Paradox photo - Please Do Not Touch

paradox is a statement that apparently contradicts itself and yet might be true (or wrong at the same time).

Figuring out and thinking through a paradox is an important and valuable exercise in any organizational environment, for individuals and teams.  This also becomes valuable for leadership decision making and judgment calls.

Thinking through paradoxes is also extremely useful to stretch, question and develop our own thinking ability and approach.  From personal experiences, the lack of clarity and absence of active dialogues on such topics can lead to confusion, frustration and stress within organizations.  Getting caught in ‘no man’s land’ on decisions happens more frequently than we imagine.

Leaders encounter many of the following paradoxes frequently (all but one are from the book, “HR From The Outside In”).

  • Business & People
    How do you balance the tradeoff between people and business?
  • Organization & Individual
    How do you manage the tensions between individual talent and teamwork, individual ability and organizational capability? How do you balance differentiating top performers and rest of employees?
  • Outside & Inside
    How do you simultaneously understand the dynamics and operate in the external and internal environments?
  • Strategic & Administrative
    How do you balance flawless execution of administrative and operational actions with strategic adaptation to future business scenarios?
  • Short Term & Long Term
    How do you choose between short term and long term benefits, especially in decision making?

There may also be relationships to be considered among these paradoxes.  e.g., balancing the tradeoffs between business and people may need to take into consideration the balance between the future and past.

We can build clarity through a continuing, active dialogue with ourselves, our stakeholders, teams regarding our thinking, core principles and approach.  This becomes fundamental for success and increased effectiveness in a constantly changing world.

It is great to see that the 2016 RBL Group/University of Michigan HR Competency model includes ‘Paradox Navigator’ and brings out many tensions commonly faced – tensions between global and local business demands, between the need for change and stability, between the internal focus on employees and external focus on customers and investors, and between high level strategic issues and operational details.

How do you think about and manage these paradoxes?

What other paradoxes do you encounter?

(Previously posted on Linkedin)

Suggested reading:

  • Paradox – Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox
  • Book – “HR From The Outside In – Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources”; Dave Ulrich, Jon Younger, Wayne Brockbank, Mike Ulrich; McGraw Hill.
  • Paradoxes for HR – http://www.tojoeapen.com/blog/paradoxes-for-hr/
  • 2016 HR Competency Model – The RBL Group, University of Michigan
  • Image Credit – Zach Stern, The Observer’s Paradox, http://foter.com,https://www.flickr.com/photos/zachstern/7532320120/