In Eastern Cultures

Ever stopped to wonder why much Eastern music is not a hit in Western Culture? Aside from obvious cultural differences, an important reason is: resolve. Yes, the closure of a musical phrase in Western music demands resolve. It is a note that culminates the end of a movement and indicates the phrasing to be closed. Our ears have grown so accustomed to hearing resolve in our music that when other forms of music are played, that contain no resolve, it leaves us feeling like the music is unfinished and can almost feel jarring or irritating.

Another form of resolve that many aspire to, is the idea that if we are to extract the best from a team, the most from an organization, the utmost from a Leader, then we all need to get along. We strive to build compliant working environments where tension and contrast are minimized and harmonious working teams are extolled.

And therein lies the rub…

to quote William Shakespeare.

The Rub

The rub is usually a tug of war between Accounting and Marketing. One group wants to save money, the other wants to spend it. It can also be between the creators, who want to dream, idealize and imagine and the producers who want to construct on budget and on time. Whatever the Rub, the thought is usually some version of; “If we could just get these two sides to get along, to play nice together, to think toward the same ideals, then life would be a lot less stressful around here!!”

Traditional thinking has the management of these two groups trying to resolve the problem by bringing in a tolerance expert to help both sides think like the other. To help them be more empathetic to the others cause. To try to get them to be more like each other, because then they would get along and the tension would subside. The issue would be resolved.

Oil and Water

The problem and strength with these two groups though is that they are oil and water in how different they are. At their core, creative people thrive on late nights, and long sessions and crazy inspiration for ideas and productivity. They often live by an O.M.G delivery schedule and seem frantic and disorganized to the producers. The producers on the other hand have schedules and lists and are thrilled by productivity. They get paid to make things happen and get things done and they will, on time and on budget if left to their own devices. Creative types find producers dry, black and white and predictable. To force these two to behave like each other, is to force oil and water to mix. They simply do not and should not. They are not made the same and fundamentally serve different purposes.

There is a redemption here though and it is the Raspberry Vinaigrette. It too is oil and water. Which strictly speaking shouldn’t mix, but when casually shaken just before serving, produces a wonderfully tensioned combination that is imminently pleasing to the palette and a delightful surprise to the expectations. The oil and the water co-exist in the bottle but are not mandated to blend in the bottle, the two separate within minutes on the table. That is the picture and the beauty of unresolved tension between passionate table-pounders who will not back down from what they believe in.

No resolve is good

The lesson for Leaders then is that beautiful creations don’t require full and complete dissolve. They don’t even require resolve. What they do require is that you allow the strong identity of one group to temper the equally strong identity of the other group and for the tension between them to produce balance.  The solution is not to destroy the tension. Don’t make them get along. Don’t break down the oil, so that it will mix with the water – the oil will be destroyed and that essential element will be lost.
Rather, allow them to co-exist in tension, in the same bottle, and only ask them to blend for a short thirty second shake right before delivery. The rest of the time, it is actually their separate and unique identities, in tension, that facilitates the amazing result.

Two questions then:

  • Where does tension exist in your organization?
  • Would resolve dismantle the creativity from them?