There are problems you can solve (puzzles) and there are problems you have to manage.

Ongoing problems have no end point, are not solvable, have interdependent alternatives, cannot stand alone and contain mutually inclusive opposites

The polarity approach works most effectively when you are presented with a situation that appears to require you to fulfil two requirements that are mutually exclusive.

At its simplest in order to survive you have to breathe in and breathe out. But breathing in means you can’t breathe out and breathing out means you can’t breathe in. You can’t choose one or the other alone for obvious reasons. Nor can you take a position between the two. The solution to the breathing issue is sequence and movement and this is the essence of the polarity model.

The following example relates to partnership and organisational working but it works equally well for any situation that presents this type of dilemma.

1 What are you trying to achieve and what are you trying to avoid? In this case health and social gain for the population and to avoid ongoing deterioration.

2 What are the two extremes of approach that you cannot reconcile? In this case organisational leadership and shared leadership in partnership.

3 In the subsequent 4 stages the benefits or upsides and the disadvantages and downsides of each approach are inserted

The subsequent discussion draws out the values of different individuals and the need to adopt approaches that play to the strengths of each side and avoid the downsides. This involves movement of thinking and action and ensuring that one is not locked into one side of the argument, there are merits and strengths in each and each must be used if the complexity of the situation is to be engaged.

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