I just got back from the QRCA annual conference and my favorite presentation was given by Liz Monroe-Cook, about how to handle situations where we have two opposing forces and both are necessary. She calls her approach Polarity Management®; I was struck by how a theoretical approach can have a great deal of real-world benefits.
I decided to conduct an exercise where I used her approach to handle a polarity many of my clients face: simplicity vs. more features. This dynamic tension exists with regard to many client offerings as well as web applications: users want a simple product that’s easy to understand, but they also want cool features. How do we find the right balance between the two?
I went through the process of developing what Monroe-Cook calls a Polarity Map™, first defining the benefits of each pole (e.g., simplicity brings about quicker adoption but more features could make a product appeal to a wider range of users), and then the potential downsides that can come about from over-focusing on each pole (e.g., simplicity: product could be perceived as low-end, more features: product could be difficult to use). I then was able to define the positive result of balancing the strengths of both poles (popular product) and the potential negative outcome if the two aren’t balanced (no one wants the product). The process also includes defining action steps to obtain the benefits of each pole as well as early warnings that we’re in danger of the downside of neglecting one pole or the other. Click here to see the map I developed.
Each of the above steps on their own might seem obvious, but put them together and we have a great process for dealing with a variety of situations where we have two opposing and necessary forces, ranging from running an organization (e.g., structure vs. flexibility), to obtaining consumer input (e.g., cost vs. quality), even to personal growth (e.g., individual work vs. teamwork). We can obtain valuable insights on the best way to balance the two poles.
To discuss ways to handle your complex issues (at least the work-related ones!), give us a call at (818) 752-7210.
Sources: “Power Up through Paradox: Polarity Management® as a Tool for Addressing Complexity,” Liz Monroe-Cook, QRCA 2011; http://www.polaritymanagement.com/