Applegate Consulting Group

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Polarity Thinking

Polarity Map

We incorporate Polarity Thinking into our process facilitation for organization development. Polarities are ongoing, interdependent values (often opposites) that need each other over time in order to achieve a greater purpose.

They are energy systems that work in a predictable way. They live in us, and we live in them. They are free, unstoppable and leverageable. Each polarity is a powerful energy system that can be—and has been—leveraged to achieve positive change.

We can learn to distinguish between "a problem to solve" and "a polarity to leverage." We can reframe societal and environmental dilemmas as a part of one or more key polarities. In doing so, it increases the attainability, speed, and sustainability of our efforts to build the world we envision.

ACG utilizes Polarity Thinking to support our clients to augment "either/or" thinking with "both/and" thinking so they can expand their possibilities. When faced with challenges that seem to lead in two different directions, Polarity Thinking supports leaders to see the full picture, and to see non-binary choices. Each polarity is a powerful energy system that, once understood, we can learn to leverage to achieve positive change. For example, which one is more important? Racial Justice (disrupting white supremacy systems, structures, policies and laws) OR Racial Healing (doing the essential inner healing, emotional literacy and racial identity work to cultivate a solid sense of self); Intention OR Impact; Individual Racism OR Structural Racism; Making a Difference OR Enjoying Life; Mercy OR Justice; Centralize OR Decentralize; Freedom for the Part OR Equity among the Parts within the Whole? Framing any of the polarities above as "problems to solve" creates damaging false binary choices and fruitless interactions.

The research is certain: Leaders, teams, organizations and just ecosystems that leverage Polarities outperform those that don't.

Beth is currently co-authoring a chapter on the Privilege and Polarities with her mentor and friend Barry Johnson, part of a two-volume HRD Press release schedued for May 2020. Barry authored the Foundations book titled: "AND, Making a Difference by Leveraging Polarity, Paradox or Dilemma", Volume 1. Beth co-authored a chapter with him in the Applications book: "AND, Making a Difference by Leveraging Polarity, Paradox or Dilemma", Volume 2, due out summer 2020.

Polarity Practitioners Volume 1

Polarity Practitioners Volume 2

Snowy Forest - Photo by Beth Applegate
Photo by Beth Applegate

"Both/And thinking allows for the recognition that two seemingly contradictory things can both be true at the same time. Within equity, inclusion, and justice work, the both/and lets us be honest about our privileges without descending into guilt or shame, recognize urgency while understanding that growth takes time, and focus on the concerns of marginalized communities while uplifting our shared humanity."
- Seminar Participant

Tree Roots - Photo by Beth Applegate
Photo by Beth Applegate

"Polarity thinking has revolutionized how we approach tough problems in our workplace. There are countless moments, from making a big decision as a management team, to launching an issue campaign that requires navigating fraught internal and external political waters, to building deep and lasting coalitions, to building more inclusive and collaborative teams, that we map out a polarity to push our thinking and hone our strategy."
- Senior Leader

Contact Us About Bringing Polarity Thinking To Your Workplace

(301) 535-6539

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