During the Monitor Institute workshop on the future of philanthropy, one of the themes that resonated with me was the need for philanthropy to get comfortable with the creative tension between opposing goals. One of those creative tension pairs was Innovation vs. Effectiveness. The idea was that we need to reject the idea of one vs the other and instead relish the creative tension that exists between the two.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Yet at the same time, the concept of cognitive dissonance proposes that holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously generates an uncomfortable feeling and so people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, or by justifying or rationalizing them.
It is uncomfortable to wrestle with opposing goals. For instance, much of the criticism of the Social Innovation Fund focused on the fact that it was called the “Innovation” fund, yet it demanded proven levels of effectiveness.
What other opposing forces operating within philanthropy that generate creative tension? How can we harness creative tension rather than have it paralyze us?