One simple yet challenging idea that I DID NOT learn in business school has to do with the challenging reality of balancing “two opposing truths” in business at the same moment. How to drive growth AND cut costs? How to inspire the team AND improve productivity simultaneously? Etc.
The idea of dealing with moments when you have to grapple with “opposing truths” is a constant dynamic in a busy, growing career in business today. I faced it often at Bolthouse Farms. How to accelerate the innovation process to be able to launch new sku’s every 6 months while trying to simplify the production process at the plant?? How to grow share and beat key competitors every IRI period while meeting or exceeding our profit goals?? As you can see, the list goes on!!
In my experience, the key factor is not to deny this reality… there are opposing truths, face that dynamic don’t run from it! The key is to remember F. Scott Fitzgerald’s quote below and “retain the ability to function.” Don’t let this challenging dynamic slow you down. Keep your action orientation and tempo up. Take a look at one of my blog essays, “Act with Intent” to give you and your team a few ideas on how to move forward regardless of the complexity of the moment.
"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."
Remember, all businesses are hard and face challenging moments. I am sure that you have seen that reality in your past, you probably are seeing it today and will continue to experience it in your future. The trick is to dive into the challenge at hand, the dynamic of “two opposing truths,” and chart a course for action in the days /weeks ahead. Your approach won’t be perfect (mine never was!!) but if you stay active and nimble, course correcting as you go, you will avoid the chance for the “opposing truths” to slow your organization down and you will increase your chances for future success exponentially!
This dynamic is not only a reality in the business world. The 13th century Persian poet/theologian/scholar Rumi writes:
“There is an invisible strength within us; when it recognizes two opposing objects of desire, it grows stronger.”
As a father who recently “dropped off” his oldest child at college, I deeply relate to Rumi’s quote. After 18 years of nurturing your child, and helping them prepare for the step of independence, its seemed VERY distressing that we left him at his dorm and flew home Sunday morning. We deeply want him to be independent and successful on his own AND we deeply miss him from our everyday home life…. “Two opposing objects of desire!”
Whether in business or in my personal life, I try to take inspiration and guidance from these two different sources. Don’t deny the reality of balancing “two opposing truths!” Embrace the truth and explore each opposing position/side. Dig into the Paradox, but don't let the challenge disable your ability to act. Try to keep the perspective that these moments actually teach us a lot about our world, our business situation and ourselves and use that “learning” to drive you to a better outcome. Obviously easier said than done but true nonetheless… good luck!!