Polarity Management: Definition & Example

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  • 0:05 What Are Polarities?
  • 1:00 Examples of Polarity
  • 1:45 Defining Polarity Management
  • 3:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Polarities are problems to be managed, not solved. In this lesson, you'll learn more about polarities, what polarity management is, and how a framework can be developed to co-mingle the two successfully.

What Are Polarities?

Imagine you're in a business meeting where the merits of being an innovative and efficient company are being debated. On one side of the coin, you have employees who want to be able to create new products to meet customers' challenges and outperform the competition. On the other side, you have employees who prefer to focus on the bestselling products the company already has and being predictable and reliable to keep current customers happy.

So, which side of the employee argument is right? What if I told you the answer is ''both''? That's right, both innovation and efficiency are important for an organization to be successful. How, then, does a business meeting with this type of argument get resolved? In short, it doesn't.

These two opposing ideas are known as polarities. Polarities in business are dilemmas or problems that are ongoing and unsolvable. They are actually dependent upon one another and must be managed together for a business to be successful.

Examples of Polarity

Polarities shouldn't be thought of as an ''either/or'' scenario; rather, they are both important and require effective management. Think about these polarities:

  • Leading employees versus empowering them
  • Operating in a structured environment versus being flexible
  • Supporting workers' ideas versus challenging them

These all seem at odds with each other, don't they? Yet, they're not. Managers can be effective leaders while also empowering employees to own their work. Businesses can have a structured presence and give employees flexibility to think creatively. Leaders can be supportive of others' ideas but challenge them to go beyond those ideas.

What polarities need isn't a solution; rather, they need effective management.

Defining Polarity Management

Polarity management focuses on finding a way to balance polarities rather than trying to find a solution between the two. It works by throwing out the notion that there is one ''right'' idea and one ''wrong'' idea and moves toward embracing both equally.

Managing polarities doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, it is quite simple. It helps to follow a framework to balance the two.


polarity, management, framework, map

Most experts describe the process of managing polarities like this:

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