A special invitation just went out to key political and policy influencers from government, non-profit, academia, and think-tanks for a May 13th workshop entitled:  From Polarized to Optimized. 

We only had space for 30 people — so if you didn’t get an invitation and are experiencing FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), Fear not!  We’re exploring ways to capture the event in a professionally-produced video — met yesterday with a producer and am waiting on the proposal. Here’s an opportunity — if you can donate to help defer the cost of the video we’ll include your name in the scrolling credits — “THIS VIDEO MADE POSSIBLE BY  ______ ” (if you want). HERE’S THE LINK TO DONATE TO HELP CREATE THE VIDEO.

Here’s the high-level description of the 11:00am-2:00pm luncheon event (more details below). First, attendees will network and have lunch and receive their signed copy of Barry Johnson’s new book “And, Making a Difference by Leveraging Polarity, Paradox or Dilemma, Volume One – Foundations.” Barry will then lead the group through a real-time application mapping a polarity using the Polarity Map and applying polarity principles related to our political divide. Could timing for the book and event be better given the critical need for leaders to come together and address the monumental challenges and opportunities of our day? The event is co-sponsored by the Institute for Polarities of Democracy and Polarity Partnerships, LLC, but would not be happening but for three categories of donation. First, an anonymous donor who provided a “seed fund” for which he agreed to match 1-1 up to $2,500. This fund was designated to purchase the books and lunch for all the attendees at the event. Second, the individuals who made “small” donations that grew the seed to $5000. That left the venue and strategic partner George Mason University stepped-up and made a space available for us at their Arlington Campus.

Quick aside — this event is a dress rehearsal for the Leading to Well-Being Conference in December where Barry and Polarity Thinking will be part of the line-up. Stay-tuned for more on that! And, we plan to show the video from the May event at the Leading to Well-Being Conference to share the outcomes and thank those who made the event and video possible!

Want to be more effective addressing polarization? From an Or-thinking problem-solving perspective, this challenge can be overwhelming. From a Polarity Thinking perspective, polarization can be addressed by replacing Or with And, when And is required.

Here are examples where Or-thinking created polarization when And-thinking was required:

  • The United States DOD over “Information Security Or Information Sharing”
  • The City of Charleston Police Department over “Enforcement Or Community Engagement”
  • A US Fortune 100 company located in 46 countries over “Autonomous Business Units Or Integrated Business Units”
  • The education department of South Africa over “Mother Tongue Or English” in schools

In each case, not only were both sides right, they need each other’s wisdom to be successful over time. That is because the two positions were interdependent. One was not sustainable without the other. We call these interdependent pairs a “polarity.” They are also called a “paradox” or “dilemma.”

When you have a polarity with two interdependent positions, it is useful to connect them with And rather than Or. In the new book, Barry Johnson shows how to recognize a polarity and how to leverage it in a way that respects both sides.

For example, at the DOD, it was possible, indeed necessary, to have Information Security And Information Sharing. It became: “Secure Sharing.” The other organizations mentioned above all benefited by recognizing they had a polarity to leverage, replacing Or with And, and working together to get the best of both sides.

Regardless of the size of the polarized system or the polarity at play, there is a clear process for addressing it:

  • Seeing: Is this an issue where And is required?
  • Mapping: How can I see the complete picture And respect alternative views?
  • Assessing: How are we doing with this polarity?
  • Learning: What can we learn from our assessment results?
  • Leveraging: What action steps will we take to make a positive difference?

When a polarization is based on a polarity and we treat it as a problem to solve, we increase the polarization. Rather than make things worse, you can learn how to see the underlying polarity, and engage key stakeholders in leveraging it for the benefit of both sides and the larger system of which they are a part.