I recently read a summary introduction of Barry Johnson’s Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems. In this paper, Johnson describes “unsolvable problems” in organizations. As the title suggests, these are not just problems that we haven’t found answers to yet, but problems that can’t be solved; instead, he prescribes managing the problems, using the term “polarities”. In these polarities, we oscillate between two neutral poles. Focusing on one pole over the other leads to negative consequences, while managing both poles leads to a positive outcome, a “Higher Purpose”.
Johnson is pretty vague in terms of the types of organizations he is referring to in this summary, but once understood, we as teachers recognize that we encounter these polarities every single day. We don’t need to be the administrators of our organizations to realize that we constantly move between two poles in a myriad of contexts.
One clear example is that of…
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