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Falling in love with the obvious and ambiguous simplicity of complex polarities

Barry Johnson focuses his energy on creating healthy systems. He once turned in his draft card in protest of the Vietnam War. It's been a 50-year journey getting to the point where he has transformed his energy from protesting unhealthy systems to creating healthy ones.

Unhealthy and Healthy. That's a bit of a polarity on its own. And that's the subject of Barry's work. Here are a few more polarities to explore, just for fun:

Tight and Loose
Self-assured and Humble
Short-term and Long-Term
Cost and Quality

Some of these polarities have business implications. All of them are part of a system, and each set of polarities begs for balance.

For example, if a system is too tight, it can become rigid. If it becomes too rigid, it will look for looseness. If it becomes too loose, its ambiguity now begs for clarity. Clarity seeks tightness and rigidity. And we're back to square one. We can fall into a downward spiral of a reinforced system struggling to achieve balance.

Leaders and organizations that manage polarities will find the right energy to move toward solutions that are great for organizations and the people inside them.

But here's the real magic. When we can see the entire system and the pieces caught in polarities, then we can start to love the system. Seeing is loving, says our friend Jack Gibb.

If we can see a person, organization or country completely, we will love them. Love is a byproduct of an understood system. A polarity lens that helps us see ourselves and others more completely will increase our capacity to love. And love is a great weapon for change.


Barry Johnson has shared his enthusiasm and passion for Polarity Thinking with hundreds of organizations around the world, extending the boundaries of what we know about and can do with the powerful energy systems contained in all polarities.


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