—– Below is an exerpt of an essay about paradox thinking I wrote last year for a school project —–

As an IT professional you are expected to be able to engage in paradoxical thinking. This kind of thinking is characterized by the ability to look at a situation with opposing views. While considering both views, you realize that both options are the right option and the wrong option at the same time. Instead of choosing between the two, you accept both. Not as opposing forces, but as complimenting forces creating a synergy.

oilphant paradox

Paradoxical thinking is not an easy task for someone who isn’t used to doing it consciously. I have been giving it a lot of thought the past few days since the introduction to the concept, learning about it at school and reading about it in books. I have looked up some articles about it to get a better grasp of the concepts and ideas behind it.

Giving it more thought I noticed some paradoxes at work.

Recently there has been a huge reorganization at the university where I’m employed and noticed a big paradox in the reasoning behind this and previous reorganizations. When I first started working at the university there was a big centralized support organization. In the years that followed small decentralized support organizations started taking off because the big central organization was to slow, rigid and cumbersome. Small initiatives grew in to bigger specialized support desks, creating a lot of fragmentation in support. Eventually this lead to too much fragmentation and people looking for support had to shop around to find the right service desk for their specific problem. This shopping around was in itself becoming cumbersome for people. The need for one service desk where people can just drop their question, whatever it is, started arising. This need became the basis for the latest reorganization where all small decentralized support organizations got joined up to create again, one big centralized service desk.

Another paradox I notice is with my own department. I work for the Media Support Center of the university, the MSC. The MSC is part of the IT department and we take care of all audio/visual needs for the university. We are a small innovative group that likes to experiment with the latest technologies, implementing them in the university’s classrooms where possible. Being innovative has gotten our department a lot of acclaim. The paradox being here that teachers don’t like to be confronted with new equipment. When they enter a classroom they expect things to work by a push of the button. In other words, teachers do not like change or innovation. When the need arises to equip a room with new technology we always need to look for ways to innovate while keeping things the same. A paradox that challenges our creativity with each project we take on.

Reading up on the subject I got confronted with the following question: “Are you happy with the way you are stimulated?” My initial response was a big yes. I enjoy a lot of freedom at work. I enjoy freedom in the way I take on a task, but I also enjoy the freedom to take on the tasks I choose. My boss hardly ever forces a task on me, and gives me real freedom to do whatever I want to do as long as it fits within our department’s vision and goals. I experience all this freedom as stimulating. While thinking some more about this question I came to the realization that this freedom has a downside, it sometimes causes me to freeze-up. I literally have so much options that I do not know what to do. All the freedom is actually, at times, not stimulating at all. Freedom is my paradox.

—– Note that parts of the essay are re-written for use on this website —–

—– Also I did not use that elephant picture in the actual essay 🙂 —–

Het essay is geschreven als onderdeel voor een opdracht voor school. Ik heb later ook nog een assessment gehad aangaande dit onderwerp en het onderwerp systeem denken. Als voorbereiding op het paradox denken heb ik het boek Paradoxaal Leiderschap van Ivo Brughmans gelezen. Het boek leest een beetje weg als een infomercial, maar gaf mij zeker de nodige inzichten in het concept paradox denken.

Om één of andere vage reden moest ik het essay in het engels schrijven, terwijl de assessment in het Nederlands was. Maar ja, de LOI doet wel vaker rare dingen…