Embracing a Strategic Paradox

Conflicting demands within a business can be a source of creativity and opportunity — if they are handled well.

The writer F. Scott Fitzgerald once observed, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

But within a business, opposing ideas typically lead to conflict, and in the face of conflicting demands, managers will feel anxiety, stress, and frustration. However, our research at Aeon Co. Ltd., one of Japan’s largest retailers, suggests that a positive approach to handling conflicts between opposing ideas can create new value for a company.

Like many retailers, ...

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