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Accelerating Performance by Sharon Toye, Colin Price

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CHAPTER 16Dissolving Paradox Reframe the Issue

Paradoxes can be fun brainteasers. The ancient Greeks had Zeno’s paradoxes, one of which says you can never get from Point A to Point B. You go halfway to Point B, then half of the rest of the way, then half again, and half again . . . but you never get all the way there. Mathematics gave us Russell’s paradox: Does the set of all sets that don’t contain themselves contain itself? (And led to variants such as the so-called barber paradox: Does a barber (a man) who shaves all and only men who don’t shave themselves shave himself?)

But paradoxes in the world of business are rarely fun, and you have to master them if you are to lead a healthy, accelerating organization. To create and lead healthy teams and a healthy organization in a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA), you must cultivate the ability not to shrink or hide from apparent tensions. You can exploit tensions and learn from them, and, critically, you can help others to do the same.

Being a leader throws up many apparent (and we should stress the word “apparent” here) tensions. There are apparent contradictions that are narrow and technical (the desire both for clear, single-point accountabilities and for natural, easy collaboration) and apparent tensions that are big and wide (we want to have both performance and health). CEOs face the simultaneous need for authenticity, which means holding fast to values, and adaptability, which means changing. ...

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