Of playground paradoxes and ancient gods: how to innovate with Janusian thinking

Today, we would declare in the playground, is Opposite Day. On Opposite Day, everything you said meant the opposite of what you said, so you had to say the opposite of what you wanted to say in order to communicate what you wanted to say. But to say Today is Opposite Day on Opposite Day meant it was not Opposite Day, so how could you spread the word around school that it was Opposite Day?

Still with me? Getting our heads around paradoxes takes some concentration. However, the ability to conceive of conflicting or opposite thoughts simultaneously has been identified as a mark of outstanding creativity by the psychiatrist Albert Rothenburg.

Rothenburg named this type of thought ‘Janusian Thinking’, after the Roman god Janus. Janus was a two-headed god, one of whose heads could look into the past whilst the other looked into the future. Whilst few of us have two heads with which to hold antithetical ideas concurrently, we can emulate the Janusian thought process in order to approach what we do at a higher level of thinking.

Rothenburg studied 54 Nobel prizewinners and attributed many major scientific breakthroughs or artistic works of genius to a specific process: taking a problem formulated in terms of opposing concepts or ideas, and trying to resolve the paradox.

Many of the problems you may have with your business can probably be captured in terms of a paradox.

Can you now think of a non-business equivalent to the problem your paradox describes?

In your analogy, what can be done to improve the situation?

Now can you apply this improvement back to your original paradox?

What’s your new big idea?

Rothenburg has claimed that Einstein, Bohr, Mozart and Picasso were all Janusian thinkers. Our paradoxes may be more Opposite Day than Quantum Theory, but with a little prayer to Janus we might come up with some creative innovations to improve on our company’s status quo.

Designed by: Carne Associates & modified by Dawud Miracle