Polarity Management

Topics: Problem solving, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, Management Pages: 5 (1137 words) Published: November 6, 2010

Polarity Management
Thomas N. Bailey

Kaplan University


Professor Parson

November 2, 2010
1. Polarities and Polarity Management
Polarities are interdependent opposites which function best when both are present to balance with each other. By definition a "problem" is an issue which requires a solution. The goal of a problem is to find a fix to the current situation and move forward to a new reality without being required to ever look back. However, a "polarity" is an issue that needs to be addressed, but the "solution" is not one that can survive independently and will actually still require support from the original issue. “Polarity” can only be managed. A “polarity” is a dilemma or a paradox. In Barry Johnson’s book Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problem, he states “that many issues we define as problems to be solved are actually polarities which have interdependence and need to be managed not solve.” In their book Built to Last, James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras discuss how leaders fall prey to “The Tyranny of the Or”, the belief that one cannot live with two apparently contradictory ideas at the same time. They found that “The Tyranny of the OR pushes people to believe that things must be either A OR B, but not both. Instead of being oppressed by the Tyranny of OR, highly visionary companies liberate themselves with the Genius of the AND the ability embrace both extremes of a number of dimensions at the same time. Instead of choosing between A B, they figure out a way to have both A AND B.” Polarity management is a useful tool for recognizing, understanding, and managing complexities which makes the most of polarities to take advantage of positives and reduce negatives; a technique to have both A AND B. It involves moving from focusing on one pole as the problem and the other as the solution (either/or thinking), to valuing both poles (both/and thinking). Good polarity management gets the best of both poles while avoiding the limits of either. 2. The Polarity Map

Barry Johnson, author of the book Polarity Management, has studied these paradoxes for a number of years and developed a method to identify and successfully manage polarities. Barry acknowledges that decision making is critical; either/or choices must be made. A problem solving approach is naturally an important part of leadership. Our education system and organizations reward good problem solving skills. The result is we face most situations with a problem solving orientation, looking for the one right answer. But, Barry says in his book that “paradoxes or polarities can never be solved by problem solving or a decision…, they must be managed, requiring a “both/and solutions.” This concept of duality has been around for many years. The concept of Yin and Yang is found in ancient Chinese philosophy, which describes “two primal opposing but complementary forces found in all things in the universe.”

To manage polarity, Barry Johnson developed the polarity map. It is used to allow opposing viewpoints to work through the positives and negatives of both viewpoints to get the best outcome.
For this polarity map, Product Driven and Market Driven will be analyzed as teamwork is more and more prominent in the corporate environment, as well as in the simulation.

|L+ |R+ | | | | |synergistic effect |individual creativity and initiative | |common direction |entrepreneurial spirit | |mutual support...
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