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“A great truth is a statement whose opposite is also a great truth.”
Niels Bohr

I am a fan of Roger von Oechs “Creativity Whack Pack”© and recently found myself adding cards to his deck that I thought might be a nice addition.

We have seen many teams and individuals struggle and lose momentum because too much time is spent debating everyone’s “small truth”. This takes various forms – explaining why I am right and you are wrong, seeking certainty instead of improving the odds, or looking for unanimous agreement, the one best practice instead of improving clarity until “disagree and commit” becomes a viable option.

In the spirit of the “Creative Whack Pack”©, here is some “food for thought”:

Niels Bohr, the Danish quantum physicist and Nobel prize winner, considered two sorts of truths: “Trivialities, where opposites are obviously absurd, and profound truths, recognized by the fact that the opposite is also a profound truth.” Don’t settle for the triviality. Seek the profound truth.

When we discuss the right perspective, the root cause, the most important priority… we may try to establish the truth. Such considerations are useful. But context matters: Thinking this or that, right or wrong will limit your understanding. Want to think bigger? Think opposites!

Deeply debating the truth of what quantum mechanics says about reality, Einstein, Heisenberg, and their peers were stuck making sense of the contradictions in their theory. Bohr rejoiced: “How wonderful we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.”

Zen students challenged to realize the profound nature of reality are taught “neither this nor that”. The sixth century Zen patriarch Master Eka invites us to “not seek after truths – only cease to cherish opinions.” Where do you stand if both “this and that” are true?

When you find yourself debating what and who is right, consider this:

  • CHALLENGE THE LIMITS
    • Is this the right place or time to think “either – or”?
    • Are your options “wild” enough to have a chance of being correct?
  • FIND THE DEEPER GROUND
    • Find reasons why the opposite of your or your group’s conviction is equally true?
    • If there is truth in the opposite, how does that inform your decsion?
  • TREAT THE PARADOX AS A GIFT
    • Name three reasons to be grateful for the contradictions you face.

 

 

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