Sitting on the tension – Talk Business & Politics

We talk about tension like it’s a bad thing. Maybe it’s just about stretching.

Stretch and be able to hold different points of view at the same time. Leading and following. Glass half full, glass half empty. Literal and exaggerated. Rapid fire versus slow and methodical. Push and pull. Entrances and exits. Individual knowledge compared to collective knowledge. Consonance and dissonance. Inhale, exhale.

There is tension all around us. All the time. So maybe it’s not a problem to solve but rather a stretch to manage.

Take the epic love story, for example. Romance novels are often written in a dual-point-of-view format that allows for great strength between the hero and heroine. There are even juxtaposed views on the quest to conquer our loved one: “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is the belief that time apart is good for us, while “out of sight, out of of the mind” is the belief that being separated from one another is disastrous for love to win. It is the tension in the journey to win true love that compels the reader to devour hundreds of pages while anticipating the happily ever after.

There is a lot of tension in innovation, especially when using human-centered design principles. Think of a Venn diagram with the overlapping and competing components of customer desirability, technical feasibility, and business feasibility. Thousands of data points can be analyzed and reconciled before the product or service goes to market in the way that best suits each intertwined interest. It is the tension of overlap that drives the innovative mindset.

The Tour de France is an epic example of tension. The legendary sport dates back to 1903 and brings together the best cyclists from around the world. It’s a grueling 2,200 kilometers in 21 stages, including time trials, routes on ancient cobblestones and mountain climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees. Highly skilled runners specialize in roles known as sprinter, climber, time trialist, puncher and domestic. Globally, we stream the event live at all hours of the day and night to watch drivers compete or, worse, crash. We cheer on the breakaway riders and marvel at the pulse of the Peloton. For the world of cycling, it is the most emblematic event that illustrates the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Race, eat, recover, repeat is the mantra of 176 starting runners each year trying to make a name for themselves and their team. The whole event is a strategic masterpiece, competing for time, points and jerseys, and is not full of tension.

Stacey Mason

Music lives in the conflict between consonance and dissonance. The consonance is harmonious and pleasing to the ear. At the same time, dissonance (notes that don’t sound like they go together) produces an unpleasant, rough, unpleasant sound sensation and causes a sense of disharmony. Dissonant sounds create unease, and composers use this disharmony to give the music a “sense of urgency.” In most musical scores, the tension will resolve within a few short measures after the tension is felt. So why create a tension that needs to be resolved? Because it forces you to listen differently, to experience the music in a more visceral way.

Finally, there is popularity and uniqueness. The hardest internal tension is the human desire to fit in and stand out.

Most of our social ills live in a state of constant tension, and we naturally want this friction to be resolved. Although we may not know how to do so immediately, the tension—the push and pull, the overlap, the competition, the dissonance—forces us to pay attention and engage differently. And that can’t be a bad thing.

There is tension everywhere. It never goes away. Embrace the stretch h.

I’m learning though…

Stacey Mason is the founder of The improvisation laboratory, a professional development company in Bentonville. More information can be obtained by calling 479-877-0131. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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