Audio production by James Ede, Be Heard

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The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. – Francis Scott Fitzgerald


We live in a complex, fast-paced and ever-changing world. The demands on our attention, our time and all our resources seem to grow in number and intensity all the time.

As a result, it seems that we are faced with new, increasingly difficult choices every single day:

Do we invest in the digital transformation or in developing our people?

Should we focus on getting repeat business from our existing clients or winning new clients in the new markets?

Do we pursue radical innovation and disrupt ourselves or do we focus on continually and incrementally improving what we are already doing?

Online networking or real-life?

We are hard-wired to crave certainty and clarity, so we seek the best choice.

And instead of finding the answers that feel good and produce desired results, we are perpetually trapped in the same old dilemma:

A or B?

But is it really a matter of choosing one over the other?

Wendy Smith is an associate professor of organizational behaviour at the Alfred Lerner School of Business at the University of Delaware.

She earned her PhD in organizational behaviour at Harvard Business School, and she researches a really interesting area – strategic paradoxes.

In this episode, we explore how we can effectively respond to seemingly contradictory agendas and create what Wendy refers to as “a paradoxical culture.”

Episode Highlights

  • How Wendy came to be interested in paradoxes
  • What are the key elements of a “paradoxical mindset”
  • What are the best ways to structure our thinking and effectively reconcile dilemmas in our lives and at work
  • What “dynamic equilibrium” is and what you need to do to practice it daily
  • The role that our identities play in our ability to embrace a paradox
  • Ways of constructing identities that help us and our teams be more effective in the modern world


Listen to the interview in the player below, or on iTunes. If you like what you hear, please leave a review and it may be featured on a future episode.

Prefer listening on iTunes, Stitcher or Spotify? Just click below.

More about Professor Wendy Smith

Wendy’s research focuses on strategic paradoxes – how leaders and senior teams effectively respond to contradictory agendas. She studies how organizations and their leaders simultaneously explore new possibilities while exploiting existing competencies, and how social enterprises simultaneously attend to social missions and financial goals.

Her research has been published in journals such as Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Administrative Science Quarterly, Harvard Business Review, Organization Science and Management Science.

Wendy is currently an Associate Editor at the Academy of Management Journal. In 2018, she won the University of Delaware’s first Mid-Career Excellence in Scholarship Award. In 2015, she won the Lerner College Outstanding Scholar Award. Wendy teaches leadership, organizational behavior and business ethics. She has taught MBAs and undergraduates at the University of Delaware, Harvard and University of Pennsylvania – Wharton.

Wendy was awarded the University of Delaware MBA Teaching Award in 2016. Wendy has also taught executive and senior leadership teams how to manage interpersonal dynamics, emotional intelligence, high performing teams, organizational change and innovation, managing in times of crisis, and managing strategic paradoxes.

You can contact Professor Wendy Smith:
on Twitter @profwendysmith
or send her an e-mail at

Books and resources mentioned on the podcast

Mary Parker Follett, Dynamic Administration: The Collected Papers of Mary Parker Follett

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