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In our lifetime, many situations that might seem “either-or” are actually inter-dependent. If we can leverage the positive valence of both sides, we will be led to a virtuous cycle. What this requires is our ability to see situations from the lens of polarity.

One example is a debate that often occurs in business; should we focus more on ideation or execution? Focusing on ideation can create innovative product ideas, but focusing too heavily on it could result in arriving to the market later than others. Focusing on execution can keep products up-to-date, but too much focus on execution can kill innovation. An optimum state would be tapping into the virtuous cycle that aligns the value of both.

Another example is to promote nationalism over globalism as a country’s diplomatic approach. This “either or” perspective creates tension and divides a country since it only focuses on the advantage of nationalism and the disadvantage of globalism.

From the lens of polarity, nationalism and globalism are interdependent. They both provide values (positive upsides) and also have their issues (negative downsides). Leveraging the value of both and minimizing the issues of each is the key to an effective diplomacy that can lead a country to freedom and prosperity.

To help facilitate such polarity thinking, Barry John created a Polarity Map that uses four quadrants to map the upsides and downsides of two interdependent elements (poles). The map helps explore the current dilemma and consequent options based on the “both-and” polarity perspective.

The power of polarity thinking in leadership is to have the capacity to include differences, promote collaboration, and allow space for innovation and self-expression at the same time. This leads to a happier and healthier organizations!

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