Managing Paradox

By Euchner, James | Research-Technology Management, May/June 2012 | Go to article overview

Managing Paradox


Euchner, James, Research-Technology Management


"Two paradoxes are better than one; they may even suggest a solution."

- Edward Teller

Any sufficiently new technology involves the management of paradox. When a truly new and potentially disruptive capability meets existing organizational norms, the results often appear contradictory. Such is the case with social media, which are being integrated into business and society with sometimes paradoxical results.

A few examples: The increased ability to create dynamic social groups has led to online support groups for people with diseases, but also to flash mobs. Video games have become social, reengaging children with peers, but doing so in ways that escalate virtual violence. (By my calculation, people "playing" Call of Duty on X-Box Live annihilate the equivalent of the world's population every week.) Famously, "friends" on Facebook do very unfriendly things. In a more benign example, our solitary pursuits have become social: iPhone versions of the card game solitaire encourage players to compete against their friends (at solitaire!).

Paradox also arises in the use of social media for innovation, a topic of two articles in this issue. In his article, "A Pervasive Model for Participation in Voluntary Forums," Robin Spencer makes one such paradoxical observation: His model, which considers participation in everything from idea challenges to Wikipedia, does not require the notion of "community." Social media need not be social to deliver innovation, just large scale. He also makes clear that, despite attempts to control them, the phenomena are not predictable. Significant qualitative differences result from small quantitative differences in the model's parameters. This result may indicate that efforts to design an emergent phenomenon will be elusive. How do we plan for that?

In their case study, "Crowdsourcing: Leveraging Innovation through Online Idea Competitions," Schweitzer, Buchinger, Gassmann, and Obrist address the business question: is crowdsourcing better than traditional focus groups for generating ideas? They compare the results of side-by-side experiments using focus groups and crowdsourcing to solve the same problem. The results, though only indicative at this point, are provocative. Crowdsourcing methods led to more ideas, more truly new ideas, more implementable ideas, and at a lower cost per idea. This might reflect the paradoxical view that to serve customers better, you should interact with non-customers. It is reflective of Karim Lakhani's observation that breakthrough ideas for solving hard technical problems often come from disciplines far from the original problem. Paradoxically, it may be best to search for answers where we least expect them.

My interview with Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Business at Toronto University, offers another paradox for consideration. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Managing Paradox
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.