“The best managers are happy to hold two or more opposing views on an issue because they know the world is complex. And in business, it’s crucial to be able to react to the world in all its complex and paradoxical glory.” Spot on from one of my old academic acquaintances, Professor Sydney Finkelstein at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.
As F. Scott Fitzgerald famously put it: “The ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function is the sign of a first-rate intelligence.” Over the years, in business, I’ve called this power of paradox And/And. It’s about putting two unlikely ideas together and discounting neither.
Never was this truer because the chaos factor has ramped up across the board. Running a major company or country is quite the challenge these days, one where freight trains come at you out of nowhere. “That’s what I wake up to each morning. I get a thick book full of death, destruction, strife and chaos. That’s what I take with my morning tea.” – said President Obama, in an interview with Vox.
Turmoil is everywhere and impacts everyone. I often get asked how to rev up a start-up business amidst so much chaos. The acceleration point is as paradoxical as the decision points along the way. Don’t run from chaos. Run towards it. Hire a group who can not only manage change and complexity, but who actually enjoy chaos. You can only thrive in chaos if you bloody love it. To avoid being disrupted, point your trouble-makers at killer problems and get out of their way.