I was on my way this past Sunday morning to pick up my weekly batch of donuts. Later in the day I made sure I stopped at the store on my way home from an In ‘n Out burger to get my potato chips and pint of ice cream. Call it my Sunday ritual.
It’s part of how I stay fit and trim. In the past few months by eating all that garbage I’ve lost three belt loops on my pants (that’s about 4 ½ inches)
It’s all based on Tim Ferris’s Four Hour Body. You can read more about it here. Ferris (and his band of experts) have figured out a unique approach to health. The Sunday pig out, paradoxically, enables you to lose more weight in the coming week. Think of it like a roller coaster that has to get to a certain height to build up enough speed going down the next hill.
With paradoxes, you get what you intuitively don’t expect. Say for example, you’re after creating organizational change. The logical approach is to put systems, processes and structures in place that lead to new ways of doing business – that lead to change. You won’t get change without taking those actions. And taking those actions alone – because change is paradoxical – won’t ensure new ways of doing business take hold either.
If you want change, find ways to create stability in the organization. People feel safer to take a leap of faith into uncharted territory when they’re jumping from firm ground. They’ll also be able to sail farther from solid ground.
What are some other examples of paradox at play in organizations:
- There’s a popular belief that change is difficult, stressful and a dicey proposition whether it will work in the first place.
The Paradoxical Approach: The more you focus on making change not difficult, stressful or a dicey proposition, the more you set yourself up for just those experiences. My first mentor Kathie Dannemiller used to say, “Don’t think of a yellow banana.” Her point? As soon as you heard those words it was impossible to think of anything but a yellow banana. Same thing with how change is going to feel. Don’t go after not having what you don’t want. Focus on what you do want. Ask yourself, “What are all the ways to make change easy, relaxing and certain of success??
- One of the hardest parts of any change effort is “getting people on board” with the new ways of working.
The Paradoxical Approach: Stop trying to “get people on board.” The harder you try, the more resistance you’ll create. Assume there is a good reason they are not jumping on the bandwagon and stop, look and listen. What can you learn from these troublemakers that might improve your change plans?
- Page 1, Chapter 1 of any book on change: You must have senior leadership support for your effort for it to be successful.
The Paradoxical Approach: The more you try and create deep leadership support early in a change effort, the less of it you’ll end up with. Assume any senior leadership support you have for your effort early in the game is based mostly on good intentions. Frankly, none of us knows what we’re really getting into that early in the game. Know that you’re going to need to build and re-build that support through the life of your project. The paradox is that you need to violate the #1 rule of change work in order to ultimately follow it.
Once you take a paradoxical view of things, seemingly impossible tasks become doable. Being stuck can be an advantage. Even realizing you don’t know what to do could be just the insight you need. As Marv Weisbord and Sandra Janoff wrote in their book about facilitating Future Search Conferences, “Don’t Just Do Something. Stand There!”