How To Embrace A Paradox Mindset

Written by Dave Bailey

Team members battling with a paradox mindset

Life throws a lot of paradoxes at you. For example, you need to work as hard as humanly possible but you also need to have a life. You need to listen to customers but you also need to ignore them sometimes too. You need to be innovative and take risks but you need to stay lean and efficient as well.

While choosing one side of the paradox is delightfully clear and easy to communicate, it always leaves you with the downsides of the other. Yes, you’re working harder than your competitors, but at home you’re cruising towards a divorce.

How do you break the paradox?

You may need to cultivate a new skill: The Paradox Mindset. This means shifting from ‘either/or’ to ‘both/and’.

Rather than a single, high-level decision, you need to create nuanced decisions that define when to embrace either side.

Yes, business — like everything else — is nuanced. There are no easy answers.

How do you get your team to embrace the Paradox Mindset?

Here are three things you can do:

1) Talk about the Paradox Mindset as a useful skill (positive labelling).

2) Frame questions in terms of ‘both/and’, e.g., how can we achieve ‘both X and Y?’ (active reflection).

3) Encourage managers to discuss the Paradox Mindset with their team (‘saying is believing’).


Originally published Apr 13, 2021, last updated Jun 1, 2021

psychology scale-up strategy

About Dave Bailey

Hi, I’m Dave Bailey and I coach tech CEOs from Series A to pre-IPO. Join 20,000 entrepreneurs who receive my new essay every week. 

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