Wendy Smith: Both/And Thinking
Wendy Smith is the Dana J. Johnson Professor of Management and faculty director of the Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Lerner College of Business and Economics, University of Delaware. She earned her PhD in organizational behavior at Harvard Business School, where she began her intensive research on strategic paradoxes—how leaders and senior teams effectively respond to contradictory, yet interdependent demands. She has received the Web of Science Highly Cited Research Award for being among the 1 percent most-cited researchers in her field and received the Decade Award from the Academy of Management Review for the most cited paper in the past 10 years.
Her work has been published in such journals as Academy of Management Journal, Administrative Science Quarterly, Harvard Business Review, Organization Science, and Management Science. She has taught at the University of Delaware, Harvard, and Wharton while helping senior leaders and middle managers all over the world address issues of interpersonal dynamics, team performance, organizational change, and innovation. She is the author with Marianne Lewis of Both/And Thinking: Embracing Creative Tensions to Solve Your Toughest Problems.
In this episode, Wendy and I discuss the dangers of either/or thinking and how that tendency limits our effectiveness. We explore how to shift to both/and thinking in order to resolve the most challenging problems. Plus, we share key tactics that will help us do this in more practical ways.
- Framing a decision as an either/or will often minimize short-term anxiety, but limits creative and innovative long-term possibilities.
- While easy to see both/and opportunities for others, we’re likely to approach things as either/or when it’s ourselves. An outside perspective from someone who’s not emotionally connected is helpful.
- Changing the question we are asking is the most powerful to navigate paradoxes.
- Moving up a level when facing tough decisions can help us see the big picture.
- Consider shifting from “making a choice” to “choosing” in order to lead us towards better outcomes.
- Both/And Thinking: Embracing Creative Tensions to Solve Your Toughest Problems* by Wendy Smith and Marianne Lewis
Download my interview notes in PDF format (free membership required).
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- How to Quit Bad Stuff Faster, with Annie Duke (episode 607)
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