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Is “Yin-Yang balancing” superior to ambidexterity as an approach to paradox management?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Xin LiORCiD


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In promoting indigenous management research in China, Peter P. Li has repeatedly asserted that Yin-Yang is superior to all other cognitive frames in dealing with paradox in general and that his “Yin-Yang balancing” solution is superior to ambidexterity as an approach to paradox management in particular. Disagreeing with Peter P. Li, this paper debunks the “Yin-Yang balancing being superior to ambidexterity” assertion by making three critical points. First, at the philosophical level, Peter P. Li’s notion of “Yin-Yang balancing” is an inaccurate interpretation (or incomplete version) of the Confucian principle of Zhong-Yong that is largely compatible with Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean. Second, at the practical level, his “Yin-Yang balancing” solution, while being different from the structural ambidexterity approach, is compatible with the contextual ambidexterity approach. These first two points imply that Peter P. Li’s “Yin-Yang balancing” solution is not necessarily superior to the ambidexterity approach in particular and the Western thinking in general. Third, Robert Blake and Jane Mouton, in their 1964 book The Managerial Grid, provide a variety of approaches to managing a fundamental organizational paradox (i.e., the production-people conflict). Their analysis not only covers different ambidexterity approaches, but also offers much more insights on paradox management. More significant is that Blake and Mouton made explicit that those ambidexterity-type approaches only deal with the problem at the level of symptoms rather than root causes. This third point implies that some Western scholars have had much deeper thinking on paradox management than some Chinese colleagues may have imagined.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Li X

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Asia Pacific Journal of Management

Year: 2019

Volume: 36

Issue: 1

Pages: 17-32

Print publication date: 15/03/2019

Online publication date: 19/04/2018

Acceptance date: 16/02/2018

ISSN (print): 0217-4561

ISSN (electronic): 1572-9958

Publisher: Springer New York LLC


DOI: 10.1007/s10490-018-9569-9


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