VOLUME 25 #3

Current cover


an illustration showing a tug of war


FACULTY | We tend to view tensions with a tug-of-war, either-or mentality, where the gains we make in one area must come at the inevitable expense of the opportunities we lose in another: Time vs. money, the work-life balance. A paradox of choices.

“We all have competing demands that cannot be resolved,” says Wendy Smith, an associate professor of management who studies how leaders face persistent tensions in their organizations. But as she recently published in the Harvard Business Review1, the individuals and organizations that engage competing demands simultaneously—adopting a "both-and" (or paradoxical) approach, rather than an "either-or" approach—are the ones with the greatest long-term success.

It’s an uplifting lesson for anyone looking to have it all: Perhaps you can.

The first and most obvious step to doing so, advises Smith, is to reframe the question from either-or to both-and. “Some constraints are real, but some are in our head,” she says. “Changing the question to ask how we can accommodate competing demands opens up new possibilities and areas of creativity.”

But just how open to change are we? To find out, Smith and her colleagues developed a questionnaire that assesses our comfort and skills in addressing competing demands. Try the survey and see where you land.

  • University of Delaware   •   Newark, DE 19716   •   USA   •   Phone: (302) 831-2792   •   © 2018