A very inspiring book on reconciling opposites which provides an unconventionally refreshing approach to the big challenges of today.’
– Fons Trompenaars

The art of paradoxical life: practical lessons in reconciling opposites

With great pleasure, I introduce ‘De kunst van het paradoxale leven’ (‘the art of paradoxical life’) by philosopher and management consultant Ivo Brughmans. In this fascinating and inspiring book Ivo develops a strong case for reconciling opposite values, as the way forward to addressing the key challenges of our world today. One-sided ‘either-or’ solutions (like ‘Yes’ to modernity and freedom, ‘No’ to tradition and constraints) clearly don’t work anymore. To put it stronger, they are the root cause of many of the problems in society and business today. Innovative and sustainable solutions start from an inclusive ‘and-and’ approach of opposite values. The book has been written in a fluent and enjoyable style, while Brughmans provides a strong conceptual framework together with very recognizable stories and examples and with practical tips and tricks how to put this into practice.

The vision developed in this book is very much aligned with Trompenaars Hampden-Turner’s thinking on reconciling dilemmas, at the heart of excellent leadership. One of the things that makes this book powerful is that Brughmans applies these principles to very different aspects of life, from our daily life to the way we manage our organisations and how we run our society as a whole. Connecting the macro level (economics, politics, business) to the individual level, and exploring new ways to manage our lives, organisations and institutions in a more sustainable, authentic and balanced way.

One of the very recognizable symptoms of one-sided ‘either-or’-solutions mentioned in the book is the eternal pendulum between extremes: moving form centralisation to decentralisation to centralisation again…  Or we get trapped in either-or-choices that limit our creativity and innovation power, like the dilemma between investing and cost cutting, between top-down and bottom-up, between compliance and empowerment.  Brughmans develops a way of switching smoothly between opposites or bringing these together in a completely new synthesis.  Stating that opposites should be integrated and reconciled is one thing, but Brughmans also works out in a very practical way how to do that in daily life and work. Starting very much from the simple truth that if you want to change the world, you have to start with yourself. The first challenge is to accept the contradictory aspects within yourself and to start bringing these together, before considering doing this for your organization. Realising internal diversity (and internal agility) as the precondition of realising diversity and agility in the systems outside you. This is what leadership is all about: transforming yourself will allow you to transform your organization.

Brughmans goes far beyond the obvious, by also re-valuing the positive role of so called counter-values as for example pain, sorrow, doubt and accepting these as inseparable parts of who we are.

I really enjoyed the part of the book where these principles are applied to very different sectors of life, business and society. It gives a very refreshing and innovative view on many of the problems of our time.   This is a book everyone should read and is relevant to business and personal life. It makes you think differently on how we can live, manage and govern in a more sustainable, balanced way. At the moment this book is only available in Dutch. We can only hope that it will be translated soon.

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