Practices > Dilemma Resolution



When there is a polarity or tension between two equally necessary performance parameters which are themselves seemingly incompatible.

i.e. “We need to satisfy shareholders.” vs. “We need to invest in future innovation.”


“If you are better skilled to reconcile dilemmas, you come better out of them.”

Feike Sijbesma @ World Economic Forum 2016


  • Apply the Dilemma Resolution approach
  • Understand why both positions are necessary for success
  • Navigate collectively to find and/both solutions

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Dilemma Resolution

This process allows actors to identify the value that each opposing perspective brings to the table, enabling the group to move forward and find a viable solution. Symbolized by a rock and a whirlpool, the aim is to navigate through the dilemma so that it can both conserve the essential value embedded in the present system, and incorporate the core value that is central to innovating it.

In a genuine dilemma there is an entanglement between the two values and their associated situations because the dilemma itself is a manifestation of a deeper structure. In fact, the underlying structure is a systemic one in which unseen feedback loops create unexpected consequences:

  • If the advocates of rock values “win” (that is dominate) then at some point in the future the feedback from the whirlpool realities will catch up and cause defeat.
  • If advocates of the whirlpool values prevail then sooner or later the rock realities will catch up and cause defeat.

Dilemma resolution requires a dynamic and non-linear process that emphasises ‘both/and’ rather than ‘either/or’ by a process we call the dilemma dance.

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