Balancing and Paradox

20151104_145251You may have noticed that in the last two posts I have used the word balancing. I have not used the word balance and have not mentioned finding a balance. This is because balancing is a verb whereas balance is a noun and finding balance gives the impression that some end point can be discovered if we look well enough. If we were to think we could ‘find’ a balance, some kind of end point we would be falling into the same OUCH! producing dynamic as we have right now, as we tread along the left edge of our field, quite immersed in the psychological perspective of organizations and working within those organizations.

So what might balancing be like?

As we walk along this field that has been mentioned in the last two posts, with the chasm of determinism (psychological) on the left and relativism (social construction) on the right we are always moving along; new situations and contexts, new people, new things to consider, new things to entrench. At times we will move further to the left side of the field and at other times to the right. We will constantly be balancing the psychological perspective with the social construction perspective and since those two perspectives are so different we will find ourselves living in a never ending and irresolvable paradox.

At an individual level this paradox rests between two polarities:

  1. We, as an individual are the most important thing in our world and as an individual we can create certainty in our lives by making the right choices.
  2. We, as an individual are one of countless variables affecting our world and as an individual we live in constant uncertainty and our choices don’t really matter since any other variable is just as important.

Kind of feels a bit like an OUCH! doesn’t it!

However, I don’t think we have really given ourselves much of a chance to consider what this paradox might feel like at all, especially in mainstream OD, since in essence, point 2 does not exist! At least it does not exist in the mainstream content we are exposed to in terms of how we understand organizations and people within them.

Go and try to find a book, article, keynote speaker, podcast, video or anything else focused on organizations that seriously considers point 2.

And yet, each one of us experiences point 2 time and time again in our organizations and in our organizational lives. In our very real and day-to-day experiences point 2 absolutely exists. It is very likely that our day-to-day experience in organizations is much more like point 2 than point 1!

Balancing therefore begins with an acceptance of point 2, which in effect is nothing more than accepting, seriously accepting the reality of our day-to-day experiences in organizations.

This may not be comfortable, but it is real. And it acknowledges the reality of our experiences rather than making us feel guilty or inadequate because of them.

What this also means, is that due to the current and mainstream psychological perspective about organizations, balancing requires us to be hyper critical of mainstream OD content and processes. To demand an explanation of why and how this content and these processes will actually create what they espouse.

After taking these steps it may certainly feel like you are alone in the dark with no clue which way to turn to find a sense of security and purpose. So balancing also means acknowledging that in each and every moment we do have choices available to us, and we can certainly make those choices, to the very best of our wonderful abilities; and see what happens.

Balancing is recognizing that the feeling of being alone in the dark is quite normal as well as the fact that we can choose which direction to go, fully realizing that once we make that choice of direction, we may still find ourselves alone in the dark, or we may find a place much more hospitable.

When I work with people on strategy I emphasize a perspective that I think captures this idea of balancing within the context of strategy. I ask each person to hold on as tightly and rigorously as they can to what they think is right, and also to be prepared to let go of what they think is right as soon as other perspectives emerge. In order to take this perspective you have to be very focused and accepting of the reality and legitimacy of what is happening in the present.

The last few posts have looked at the balancing of the psychological perspective with that of social construction. The next posts will look at the other mainstream perspective of OD; structures and systems, and the balancing perspective of interaction.



One Response

  1. […] the last post it was stated that one of the ways of balancing mainstream OD perspectives required being hyper […]

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