Polarity Thinking

Learn to master the tensions of polarities.

Quick Steps

  1. Looking at the systems and challenges in your organization (or life), identify two values that seem to exist in opposition or tension.
  2. Assign the opposing values to the two ends of the horizontal axis in the polarity mapping template.
  3. In the top quadrants, write out everything you would HOPE to achieve by honoring or investing in the value on each side.
  4. In the bottom quadrants, list all of the things you FEAR might manifest if you were to overinvest in the value on one side while losing sight of the other interrelated value.
  5. Push yourself to see both sides of the issue and dynamic and consider the perspectives of all stakeholders who might be involved. Take note of which perspective is easier for you to empathize with and why.
  6. Identify the early signals and leading indicators that might warn you that your management of the polarity is slipping from achieving the goals in the upper quadrants to realizing the negative outcomes captured in the lower quadrants.
  7. Explore where and how you might better tune your systems to be aware of and responsive to these early signals to improve agility and outcomes overall.

You can download our PDF template for your Polarity Map to get you started.

And read up on Barry Johnson’s pioneering work on managing polarities.

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