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eLearning – Managing Paradoxes | Part 1

Part 1

What are Paradoxes?

Lets start with some Basics. Paradoxes can be understood as tensions. We encounter these tensions all the time in our professional but also in our private lives.  Think of the following situations, for example:

  • A doctor who wants to treat her patients at the highest level, but at the same time has to keep an eye on costs.
  • An artist who wants to give free rein to his ideas, but at the same time strives for a secure income.
  • An employee who needs to develop innovative new ideas, but at the same time increase her efficiency.

Wendy Smith, one of the most renowned scholars in the field, defines Paradoxes as follows:

Paradoxes are contradictory yet interrelated elements — elements that seem logical in isolation but absurd and irrational when appearing simultaneously.

Watch the TED-Talk by Wendy Smith

Making sense of Paradoxes is not an easy task. Let#s start our journey by watching the TED-Talk of Wendy Smith to get a better understanding (see video below). The picture summarizes the most important features of paradoxes. 

Exercise 1

You see, decision dilemmas and paradoxes are  everywhere. Most likely, you have had to deal with them – maybe sometimes even without realizing it. As a first exercise, think about your own experiences: When have you been confronted with decisions where there was no optimal solution and all options seemed contradictory? These can be professional as well as private decisions.

Task: Write down three to five situations in which you were confronted with decision dilemmas. Reflect on how you handled the situation and what the consequences of the decision were.

If you want, you can download the worksheet and use it for your notes. You can also use the Miro-Board below. In this case, make a copy of the Template and fill it in. Since this is a public board, please, be aware that others might see your worksheet – so you might want to make a screenshot as soon as you are done and delete your entry.


Proceed to the next chapter.