The Paradox Mindset: What It Is, How It Helps Us, and How to Improve It

Is it difficult for you to find the solution to the various problems? The only way to innovate and find new possible solutions is to consider all alternatives, even those that may seem contradictory.

When faced with different demands, we tend to consider one solution, without considering other possibilities that may be just as valid. The paradox mentality is to consider all the alternatives, even the opposites between them, because this conflict has been proven to be what opens our minds and helps us to innovate by being more creative.

The stability isn’t bad, but sometimes it can lead to getting stuck in an idea and not finding the solution. Expanding the options gives us more flexibility, which increases our chances of success. It has been found in various studies that exercising this ability increases the likelihood of finding the correct solution.

In this article, you will learn more about what is meant by paradox useful can it be, what studies support its effectiveness, why it is considered useful for career success, and what can we do to increase it.

    What is the paradox mentality?

    To better understand the concept of paradox mentality, let’s first look at what words make it up. The paradox is defined as a fact that is believed to be contrary to logic, that is, a fact in which two opposite poles are formed which do not seem to be able to appear at the same time or that it does not appear logical to be together, but it is not impossible.

    This contradictory approach gives a new perspective on the situation, something that can help solve the problem or the presentation of new alternatives that had not been considered before, helping to broaden the possibilities and to present a more divergent, lateral thought, which brings up new ideas and breaks with the usual consideration.

    In this way, the mentality of paradox is to unite, to accept, the opposing alternatives, as it improves mental flexibility and creativity and therefore productivity. When we are stuck without finding new alternatives that can solve the problem, a good strategy is to raise the opposite versions to expand the possibilities.

    The human mind tends to choose a solution, the one that presents itself most easily, and the other possibilities are canceled out. For this reason, when this alternative considered in the first place is not the right one, it is difficult for us to change direction and we tend to get stuck in this idea. In order to break these limitations, it is necessary to consider the opposing alternatives since they allow a new vision of the situation, innovating the alternatives and making their resolution more probable.

      Paradox Mentality Investigations

      The first to propose the concept of paradoxical mentality was the psychologist Albert Rothenbergafter obtaining the results of a study he conducted at Harvard University in order to know the mentality or the way of thinking of the most relevant geniuses of the time, subjects who had deserved the Nobel Prize.

      After interviewing over 20 authors and reviewing the biographies of others who have already passed away, he concluded that most, in verifying and constituting their theories, had made different formulations of opposites at the same timethat is, they had considered contradictory statements at the same time.

      A typical example of this paradoxical cognition is that experienced by the well-known scientist Albert Einstein, who proposed that depending on where the same object was viewed from, it could be considered either moving or immobile.

      To better understand, imagine that you are traveling by train, on the table in front of us we left our bag; Well, according to our reference, the bag will be motionless, but if seen by someone who is outside the train, while it is on the way, they will perceive that the bag is moving.

      Given the usefulness of this type of thinking in subjects who have made a significant contribution to our society, it remains to be seen whether this cognition can also appear in the general population, that is, in individuals with average capacities. For this purpose, different experiments have been carried out such as the test of the remote association or that of the candles, which aim to understand or find the hidden link that have different ideas or thoughts, being necessary divergent thoughts.

      Before performing these tests, participants were asked to think of three contradictory actions or statements, such as “sleeping tired rather than waking up” which are perceived as the opposite, but which may be possible. However, when the two tests were presented to the individuals, it was observed that those who had performed the practice of the three contradictory statements before, showed a higher percentage of success in solving the tasks compared to the control group who did not. had not done the previous training.

      Thus, one can see how a simple previous task, where paradoxical thinking had been exercised, allows greater efficiency in the execution of subsequent tests, it promotes greater creativity and a greater number of possible solutions.

        What is this way of thinking for?

        Even if, as we have seen, this cognition can be useful in different areas of our life, it has been above all functional for success at work. This type of thinking generates a conflict between two alternatives that seem opposite, choosing to affirm both and get out of our comfort zone. We should not understand conflict as something to be avoided, but it gives us the opportunity to change, to gain new perspectives and to grow.

        It has been observed that paradoxical cognition makes it possible to cope with different demands in a more optimal way, that is, the worker manages to adapt more easily to different situations and is effective under pressure. It is important that this capacity is present in the leaders, because it will benefit the whole group.

        Businesses can choose different ways to act; for example, they may focus on productivity that will benefit them in the present, but make it difficult for them to adapt in the future; or in innovation that does not generate so many gains at the start, but thanks to which it acquires more ease of adaptation before the change. The mentality of paradox it consists in not choosing between one of the actions, but in adjusting them to adapt to the situationin times of greater job stability, be more productive and change before opting for innovation.

          How to value the paradox mentality?

          As with other skills, although we may have a greater or lesser predisposition, we can train and work to increase them. Let’s see what strategies can be useful to us to achieve such an increase.

          1. Used the paradox mentality in everyday situations

          For this type of thinking to appear more easily in more complex situations it must or can be helped to raise it first in simpler situations, it is logical to think that as one uses it more, if we use it more often, it will be easier to finally present automatically.

          It is believed that Einstein himself formed his paradoxical capacity in the face of the contradictions of everyday life.. Thus, being attentive to the oppositions that arise during the day and considering the two possibilities as equally valid allows us to exercise our flexibility necessary for resolution.

          2. Don’t avoid conflict

          As we have already said, the conflict, the consideration of opposites, helps in the growth and development of our creative capacity, paradoxically facilitating the conception of new perspectives and being able to propose other solutions. So. do not avoid these contradictions, accept them as possible and feed on them. Understanding that everything in life is not white or black, we can find both colors together.

          3. Contemplate the different possibilities of the situation

          Choosing the first solution that comes to mind, the solution that seems obvious, does not help us at all, which makes it difficult to really find the right answer. Faced with a lawsuit, consider all the possible alternatives, even those that are contradictory to each other and it seems impossible to conceive together, because in this way we open our minds and it is easier to make the right resolution.

          Stability can sometimes be good, but it can also block us and that we do not see beyond the same solution, innovate and take into account the possibilities that may seem contrary to you.

          4. Activates paradoxical cognition

          Three steps have been proposed to activate paradoxical thinking and therefore be more creative: first formulate the question in different ways, do not always repeat it in the same way, because you will only be able to block you more, try putting it positively and negatively or changing the terms; that the conflict does not frighten you, it can seem that by proposing the opposites we hinder the resolution or we act against us, but far from being it we benefit from it; and getting out of your comfort zone, opening your mind and accepting other possibilities is the only way to innovate and bring new answers.

          Bibliographic references

          • Heracleous, L. & Robson, D. (2020) Why the ‘paradoxical mindset’ is the key to success. BBC work life.
          • Miron, E.; Ingram, A., Keller, J., Smith, WK and Lewis M. (2017) Microfoundations of Organizational Paradox: Paradox Mindset, Limited Resources and Tensions. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management.
          • Yanjun, L. (2019) Thriving at Work: How a Paradoxical Mindset Influences Innovative Work Behaviour. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Sciences.

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