The Power of the Paradox

Category: Strategy

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

A paradox occurs when you are able to achieve what appears to be two contradictory goals at the same time. For instance, to see the big picture and also analyze the details is a paradox. Similarly, so is to envision the future and act on it now.


For small business owners, there is a great deal of power in the paradox. As an individual, we need to develop both:

·         Patience and decisiveness

·         Big picture awareness and focused determination

·         Long term goal seeking and flexibility

As someone running a business, we need to balance:

·         Business purpose and profitability

·         Organizational values and rampant growth

·         Strategic goals and unexpected opportunities.

However, the power of the paradox is deeper than this. The real power is found when we embrace paradox and search it out.

The next time that you find yourself thinking that something is an either / or situation, turn it around and ask yourself, “How can I have both?”

For instance, is there a way that I can meet my strategic goals and also take advantage of an unexpected opportunity? And can I do so in a way that is consistent with what my company stands for?

The last question is the most important, and perhaps the hub of the paradox wheel. Once you have defined what your company stands for – its core values, you are free to make many contradictory seeming decisions as long as you stay true to the core values.

Let’s expand this even larger. Once you have defined what your internal brand is: the vision, mission, values and company belief systems, you have created a framework for evaluating all opportunities, goals, and tactics. If they are in alignment with your brand they are potentially good for your company.

Let me be clear here. I am not talking about creating a compromise situation. I am talking about staying true to both initiatives. This balance creates a tension that can be felt inside you. The tension seeks to provide both sides with equivalent attention, time, and prioritization.

How can you embrace the power of the paradox?