“And at the same time…”: considering paradoxes as opportunities
We often think of the art of decision-making as a relatively linear analytical process. One would only need to define the problem, identify some options, assess them according to weighted criteria, and then select the best option. But is this really the case?
Reality proves far more complex. The authors of the book Both/And Thinking thus define paradoxes as “contradictory yet interdependent elements that exist simultaneously and persist over time”: two problems that appear antinomic, as solving one makes the other worse. The energy sector is an illustrative case in point: its companies are under pressure to, simultaneously, ensure growth and profitability and reduce their environmental footprint.
Some exhaust themselves, faced with what they perceive as paradoxical injunctions. Others succeed in developing what the authors call a “paradoxical mindset”. These people see paradoxes as invitations to be creative in order to overcome apparent contradictions; it energizes them. Studies have shown that recruiting people who have this vision of things, and training others to take on this mindset, enhances performance in periods of uncertainty. That is how Unilever was able to considerably increase its sales revenue, while also halving its environmental impact.
A new criteria to be integrated into your recruitment and training plans?
Source: Both/And Thinking, Wendy K. Smith, Marianne W. Lewis, Harvard Business Review Press, 2022.