The Paradoxical Gift of Paradox

This is just a quick post on something that hit me yesterday.  In preparing for a strategic planning session this week, I realized that no matter how many of these I do, there is always a paradoxical feeling of being nervous about doing an excellent job for my client and being confident (hopefully not arrogance) in being great at what I do.  After all, the stakes are pretty high: people’s livelihoods, families, safe working environments, taxes paid to schools, police, etc. and the rest of a business ecosystem to say the least. 

It’s that paradoxical feeling that keeps me on my toes, asking dumb questions, challenging the status quo and trying to draw out the client’s wisdom and courage to grow.   This week, the client’s leader is the epitome of paradox!  He is one of the most innovative, creative, ‘out-there’ thinkers I’ve ever met and one of the most dependent on routine and habit.  That paradox is the reason they have more than doubled growth in 3 years - paradoxically in an industry that is shrinking! 

As some of you know, I love paradoxes.  They make us think, explore, reflect, discover, search, question. Innovation is found in new combinations of existing ‘stuff’.  Paradox is crucial to making that happen – it leads us to revisit and question assumptions, to combine things in ways we didn’t or couldn’t have imagined, to take the best of both and discard the worst.  Paradox makes us ask Why and Why Not repeatedly. Paradox puts us out there at the edge (per John Hagel), where new things are happening, even if it’s not always ‘safe’.

So this week, as a few of us will be intensely embracing paradoxes, why don’t you too?  Look for just one area in your business, organization, environment that seems counterintuitive, that is an oxymoron and question why, and why not.  Please share what you discover.