Tension

This is Mark Parker’s notebook. He’s the CEO of Nike. It’s great insight into how he works. On one page, there’s doodling on shoe designs. The boss is actually still involved with making stuff. I bet you there’s no correlation whatsoever between that and the continued success of the company. That’s not the point though, today.

What really gets me going is the page on the left. He is listing dilemmas or tensions that Nike has to balance. Rather than looking away from them, which is what many CEOs do, he is actively engaging, if not outright playing with them.

There’s a great book about managing dilemmas by Dominic Dodd and Ken Favaro: The Three Tensions 

They argue that any company has to manage three tensions continuously to succeed:

  1. Profitability versus growth
  2. Whole versus parts
  3. Short versus long term

That has proven to be a great lens for me to understand why organisations struggle and to develop strategy with them from there.

We often have a form of tension to manage in our personal lives too. The question is whether we turn that into stress or use it as creative tension to generate new things.

What tensions do you see in your company? In your life?

Is it stress or creative tension? What can you do to reframe it?

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