Seminar Braathen: Paradox in Social Systems

 How do social systems relate to and resolve a paradox?

Petter Braathen (Memetix, Oslo)


Many of the problems facing organizations contain paradoxes or the experience of a paradox. Managers, for example, are asked to increase efficiency and foster creativity, build individualistic teams, and think globally while acting locally. "It's a paradox," however, is rapidly becoming the management cliche of our time--overused and underspecified.

The experience of a paradox can lead to confusion and apathy, and limits the individual and/or the organization from acting upon the situation. Concurrently, a paradox is the source of tremendous power for substantial change and learning.

Most often, researchers in organization theory use paradox to describe conflicting demands, opposing perspectives, or seemingly illogical findings. Yet, labeling paradox does not necessarily foster understanding, and few explore them at greater depths.

My objective is to bring insight from complex systems theory, evolutionary theory and theory on semiotics/pragmatism to understand how paradoxes emerge and can be resolved in social systems. Further, I will present a framework and a tool to be applied for practical organization.