This morning, I've been exploring ways to design collaborative endeavors to be more resilient and sustainable. Benefiting from paradoxes seems like viable strategy to me. The book Built to Last suggested this approach as "escaping from the tyranny of either/or". The benefits of ten different paradoxes seem essential to the collaborative enterprises I have in mind. They include the paradoxes of:
- big & small
- abundance & scarcity
- appreciation & evaluation
- open & closed
- structure & process
- external & internal
- local & non-local
- delivering & discovering
- interdependent & independent
- top-down authority & bottom-up democracy
Taking the first paradox as an example, the benefits of big & small include:
- taking advantage of being big to handle the volume, accumulate reserves, establish a visible presence etc.
- taking advantage of being small to respond to individual requests, adapt quickly to changing situations, relate personally to neighbors, etc.
- being big in a small way that provides the intimacy, responsiveness and adaptability without losing the advantages of being big
- being small in a big way that handles a high volume, coverage and visibility without losing the personal touch from being small
When the benefits of any paradox like this gets realized, it seems like "we can have it both ways". We keep either extreme in a continuing balancing act that accommodates both positions. This results in far fewer debilitating conflicts, political skirmishes and divisive factions within the endeavor. There is more harmony in the day-to-day operations and better responses to crises. The ongoing collaborations become more feasible, strategic, adaptive and efficient.