From Balance to Harmony to overcome dilemmas

Whereas at first sight the title of this post might not be associated with my main themes of Curiosity and Creativity, it secretly is about that. You’ll see. There have been many inspirations for snippets in this post, but in the end it is the aggregate of at least 10 years of mental bubbles interacting bubbling. If you recognise some elements, that’s most likely because we live on the same Planet.

Why Balance may not be all it’s cracked up to be

In this era of overwhelming complexity, the usual tip that I receive and I have a strong suspicion you do too, to deal with it is to “Find a balance”. I have always disliked that term, for one because it implies a status quo, or static situation, or in very negative terms an MAD-situation (Mutually Assured Destruction, a stalemate that allegedly you won;t destroy each other. Yeeah).

Beyond Balance

The word “mix” is a bit better but also not very exciting. My preferred term to signify the general attitude on how to deal with all the seeming and potential contradictions that we find on our paths is therefore another one: Harmony.

From Battle, i.e., balancing the extremes

Now more concrete. Below I share a list of dilemmas and seeming contradictions that I regularly encounter, and that are usually formulated as stated here. I am sure you recognise some of them in your own life. These are common, and seemingly maddening dilemmas for which we usually choose to “sit on the middle”, “find the balance”, do “a little of this and a little of that”:

  • Knowledge vs Intuition: going by what you know provides certainty but is intrinsically limiting, venturing beyond your known world creates uncertainty
  • Deep expertise (Elevators) vs Broad interests (tunnels): you want to avoid looking superficial but you can’t know eberything
  • The 3 Ps of Sustainability: they need to be “Balanced”, i.e. be exactly equal, implying, be expressed in one unit which in our system means money. If you can’t translate polar bears or clean water or education into money, forget it.
  • Knowns vs Unknowns: you know that there are unknowns but it’s counter-intuitive to work with them
  • Solving vs Opening up: should you focus on convergent or divergent abilities?
  • Targets Vs Uncertainty: making goals explicit provides focus, but how do you know what will happen to make choices that are sensible in the first place?
  • Zooming in vs Zooming out: Focus & scope give meaning but what is meaning without a bigger picture?
  • Questions vs Answers: do you want to open up the search space or close it?
  • Linear vs Circular: we need to think more circular but the current system is mostly still linear so use framing that points at the future or that stands in the now?
  • Useful vs Novel: if something is New(ish) how can you make sure it is also functional?
  • Polite vs Direct/ Blunt: being polite keeps the door open but little may move, being direct might shake up things but can close doors
  • Simple vs Complicated: oh how we wish things would be simpler but well, Life is Complicated
  • Altruistic vs Selfish: most of us would like to do nice things for others, but own survival remains prio #1
  • Shy vs Cocky: “Cocky people own half the world”, so that implies that the other half is still ub for grabs?
  • Product vs Process: what should innovation prioritise, a replicable process or an excellent product?
  • Vision (high level) vs Focus (concrete): we need an awe-inspiring Why, but without good execution forget it.
  • Moving fast vs moving broad: implementung ideas without consultation means they cannot be stopped prematurely but consulting others may take (too) much time.

… to Harmony, new pathways that make contradictions irrelevant

Ok, so these every-day dilemma’s are probably recognisable. As is, I for now assume, the practical ‘solution’ to do a bit more of one or the other depending on the situation. Bascially, the already painstaking question is simplified to one dimension, with two extremes. Now, what I propose is to abandon that one-dimensional choice-space. I’m no expert but it is also probably not the same as Yin-Yanging these matters. It’s what I use the term Harmony for: adding dimensions to the choice-space that help to reframe the dilemma or make it irrelevant altogether. Let me give you some examples:

  • Knowledge vs Intuition: Intuition is in fact based on unconscious knowledge build-up, they are not only related but entangled. Dilemma gone.
  • Deep expertise (Elevators) vs Broad interests (tunnels): what about making cross-connections (ladders)?
  • The 3 Ps of Sustainability: need to be expressed in their own units to keep their strength. Feel free to fight for polar bears, or orphans, or whatever. And feel free to keep counting them as such. Value si subjective, always. Also if it is experessed in monetary terms.
  • Knowns vs Unknowns: Not Knowing is an Invitation, not a hurdle
  • Solving vs Opening up: Navigate your way through the search space, too much focus on “solving” distracts from seeing the real problem or the unexpected way forward
  • Targets Vs Uncertainty: work with Intent and assess whether performance is in line.
  • Zooming in vs Zooming out: similar to rest and dynamics, consider this as Breathing: the two belong together, if you have one without the other you die. Period.
  • Questions vs Answers: both can be inquisitive or Lazy so make both the former
  • Linear vs Circular: circular implies that you end up where you started. Think in upward Spirals instead. With every cycle something should have uimproved, not stayed the same,
  • Useful vs Novel: apply satisficing: to be adopted an idea needs to be new enough but still conceivable, i.e. it needs to reside in an area called “the adjacent possible” (a well known innovation-term)
  • Polite vs Direct/ Blunt: if you are vulnerable (humble) and constructive direct comments have a context
  • Simple vs Complicated: Life is Complex, which basically means: embrace connections
  • Altruistic vs Selfish: be Generous in ways that you consider to be appropriate
  • Shy vs Cocky: be assertive, but realistic in knowing that imperfections are beautiful
  • Product vs Process: both mean nothing without considering People, so focus on them then the rest will follow
  • Vision (high level) vs Focus (concrete): both vision and focus can be born out of Curiosity or not. Be more aware of that than doubting about the Why vs the What
  • Moving fast vs moving broad: “Without Friction it remains Fiction” but of course, only meeting friction is no fun. You can probabably sense when it’s too much and move on.

Overarching patterns

It should not be too difficult to derive some overarching patterns from these examples. Looking from where I am sitting, such a pattern would be dominated by explicitly acknowledging elements that are abundantly present if we only want to seem them, and use them: Rhythm, Co-existence, Inquisitiveness, Tilting to get a different Perspective.

Chief Curiosity at The New ABC. Always Be Curious and forget “the box” altogether.

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