Are Management Contradictions a Product of Human Nature?

This article is not, in my opinion, all that well written. But it does make some very good points towards the end. Among them, that:

So returning to our hypotheses about paradoxical human behaviour we posit that human nature consists of sets of paradoxical instincts. These probably include paired paradoxical instincts for e.g.:

(1) Conformity and Individualism

(2) Cooperation and Competition

(3) Peacemaking and Aggression

(4) Altruism and Selfishness

and these conclusions:

Firstly, paradoxical contradictions in public institutions and services are permanent and have to be managed. We need to avoid the one-sided and unrealistic rhetoric of public policy or services reforms – e.g. 'decentralise' or 'join-up'. We can re-arrange these elements and change the balances between them, but it is simply foolish to believe we can avoid some elements of 'centralisation' or 'specialisation'. The more we try to suppress one aspect of a paradox in favour of another, the more it is likely to come back around in some other form. The more we decentralise, the more concerns will arise about equity and probity or about coordination. Any change will inevitably have unexpected consequences, that is unless we learn to stop thinking purely in either/or terms and start to understand the dynamics of paradox.

Secondly, we need to adopt research strategies that recognise the possibilities of contradictory and paradoxical results. Most research designs exclude recognition of these phenomena by posing either/or choices rather than recognising the possibility of both/and results. Thus we often produce misleading results. This tendency is exacerbated by the modern trend towards so-called 'paradigm shifts'. These usually involve – in politics, policy analysis or management – creating internally consistent 'new' paradigms that are counter-posed to equally consistent and coherent old paradigms. In the process the contradictions and paradoxes of both old and new systems are glossed over and the retention of some of the 'old' in the 'new' ignored.

I think this is why management is so difficult sometimes. Managers don't fully understand the paradoxical nature of human behavior. They try to take the company in only one direction, when in fact it could be run better by balancing conflicting goals. Maybe someone will write a book called "Managing Paradox" – sounds like a bestseller to me.

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