how they perceive situations, how they think through problems, and how they creatively form solutions. It is inevitable then, that in a group of people, differences of opinion will emerge regarding what the group should do and how it should do it. While dealing with these differences takes time and willingness to listen to different perspectives, it is critical to making the most of the knowledge and talent that exists in the group.
It is important to distinguish controversy from conflict. A conflict has opposing sides, two different positions on an idea. People align with one side or the other and debate whose side is right. Visually, conflict draws a line, with people taking a position on one side or the other. A controversy, on the other hand, also involves differing opinions about an idea; however, positions on the issue are not staked out, with one person hoping to “win” over the other. Rather than aligning with one side or another, controversy draws everyone into a circle around the idea, to discuss their different perspectives on it. While conflict is aimed at one side winning over the other side, the goal of controversy is for everyone to understand the issue from multiple points of view, in order to make a better decision. Controversy reflects a thoughtful and considered difference of opinion.
---extract from Susan R. Komives, Wendy Wagner, and Associates (2009) Leadership for a better world: understanding the social change model of leadership development.
pdf document: Distinguishing Controversy from Conflict