Dynamic tension: Winning with two opposites

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Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

DOES your company still dream about making products or services of the highest quality, delivered quickly to customers at the lowest price possible, all at the same time? And why are you doing it? The answer is obvious—business competitiveness.

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To be competitive, people and organizations must identify opposing tensions and harmonize them—for instance, 1) avoiding failure versus taking risk, and 2) getting quick results versus getting the best approach. That’s how Matthew May, author of “The Elegant Solution” (2006), describes “dynamic tensions”—or man’s ability to harmonize two or more opposites, which is most of the time described by old thinkers as a win-win solution.

May describes it from the perspective of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa as the “ultimate expression of paradox. Her mysterious half-smile has been interpreted as the opposition of good and evil, compassion and cruelty, and seduction and innocence.”

In business, May cites the example of Toyota as using “dynamic tension” to help create breakthrough thinking. For instance, “greater speed and acceleration conflicts directly with fuel efficiency, noise, and weight, because higher speed and acceleration requires a more powerful engine. A more powerful engine is a bigger and heavier engine, so it makes more noise and consumes more fuel. A smooth, quiet ride conflicts directly with lower weight and better handling at high speed.”

The result of Toyota’s dynamic tension is the Lexus LS400 and other LS models featuring three things: “Faster 0 to 60 acceleration, better fuel efficiency, and greater silence.” This was achieved when some “60 kilograms” were taken off “gram by gram” from the original Lexus model. And I’m almost sure that Toyota would not stop removing more weight from the highly sophisticated machine, even up to this writing.

Next question: How would you be able to duplicate Toyota’s dynamic tension in your product or service? Many of us perceive that such could be a difficult part of innovation. After all, bright ideas don’t come easy. Really, it’s difficult unless you believe in Pablo Picasso’s word of advice—“Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”

Several excellent ideas could be stolen from the fast food industry, which must have copied it from the automotive and semiconductor industries. Name it. Every fast food restaurant has the following basic ingredients: consistent food quality, served fresh in as little as 60 seconds by trained part-time students working as employees who receive the minimum wage—resulting in lower prices and convenience to billions of customers.

What would McDonald’s or Jollibee (or your business) look like? It’s easy to understand the business model of these two global giants and homegrown fast food power brands. Both have a simple and standard menu. They follow a step-by-step instruction manual that untrained teenagers use to prepare your order, receive your cash, and deliver your food in no time at all—to justify their existence as a fast food restaurant.

The examples abound in your own business sphere, but only if you know how to identify these models. Of course, one thing is sure—you only have to spot those business models that continue to rake in profit, consistently for several years. Again, what are the dynamic tensions that continue to build products and services?

For instance, how about reengineering a water purifying business? Try to do an experiment with your neighborhood store. Seek out why they continue to remain profitable despite competition at every corner of your community. Can you beat out the P25 per gallon of purified water without offering cutthroat pricing?

Get ideas from other businesses, even from Toyota, Google, and of course, Apple. Maybe you’re not lucky enough to get a first-hand view of what they’re doing except to learn from them through online. When you discover a product or service that has an interesting perspective, try to learn as much about it and know the context. The Web offers an ocean of information for your own taking.

Seek diversity in your reading. Rotate from business books to humor stories, then to biographies to cooking books, if not sports. Test all the bright ideas you learned to your product or service. Give a limited offer to customers.

Connect the dots of apparent unrelated ideas and concepts like the legendary innovator Steve Jobs. And be bold enough to steal ideas like Picasso and be great like the Spanish painter.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant with a fused interest in human resources and total quality management. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow Rey Elbo on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.

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