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The Power of Paradox

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The Power of Paradox

Harness the Energy of Competing Ideas to Uncover Radically Innovative Solutions

Career Press,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Why choose between two conflicting strategies when you can reap the benefits of both?

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Consultant Deborah Schroeder-Saulnier argues that “paradox thinking” may be an executive’s most effective course of action. Too often, leaders rely on “either/or” thinking when making decisions: “Should we cut costs or invest in growth?” “Should we go after global opportunities or concentrate on local markets?” Schroeder-Saulnier suggests replacing either/or thinking with “both/and” thinking: Instead of trying to nail down the better of two options, she recommends figuring out how to balance contradictory – but interdependent – options and reap the benefits of both. Her insights are valuable, but her presentation proves occasionally difficult to follow. Fortunately, she explains her five-point plan for identifying, categorizing and contending with your firm’s paradoxes clearly – and sums everything up admirably in the appendix. For its central point and action plan, getAbstract recommends her insightful take on paradoxes to strategic planners at growing companies, corporate leaders, start-ups and business students.


“Paradox Thinking”

Should you cut costs or invest in growth opportunities? Seek out global expansion or fulfill local potential? The best answer might be “yes.” Paradox thinking – the ability to pursue two contradictory goals at the same time – is an essential skill for ensuring your organization’s long-term viability.

Traditionally, business leaders have viewed decision making as an “either/or” prospect. They believe that analyzing any two options will clarify which choice would garner the most benefits. But every option carries positives and negatives. By favoring one choice, you reap its benefits but you also must accept its drawbacks. For instance, focusing on cost cutting improves the bottom line in the short term, but it also undermines your company’s ability to innovate, which damages your long-term prospects.

Shift your thinking from the either/or model to a “both/and” model. Instead of determining which option is better, balance conflicting needs and goals. This gives you the benefits of both options and minimizes each one’s negative aspects. “If your thinking about your business is truly balanced as you approach issues, challenges and opportunities, ...

About the Author

Business consultant Deborah Schroeder-Saulnier, DMgt, is the president and CEO of Excel Leadership Solutions in St. Louis, Missouri, and has worked with Fortune 500 firms worldwide.

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    E. B. 8 years ago
    Chip Heath in 'Decisive' writes also about the concept of not thinking 'either/or' as part of four principles that can help us to overcome our brains' natural biases to make better, more informed decisions--in our lives, careers, families and organizations. These books complement each other.

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