Adaptive Talent’s focus is on helping organizations achieve great results and ensure ongoing adaptability. We know that greater internal complexity and maturity – the ability to see and hold greater paradox, to see the various systems affecting your world, to have strong self-awareness, compassion, and management, empathy, and agile learning – creates greater chance of success in greater volatility, uncertainty, complexity (when the past is not a helpful predictor of the present / future), and ambiguity. One concept I’ve come to love are polarities, which are two interdependent values (inhaling AND exhaling; centralized AND decentralized; investing AND savings; execution AND innovation; quality AND cost; part and whole are a few examples) that are tensions to be managed, not problems to be solved (in other words, it’s an “and” not an “or”).

We get ourselves in trouble when we prefer one pole (value) at the expense of the others which can then create predictable flows of energy toward the other poles. It’s one reason we see the back-and-forth in organizational strategies and polarization in politics; people are blind to the benefits of the other pole and overlook the fears people hold about an over-swing to the other pole. Another way to think about this is the very simple attachment AND aversion polarity; we all have attachments to values, identities, and people, and we all have aversions to values, experiences, or identities and those are often below are awareness but play out in our beliefs, feelings, and actions or inaction and justifications. When you are able to see the polarities at play inside yourself you are more able to see them playing out in others and via relationships and systems in your organization. It’s one reason why viewing your culture as alive, dynamic, and emergent (versus a machine that will work predictably with the right inputs and controls) allows you to remain curious, humble, and open to experimentation which are essential to doing well in today’s complexity.

As Jennifer explains, seeing polarities is core to seeing systems which in turn is essential for leading in complexity and being adaptable. Or as someone wise once said “You need to name it to tame it.” When you engage your team to identify the key polarities at play in your world you provide a framework for helping them step into their leadership and map out the ideal balance and interplay between the various polarities. This doesn’t mean a 50/50 split; the right balance at any given time might be 80/20, for example; the key is that your team will have mapped out in advance:

  • the polarities that impact your organization most and should be managed intentionally
  • the upsides of each pole
  • the downsides of each pole if we over preference one to the expense of the other (which allows people to identify the fears they hold and thus might explain how resistance could show up)
  • things we commit to doing to strike the right balance for us at this point
  • early warning indicators (metrics…) that we might be sliding into the downside of a pole and thus trigger your employees to revisit and adjust

As you might guess, engaging your people and empowering them to update / manage their polarities in an incredible way to develop their leadership skills and complexity fitness while striking the right balances. Adaptive Talent’s culture and organizational development consultants and Executive / Leadership Coaches are great resources to help you and your team map their polarities, improve execution, develop their leadership capacity, and enhance your organizational culture.

Adaptive Talent is a talent consultancy designed to help organizations achieve amazing results and ongoing adaptability. Founded in 2008 and based in Vancouver, Canada we offer retained search, assessments, total rewards consulting, training, leadership coaching and development programs, and culture & organizational development consulting.