A paradox or anti-logic is a strange idea opposed to what is considered true according to the general opinion.

It is also considered paradoxical a proposition that appears to be false or that infringes common sense, but does not entail a logical contradiction, as opposed to a sophism that only appears to be a true reasoning.


Some paradoxes are apparently valid reasonings, starting from premises that appear to be true, but which lead to contradictions or situations contrary to common sense.

In rhetoric, a paradox is a figure of thinking that consists in using expressions or phrases that imply contradiction.

The paradoxes are stimulus for the reflection and often the philosophers use of them to reveal the complexity of the reality. The paradox also allows us to demonstrate the limitations of human understanding; The identification of paradoxes based on concepts that at first glance seem simple and reasonable has driven important advances in science, philosophy, mathematics, organizational management, innovation, etc.

Paradox of Zeno

The Zeno’s paradoxes are a series of paradoxes or aporias devised by Zeno of Elea. Dedicated mainly to the problem of the continuum and to the relations between space, time and movement, perhaps its most well-known paradox is that of Achilles and the tortoise, a paralogism according to which a fast runner could never reach a slow runner if the first one According to an advantage.

Paradox of Epicurus

Within the philosophy of religion, the paradox of Epicurus or also called the problem of evil is the problem of reconciling the existence of evil and suffering in the world with the existence of a deity who is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and omnibenevolent.

Paradox of the liar

The Liar paradox and others similar had been studied since antiquity in Greece, and in the Middle Ages were known as “insolubilia”. In moral philosophy a paradox plays a particularly important role in debates or ethical dilemmas.

The paradoxical nature of knowledge

Philosophers, as we have seen, have long considered paradox as a means of creating new knowledge. Physicists, starting with Newton, had to accept that electrons are paradoxically waves and particles.

Knowledge is seen paradoxically as an object and at the same time, as a flow. This nature requires the adoption of different tools, practices and conceptual understanding. The Cynefin model, with its four known, knowable, complex and chaotic spaces, makes possible the key understandings drawn from the science of complex adaptive systems.

Paradoxes of creativity

One of the paradoxes is that creative thinking seems to involve special processes and skills, such as understanding, incubation, or divergent thinking, but creativity is also considered to be part of our everyday cognitive skills, imaging, using language, and Dreaming and imagining. Other paradoxes of creativity refer to 1) the supposed need to possess a specific knowledge of the area or domain in which one works; (2) the contradiction between imaginative thinking and practical thinking; and (3) that creative ideas do not (customary) occur when deliberately working on a problem, but rather when attention shifts, at least momentarily, to the problem in question.

Paradox of the productivity of the Information Technologies

The productivity paradox refers to the deceleration of productivity growth in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s despite the rapid development in the field of information technology (IT) in the same period.

Academic studies of US aggregate data from the 1970s and 1980s found no evidence that IT significantly increased overall productivity. However, in the 1990s, there was a delay in the productivity jump related to information technology, possibly solving the original paradox.

Paradox of health

“We have seen that our subjective feeling of health and physical well-being has declined, although there have been important advances in our actual and objective state of health” (Barsky, 1988).

A few years ago Barsky and others coined the term “paradox of health” to show the situation that has been observed, especially in developed countries, where, while achieving indisputable achievements in multiple (macro-) health indicators of The population is increasingly used health services and expressed at the same time, a lot of dissatisfaction in people, related to their perceived health and well-being.

Paradoxes of innovation

When companies seek disruptive innovation, they typically invest an increasingly large amount of resources in the same places that have been provided by incremental innovation, which is the kind of innovation they understand and know how to manage. During this process, too often, companies do not realize that most of the time they limit their own ability to develop disruptive innovations. When disruptive ideas are managed as incremental, they become incremental.

The paradox arises when the investments that are supposed to make a company more innovative end up preventing it from having the disruptive ideas that it intends to achieve.

For over twenty years, the great innovations, those that transform industries and even society, seem to have come almost exclusively from startups, despite the efforts and resources employed by established companies. Tony Davila and Marc Epstein, authors of Making Innovation Work, say the problem is that the very processes and structures responsible for the long-term success of established companies prevent them from making progress. This is the paradox of innovation.

Dávila and Epstein explain how corporate culture, leadership style, strategy, incentives and management systems can be structured to foster progress, through examples of long-term innovative companies such as IBM, 3M, Apple and Google.

Gartner explains that to create an environment where innovation can flourish, ICT managers must master the four paradoxes of innovation: power, process, pressure and ownership:

  1. The paradox of power: People with the best ideas are often the least able to promote their adoption. Front-line employees and new employees are often full of ideas, but lack the power to promote them.
  2. The paradox of the process: An excellent process of innovation can lead to bad ideas. In addition, an innovation process will never capture 100% of new ideas, nor should it.
  3. The paradox of pressure: Offering employees too much time to innovate is a waste, but their opposite would mean that people do not have time to consider new ideas.
  4. The Property Paradox: Being open to talent that resides beyond the boundaries of the organization (open innovation) can lead to ideas of higher quality, but at the same time can dilute the control of the organization on the resulting innovations.

In an article in Forbes, Tendayi Viki gathers 7 paradoxes of innovation:

  1. Search for new opportunities while taking advantage of current advantages
  2. Create new products, manage established products
  3. Deliberate strategy, emerging strategy
  4. Decentralized decisions, greater transparency
  5. A unique company, not a single business model
  6. Learn quickly from mistakes to get better results at the end
  7. Impatient for benefits, patients for growth, validating before new business models

Therapeutic Paradox (Gestalt)

The paradox used in psychotherapy seeks to interrupt a vicious circle and face resistance (Selvini et al, 1986). The therapist, instead of continuing useless attempts at change, can use a paradox to find a benefit, to become a win and not lose. The fundamental task of the therapist who works with the paradoxical techniques is to open gaps or to provide different solutions to a problem that seems to have no solution through a rediscovery of values ​​through questioning.

Victor Frankl describes the importance of managing symptoms in psychotherapy with the paradoxical intention or prescription of the symptom: “Any symptom in itself fleeting and harmless, causes the person the fear of being repeated; This fear reinforces the symptom and the symptom, reinforced in this way, finally increases the patient’s fear “The paradoxical intention is that the patient intends to do or do what he fears (Frankl, 1978).

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I can change.” Carl Rogers.

Alejandro Jodorowsky also makes use of the paradoxes within what he calls Psycho- maia. The use of a paradoxical prescription, despite what the patient does, obtains a benefit: self-acceptance of the inevitable (Jodorowsky, 1995).

Paradox of Wisdom

The Wisdom Paradox explores the aging of the mind from a single, positive perspective. In an age of growing fears about mental deterioration, neuropsychologist Elkhonon Goldberg provides surprising new evidence that although the brain declines in some tasks as it ages, it gains in others. Most remarkable is that it increases in what he calls “wisdom”: the ability to tap into the knowledge and experience gained throughout life to make quick and effective decisions. Goldberg separates memory into two distinct types: singular (knowledge of a particular incident or fact) and generic (recognition of broader patterns). As the brain ages, the ability to use unique memory decreases, but generic memory is not affected and its importance grows. The accumulation of generic memory allows the brain to rely more and more on these stored patterns to solve problems effortlessly and instantaneously.

The paradox in Organizational Development (OD)

In DO paradox is a concept especially interesting for its multiple meanings:

  1. Because of the tensions that occur within organizations: flexibility versus control, exploration versus exploitation, autocracy versus democracy, global vs. local, etc.
  2. For the role of paradox as a meta-theory: complexity, change and ambiguity require a paradoxical approach in theory and practice.
  3. Because of the DO’s dual purpose of making organizations more effective, and at the same time improving the work experience of the members of the organization, more satisfactory.
  4. By the double orientation of the organizational change in emphasizing the economic objectives and managing the change from above and / or the one to develop the capacities of the organization in a more participative or collaborative approach.
  5. By the double “natural” tendency of employees towards the positive and at the same time to react more strongly to negative stimuli than to positive ones.

Therefore, we can say that the DO has been for a long time (and will continue …) in the task of involving in its approaches the paradoxes surrounding positive organizational change. DO values ​​have all the potential to live the paradox more effectively than most other approaches to change and philosophies.


If you want to know a little bit more …


Selvini, M. et al.(1986) Paradoja y contraparadoja: un nuevo modelo en la terapia familiar de transacción esquizofrenica. Paidos. Barcelona.

Frankl, V. (1978). Psicoterapia y Humanismo. Fondo de Cultura Económica. México.

Jodorowsky, A. (2016). Psicomagia. Ediciones Siruela. Madrid.

Rogers, C. (1982): El proceso de convertirse en persona. Barcelona: Paidós.

Langer, E.J. (2006). La creatividad consciente: De cómo reinventarse mediante la práctica del arte. Barcelona: Paidós.

Burns, D. (1998). Sentirse bien. Una nueva terapia contra las depresiones. Barcelona: Paidós.

Barsky, A. J. (1988) The Paradox of Health. The New England Journal of Medicine. Feb.18, Vol. 318. No 7:414-418

Goldberg, E. (2006)The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger As Your Brain Grows Older. Pocket Books. February 16, 2006.

Davila, T. y Epstein, M. (2014) The Innovation Paradox: Why Good Businesses Kill Breakthroughs and How They Can Change. Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc. San Francisco, California.

Viki, T. (2016) Pirates In The Navy: The Seven Paradoxes of Innovation. Forbes. August 28th, 2016.

Lewis, M.W. y Smith W.K. (2014) Paradox as a Metatheoretical Perspective Sharpening the Focus and Widening the Scope. The Journal of Applied Behabioral Science. Vol 50, Issue 2. March 5, 2014.

Bartunek. J.M. y Woodman, R.W. (2011) The Spirits of Organization Development, or Why OD Lives Despite Its Pronounced Death.  The Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship. Edited by Spreitzer, G.M. y Cameron, K.S.$002foxfordhb$002f9780199734610.001.0001$002foxfordhb-9780199734610-e-055;jsessionid=8E8931C9B200779640D6CEFDAD4A72A2