Although paradoxes often trip us up, embracing contradictory ideas may actually be the secret to creativity and leadership.
Working life often involves the push and pull of various contradictory demands. Doctors and nurses need to provide highest quality healthcare at the lowest cost; musicians want to maintain their artistic integrity while also making a sack full of cash. A teacher has to impose toughdiscipline for the good of the class – being “cruel to be kind”.
Being dragged in two different directions, simultaneously, should only create tension and stress. And yet some exciting and highly counter-intuitive research suggests that these conflicts can often work in our favour. Over a series of studies, psychologists and organisational scientists have found that people who learn to embrace, rather than reject, opposing demands show greater creativity, flexibility and productivity. The dual constraints actually enhance their performance.
The researchers call this a “paradox mindset” – and there never be a better time to start cultivating it than these very challenging times.
Think like Einstein
Although this concept may sound counter-intuitive, it is inspired by a long history of research showing that contemplation of apparent contradictions can break down our assumptions, offering us wholly new ways of looking at the problem.