Dealing with Paradoxes in Organizations

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Dialectical Enquiry - Dialectics > Best Practices > Dealing with Paradoxes in Organizations

Dealing with Paradoxes in Organizations
Organizations are paradoxical in lots of ways and executives have to decide what to do with the intrinsically contradicting nature of many managerial issues.
It's useful to distinguish two (paradoxical!) approaches if you're faced with a paradox in an organization:
1A. The poles cannot be solved by their very nature
1B. The poles operate at different levels of the organization (e.g. individual, departmental, business unit, corporate level)
1C. The poles operate at different moments in time (following each other).
2A. Choose for one of the opposite sides (dilemma)
2B. Strike a balance between the two poles (average/trade off)
2C. Integrate the two poles (synthesis).
So next time you're facing a complex organizational issue, try to "play" in your mind with the above 2 approaches towards paradoxes at the same time.

Source of Paradoxes
Whenever a Paradox presents itself, be it in business or life, the access to moving beyond it is to get clear on the source of the paradox. You do this by examining at what level of thinking was the paradox created. What are the assumptions and intentions behind each side? What is the single highest level outcome that is desired? Most often what you will see is the Paradox will melt away as new options and possibilities will present themselves because what was fixed, no longer remains fixed.

Definition of Paradox
James C.
Wikipedia says a paradox is a statement or group of statements that leads to a contradiction or a situation which defies intuition; or, it can be an apparent contradiction that actually expresses a non-dual truth. Typically, either the statements in question do not really imply the contradiction, the puzzling result is not really a contradiction, or the premises themselves are not all really true or cannot all be true together.

Reconcilating seemingly contradicting forces, interests and approaches
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
Indeed Lothar, organizations are complex and can be viewed as meeting places for colliding forces, interests, etc as well as colliding approaches to deal with them. For simplicity sake, these phenomena can be temporarily represented as if they were contradicting, but the danger of doing so is that in reality they are NOT (even if it seems so initially). The optimal solution, innovation, progress or strategy can often be found through combining, reconcilating the seemingly contradicting forces, interests and approaches at hand.
As G.B. Shaw put it: For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.

Assuming other Persons' Perspective
Paradoxes are apparent contradictions, manifested as a result of the differences in perceived realities of people. One way to deal with this is to assume other persons' perspective, so that the perceived reality can become somewhat homogeneous. It is still subject to different interpretations and treatments, due to the richness of human behavior. But the highest possible level of outcome may then be achieved, I think.

Paradox as Healthy Dynamic
Tom Wilson, HR Consultant, United States, Premium Member
Paradox is largely the result of the limitations of language at the point where metaphor fails.
Marx made the mistake of reducing paradoxes to dilemmas and forcing a dialectical choice between the horns, often resulting in crippling an otherwise healthy dynamic.
If it's a true paradox, you should treat it with care.

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Dialectical Enquiry - Dialectics
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