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Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems Paperback – June 12, 2014


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Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems + Polarity Coaching: Coaching People & Managing Polarities + Managing Polarities in Congregations: Eight Keys for Thriving Faith Communities
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: H R D Press (June 12, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874251761
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874251760
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

For the past 35 years, Barry Johnson has been working to help create organizations that are good places to work, to own, to do business with and to have in the community. In the process he has founded 5 organizations. Barry is regarded as both an effective consultant and leading thinker in the management field. The Polarity Management Map® and initial set of principles emerged out of his work in 1975. Since then he has continued to develop the map, principles with a variety of organizations all over the world. Barry's title Polarity Management is his work with polarities (dilemmas, paradox) and presents a unique model and set of principles based on that will challenge you to look at situations in new ways. Polarity Management is a top selling and widely referenced University level text that is applicable for both higher education and corporate learning.

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Customer Reviews

Very easy to read and understand.
Richard Carroll
When you realize you don't have a problem to be solved but a polarity to be managed, your approach and thinking changes, and so do your chances of being successful!!
Robert
I purchased this book to supplement my course materials for my mba class.
Andrea L. McDaniel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 9, 1998
Format: Paperback
Johnson presents a clear path to understanding and managing the dilemmas of our modern and post-modern society. He provides a method of mapping a polarity (or paradox or dilemma) that bridges into systems thinking. Once you get what he is saying, you will never see the world the same. Do not be fooled by the simplicity of this - Johnson shares great truths needed today. I cannot imagine how this book has remained the best-kept secret in management and systems thinking.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Peggy A. Chirico on March 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Polarity Management is one of my favorite "business" books of all time. Johnson's theory, which explains the dynamics of polarized issues, is so simple yet so comprehensive. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand why major issues can be so divisive and how we can move forward when we seem to be at a standstill.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Robyn Johnson on March 21, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book really shows how we become stuck in dilemmas and static thinking, and how we can instead move at one with change. I am finding it tremendously helpful in analyzing entrenched organizational dysfunction that persists in spite of the efforts of well-meaning managers.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David Mullins on April 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
In this book Johnson provides us with a framework to understand the nature of dilemmas. Easy to read, the simplicity of Polarity Management belies its explanatory power in handling paradox and in so doing transforms our view of dealing with difficulties. This book is an important and satisfying read that does provide the reader with a genuinely new paradigm in thinking rare in these days of overhyped publications.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jim L. Battin on November 9, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Barry Johnson's book heightens the readers' awareness of polarities that play themselves out in our everyday lives.

If one can accept the notion that there are many unsolvable problems, the reader can take solace in becoming engaged with the author's thorough explanation of how to identify and manage these polarities. By doing so, the vignettes described are energizing and provide teachable moments.

Some of the lessons of the book are:

We are taught to look at both the upside and downside of polarities.
We see and feel what Johnson calls the `tradition bearing' and `crusading' patterns of behavior.
We see and feel that by considering at all sides of a situation, we can participate in a healthy dance between them.
We rush `to be right' rather than becoming `accurate and complete.'

While some of the concepts are at first difficult to grasp, paradoxically, by following the principles of polarity management itself, the lessons learned can be very powerful and worth the journey.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 16, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this back in December 2011 when I was scrounging around for books on panarchy (see for instance, Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems. It stayed in my pile as other books moved because my first impression was that it was more complicated than I cared to deal with and might - shudder -- even include mathematical formulas. I was wrong.

This is a very straight forward book that I recommend as a read-ahead or work book for any group seeking to radically evolve their internal decision making processes away from the current standard of "I talk, you listen; I decide, you obey." It has clear charts, the right amount of white space, and I put it down thinking very well of the book.

Panarchy is an evolution of the whole systems approach to anything, with the clarity and integrity of FEEDBACK LOOPS among the elements being the core of any successful system. If everyone does not talk; if everyone does not listen; if everyone does not decide; if everyone does not act in harmonization with all others, system failure is inevitable.

Interesting to me, because Harrison Owen is a friend and mentor, this book is a restatement, in panarchic terms, of his path-finding work, Open Space Technology: A User's Guide--I also recommend his more recent Wave Rider: Leadership for High Performance in a Self-Organizing World.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D. Philips on January 7, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The invisible fog is trying to solve a problem that can't be solved. It is a fog because the solutions don't work, and it is invisible because focusing on solutions prevents seeing that there isn't a problem to be solved. There is no magic bullet here, and Johnson acknowledges that. What is here are tools for coping with (managing) dualities or polarities inherent in many troublesome situations. Johnson provides the clarity to get above the fog and find a way to address (manage) the situation.

The concepts and underlying explanation are a solid 5-star.

Four stars because I found just a bit too much padding/repetition for a 5 star book.
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Initially, when I read the first chapter, I thought this was a very interesting concept. I believe very strongly that many of the decisions we have to make in our personal and professional lives are unfairly categorized as binary...we fund a project, or not...we buy a new house, or not...polarity management (PM) argues that many of the "fixes" that managers implement at work (eg; centralizing decision-making when too much of the decision-making is the field) just set us up for a pendulum of back and forth.

Using PM would have a manager consider the upside for both "poles" and do her best to keep the decision-making in a best of both worlds status, as long as can be managed. In theory, I do think this is an interesting way of discussing pole-based issues. The book is easily twice as long as it should be and I didn't find the examples to be terribly relevant.

Another issue to bring up is that PM exists on the basis that there are two poles. This can limit decision-making and crush creativity.
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