Wednesday, July 1, 2015


 By: Jennifer Quarrie

Are you a powerhouse at Creative Problem Solving?  Always at the ready to save the day?  Its an amazing feeling to implement a solution after a lot of hard work.  But what about those other challenges lurking in the shadows?  You know the ones 

:::Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to face the Unsolvables:::

Its tough to admit, but some problems dont have solutions.  Luckily there are tools that can help manage challenges and improve circumstances. 

Polarity Thinking
Polarity thinking is just such a tool. It works to balance pairs of needs that depend on each other to achieve a positive result (inhaling and exhaling, for example).  When faced with a situation where you need two polarities in your life, yet are seeking to avoid both of their downsides, polarity thinking can help diminish the amount of time you spend in each negative pole.  The trick is recognizing that youve moved into the negative and directing energy towards moving out of it quickly to the opposite, positive pole.

Combine & Synthesize
In complex problem solving, using only one approach or tool often wont cut it.  E. Paul Torrance said it best as part of his Torrance Incubation Model: combine and synthesize.  Leveraging multiple approaches to include Creative Problem Solving and Polarity Thinking when addressing complex challenges results in a more holistic approach to confronting problems.  The fact that such a combination is feasible is a testament to the flexibility of these tools.  It also highlights that, when combined, the tools are more than the sum of their parts.

:::You may choose any two team members but for Unsolvable challenges, one must be polarity thinking:::

Reframing Success
It is easy to assume that solving a problem equates to simply identifying a solution, implementing it and checking it off the list. 

:::These assumptions will self-destruct in five seconds:::

In reality, solutions are impermanent because circumstances are always changing.  While solving a problem may work in the short term, learning how to manage ongoing polarities is a skill that enables a lifetime of progress.  Moving between poles while learning and iterating builds a useful portfolio of experience and knowledge (which can come in handy during problem solving).  At the end of the day, the ultimate goal of problem solving often centers on improving quality of life, which polarity thinking facilitates in a continuous cycle.  Glad you have a new partner in crime, Polarity Thinking, with whom to face the Unsolvables?

:::Mission accomplished:::

 Cruise, T. & Wagner, P. (Producers), & De Palma, B. (Director). (May 22, 1996). Mission: Impossible. [Motion picture]. United States of America: Paramount Pictures.
 Johnson, B. (1992). Polarity management: Identifying and managing unsolvable problems. Amherst, MA: HRD Press.
 Johnson, B. (2014). Reflections a perspective on paradox and its application to modern management. Polarity Partnerships. Retrieved from
 Puccio, G., Mance, M., Switalski, L.B., & Reali, P. D. (2012). Creativity rising: Creative thinking and creative problem solving in the 21st century. Buffalo, NY: ICSC Press.
 Torrance, E. P. (1979). An instructional model for enhancing incubation. Journal of Creative Behavior, 13(1), pp. 23-35.
 Torrance & Safter, H. T. (1990). The incubation model of learning and teaching: Getting beyond aha. Buffalo, NY: Bearly Limited.

Bio: Jennifer Quarrie is a dynamic innovation strategist and creativity expert with a visionary outlook and a knack for metacognition, facilitation and listening. With a BA in Cognitive Science from the University of Virginia and an MSc in Creative Studies from the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC) at SUNY Buffalo State, she incorporates budding areas of mind and creativity research into all of her work. As a leader and speaker she inspires wellness, fosters transformation and emboldens self-actualization.

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