My Product Management Toolkit (62): Morton’s Resolution Model

3 min readMar 17, 2024


In my book Managing Product = Managing Tension I wrote about the importance of healthy conflict. If you can challenge each other’s ideas or opinions constructively, you’ll be able to resolve conflict in a productive manner. Since writing my book I’ve learned about “Morton’s Resolution Model” by Morton Deutsch. Deutsch was a social psychologist who wrote about his conflict resolution model in The Handbook of Conflict Resolution.

Image Credit: The New York Times

Instead of seeking ways to avoid conflict, Morton’s Resolution Model examines the factors which determine whether a conflict is constructive or destructive and encourages us to face into conflict. First, Deutsch sets out the variables that determine the destructive or constructive outcome of a conflict:

Parties — Who are the parties involved in the conflict? What are their values, motivations and goals? How do they feel about conflict?

Relationship — What’s the prior relationship between parties? Think about power dynamics, attitudes and degrees of trust between parties.

Environment — What does the conflict’s social environment look like? What kind of social norms are at play?

Issue — The nature of the issue causing the conflict. How important is the issue to the parties? How often does this issue arise?

Interested parties — Any additional parties that may have a vested interested in the outcomes of a conflict. What is their influence over the parties in conflict?

Strategy — What are the strategies and tactics used by the parties to the conflict? The outcome of a conflict is influenced by the nature of the strategies used; do parties’ actions encourage cooperation or are they coercive?

Consequences — What are the consequences of the conflict to each of the parties and the other interested parties? Think for example about short-terms wins and losses or long term conflict impact.

Deutsch has identified several types of conflict:

  • Vertical conflict → A vertical conflict can’t be resolved easily, because it typically involves one party winning and the other party losing something.
  • Contingent conflict → The contingent conflict can be affected by an external factor. Parties could resolve the conflict if they knew about the external factor.
  • Displaced conflict → In a displaced conflict parties are arguing about something that isn’t the real source of the conflict. The underlying conflict isn’t being addressed due to a variety of reasons (e.g. parties not feeling safe to address the issue at the heart of the conflict).
  • Misattributed conflict → Misattributed conflict happen when the wrong parties are in conflict, and are then fighting about the wrong things. This can be resolved by identifying the right parties and issues that need to be addressed.
  • Latent conflict → A conflict can be latent if parties haven’t acknowledged the conflict or are avoiding it.
  • False conflict → A false conflict occurs when there’s no real disagreement between parties. These conflicts don’t happen often as they can often be resolved by clearing up any misunderstanding.

Main learning point: Morton’s Resolution Model helps us to better understand the nature of a conflict, and provides insights in the factors that determine its outcome.




Product person, author of "My Product Management Toolkit" and “Managing Product = Managing Tension” — see