I have found myself discussing balance on a number of occasions. Recently I mentioned it in reference to whether education should go through incremental improvement or a process of disruptive innovation. In each case my reference to balance has been in highlighting some of the binary discussions which seem to arise on the Edu blog sphere and Twittersphere slightly more than they do in real life discussions. Things are generally not binary in nature as the world is seldom that simple. Balance therefore allows for an element of two opposing concepts or views with agreement to establish a point of agreement somewhere between the two opposite points. Balance to me presents a continuum between two points, with the ability to select somewhere in between. Up until recently I have been happy with this concept of balance.
The other day on the way home though I came to think about balance and I realised that my viewpoint maybe wasn’t as acceptable as I had thought it was. The issue which came to me as I drove home was the fact that my view of balance puts two concepts at opposite ends. For example, incremental improvement and disruptive innovation. The two concepts are not opposites so why would they be at opposite ends of a continuum? The reason I suspect is that in a discussion between two parties each will adopt a position, or end, and the negotiation that follows will either lead to an agreed disagreement or to a compromise or point in between. As such from the point of view of a discussion between two people with differing viewpoints the model of a continuum and balance makes sense but maybe it doesn’t make sense as much when looking at the concepts themselves or their implementation.
In the case of incremental improvement and disruptive innovation, does more of one result in less of the other? Maybe from the point of view of time available to undertake the process of change, it might be a case of more of one and less of the other. Other than this could we not seek to be both incremental and disruptive? If we were half way between incremental and disruptive what does this mean? Does it mean spending half of our time being incremental and half of our time being disruptive and if so, how do we transition from one to the other? Or if not related to time, what would being half way disruptive look like? Can I be incremental but also also introduce a disruptive innovation, or could a disruptive innovation by incremental? Are all increments necessarily equal and in which case is a disruptive innovation possible just a large incremental change?
I realise now that my use of balance hadn’t really advanced me away from the idea of binary concepts. Having a continuum between two points isn’t that much better than having two points, especially where the concepts or points of view aren’t clearly opposites. This all stems out of our looking for the “right” answer and as Ken Robinson said in his famous Changing Paradigms speech, “there can only be one and its at the back of the book”. De Bono makes a similar observation in his book which is aptly titled “I’m right, you’re wrong”. The reality is that we can actually all be right (or wrong come to think about it). We could be iterative in our change however also be disruptively innovating as well. There is no requirement to do one or the other, beyond the requirement which we imply in our discussions of differing viewpoints. This extends for most binary discussions (or arguments) both online and offline.
I feel we all need to take more care in pitting viewpoints against each other. Maybe the biggest benefit might come from accepting that differing viewpoints may all be correct, from looking for commonalities as opposed to stressing the differences.