The Power of a Paradoxical Mindset.

Either/or vs Both/and.

Generally, when people have to make decisions between two subjects that fall on the opposite side of the spectrum from each other, the decision-making process usually concludes with either this or that option. It stems from the belief that there has to be only one best solution to the problem, also known as the ‘either/or’ approach.

For example, business leaders may have encountered questions like, ‘customers first or employees first?’

At Mäd, client satisfaction is our number one priority but it's impossible for us to Make It Happen.™ without our cross-functional team. Hence, our approach would be to choose both as they are equally important and build a win-win alternative by combining the two options to boost the effectiveness of our work.

While the 'either/or' approach has a favorable outcome for people with contradicting ideas, it impairs business leaders' ability to make effective decisions as they often overlook the possibility to apply 'both/and' approach to the problem.

Definition Breakdown.

Due to the tendency to apply 'either/or' approach to opposite views, people end up not discussing or exploring other possibilities, resulting in a poor decision-making process.

A paradoxical mindset is one that accepts opposing interpretations as both plausible at the same time and does not view paradox as an uncertainty needing be removed or reduced.

Following this, we will be discussing on how you can develop a paradoxical mindset to help you embrace contradicting ideas instead of shying away or avoiding them. These are some of the benefits that the paradoxical mindset offers:

Ignites Creativity and Enhances Performance.

While it is important to apply past experiences to existing problems, this approach is not always ideal nor a one-size-fits-all solution.

A person who adopts a paradoxical mindset is well-aware with the pre-made solutions but they will challenge the ideas more, nonetheless. They will encourage people to think outside the box instead of choosing between the available options presented at the table.

People who are able to think outside the box hold creative talents in producing high-quality and high-impact work as well as boosting their overall performance to excel at their expertise.

Ability to Thrive at Work.

While constraints may pose significant challenges for other people, a paradoxical mindset person will be able to thrive at work—making them a competent candidate in the workplace.

For example, many people may find it difficult to work with scarce resources, which leads to low performance and productivity. Despite the constraints, people with high paradoxical mindset will be able to work through the tensions.

A paradoxical mindset brings the best out of people, allowing them to reach their full potential by tolerating different perspectives and integrating them into new ideas and strategies.

Effective leaders are those who are open to opposing perspectives and are willing to revise their thinking and alter their courses.

Work Better, Together.

Generally, people with a paradoxical mindset will perform better in a working environment as they are flexible and can easily adapt to their environment. Hence, it would be easy for them to develop a strong work relationship with their peers.

In a team setting, they will be able to put a healthy pressure on their team to challenge their thought process and enhance the decision-making process. Overall, a paradoxical mindset person is not only someone who gets along with people easily but also pushes their peers to develop a paradoxical mindset for them to achieve higher goals.

How To Develop.

While there are a lot of benefits that come with a paradoxical mindset, nobody is born with this mindset. Thus, these simple steps will help you develop this mindset and perfect your decision-making:


Being open-minded is key to developing a paradoxical mindset. A change of heart will allow you to discover many possibilities that you have overlooked with a fixated mindset.

Once you are open to different perspectives, you are able to anticipate and prevent undesirable outcomes because you are taking every possibility into consideration, therefore, you are able to come up with better alternatives to your unsolved problems.

By embracing contradicting ideas, you are able to work more efficiently and effectively.

Willingness to Take Risks.

Taking risks seems like a nightmare to many business owners as they believe the consequences are more likely to outweigh the benefits from undergoing this unpredictable route.

At the same time, if you don't take risks, you wouldn't be able to grow. Mistakes happen but avoiding them doesn't mean that you are not making any mistakes in your business. Your mistake may be that you're not taking the risks.

From being a consulting agency in Phnom Penh, we also had to take many risks and make some difficult business decisions. Instead of putting a negative connotation on risk-taking, we embrace it and have learned important lessons from the process. In fact, with a paradoxical mindset, you'll be able to optimize the pros and cons while taking risks.

Experiment New Ideas.

A common mistake people make that usually leads to ineffective decision-making is a lack of experimentation.

To break out of this mole hole, the goal is to be your own devil's advocate when opposing subjects are being introduced into the decision-making process. Instead of settling between the proposed options, don't be afraid to get creative and challenge yourself to find a better alternative within those options.