Category Archives: Paradox

The Paradox of Success and Failure

John Ward
John Ward

We’ve recently worked with a very interesting one: We work hard to help family successors achieve success as leaders. Failure is not an option — the family and personal consequences are problematic, maybe forever. Consequently, we help families set up systems to support success (for example, the Family Human Resources Task Force) to assure good assessment feedback and helpful coaching and mentoring. 

On the other hand, we know of wise family leaders who profess that failure is essential to learning and future success; that assuring success rather than failure is coddling, protective — only setting up future, more devestating, failure.So, how does a family seek both — failure and success in their next generation development program (as well as in their overall management culture)?We’d love to hear your views and your experience. 

As frequent readers of this space know, Amy Schuman and I love to explore paradoxes in the world of family business (and how business families develop the skill to live with the ambiguities of paradox).

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Can you be a “realistic visionary” – It is possible with long term commitment and connection

John Ward
John Ward

 “Realistic Visionary”

Possible with long-term commitment and connection

Dr. Anji Reddy, founder of now second generation run Dr. Reddy Labs, is described as a visionary, yet grounded, he is a “realistic visionary.” Is that a paradox? If so, it seems resolved by combining a long-term view – for him, 10 years – with conviction and commitment. This is how his visions (often) become real.

So what was one of his realistic visions? – The company, a $1.5 billion generic drug producer in India led by his son-in law and son, provides the means to seek safe drinking water for all the villages in India. Some might say “ an unrealistic vision? “  Ah, yes, but they have reached 2 million.

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Preservation is a Pivotal Part of Modernity

John Ward
John Ward

Famed architect Rem Koolhaas – Seattle library, CCTV in Beijing, Hermitage renewal in St. Petersburg, etc. – is reputedly “the most influential architect of our age” (FT, 1/9/2011, p. 3) and a contrary, unconventional thinker and designer. One example,

“We’d always thought that preservation was somehow anti-modernistic, an opposite, but in fact it is a pivotal part of modernity.”

When asked where his contrariness and unconventional ways and paradoxical facility come from he tells of his youth in Indonesia where his father’s duty was to cement the cultures of Holland and Indonesia after WW II.  Further, he likens his father’s career as a journalist with his own as an architect, saying both are telling a story.

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Happy Families: Proximity and Privacy

John Ward
John Ward

The Financial Times (1/9/11, p. 7) had a feature article on three generation joint Indian families living in the same home and how they design their homes to “encourage modern nuclear-style living, alongside age-old cultural values, which promote communal life.”

This situation recalls the classical paradox of individuality and collective.

One architect quoted tells of the need to “mediate between two generations with two diverse and opposing viewpoints.” The common balance seems to be to provide independent living quarters for each generation (with separate kitchens) and shared entrance and lounge/living room where everyone’s interests – “independent-but-connected,” as one architect put it.

There are other ways respect for traditional communal living are preserved: shared courtyard, gym, translucent internal doors, and single staircase. The balance is further struck by re-emphasizing “family rituals such as always eating Sunday lunches together and using the whole house for celebrations with extended family.”

Beyond balancing different views and seeking the benefits of both proximity and privacy, one person in the article found synthesis with an unambiguous comment:

“A lot of people of my generation feel they are doing a favor for their parents by living with them, but if you’re a working mother you’re being done the biggest favor.”

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The Paradox WikiLeaks Exposes

John Ward
John Ward

WikiLeaks and its founder froth strong emotions, for sure. At the roots, it seems, is a classical paradox for business owning families.

WikiLeaks supporters argue that exposure trumps secrecy. Seen more as a paradox the roots of the polarity are transparency and privacy.  Both, of course, have their value – and their downsides.

The transparency-privacy paradox is one of great relevance to business families:

–        Building community goodwill and market brand through active PR risks a long tradition of family modesty;

–        Financial transparency with employees and other stakeholders challenges the competitive benefits of being a private company;

–        Proactively shaping public opinion can increase security risks for wealthy families.

We often frame this paradox as Public Faces and Private Lives. Can you get the best of both? What’s your experience?

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