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Paradoxical Thinking and Cause and Effect Thinking


Thinking and analysis are an integral part of academic inquiry. People grow, learn and develop during the process of discussion, particularly when being engaged in learning institutions. Universities, schools, colleges, and various courses can all become a source of academic development, teaching people new concepts and explaining the old ones. Learning institutions encourage independent critical thinking, analysis, and further discussion for all kinds of topics. Although all colleges and universities put the education of their students as their primary task, the ways in which they can facilitate the process are varied.

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In particular, academic institutions can facilitate two separate types of thinking. Cause and effect thinking is usually the primary way in which students are encouraged to approach any given topic, using a framework established during childhood (Hijazi, 2019). This type of engagement, however, has major flaws in handling complex discussions or fostering creative thought. Cause and effect thinking style facilitates linear approach to problem solving, does not promote further academic inquiry, and works in a counterproductive way to deeper discussion (Hijazi, 2019). The aforementioned problems are precisely why academic institutions should favor paradoxical thinking.

This model of engagement with problems offers a more open way to approach any given problem, more often fit to look at the complexities of the modern world. Creative thinking and imaginative solutions can be better promoted using paradoxical thinking, allowing students to improve their critical analysis skills and push the discussion even further beyond (Hijazi, 2019). This work will focus on outlining the overall difference between two types of thinking, as well as their description. The main goal, in this process, is to convince the audience that paradoxical thinking can be objectively batter at promoting academic mastery, expanding the realm of inquiry and mentally engaging students.


Cause and Effect Thinking

First, one must discuss the formal definitions for both types of thinking. Cause and effect thinking, in general, is easily understood by the human brain, and gets taught to children during their first years of kindergarten or school. Explaining this type of thinking is very intuitive, as the main essence of the approach can be surmised from the name itself. Students are encouraged to examine particular events, and their causal relationship to other effects. For example, a news forecast saying that it is going to rain, and the person taking an umbrella when going outside. Cause and effect thinking establishes a tangible and direct link between particular occurrences, discussing the influence one occurrence can exert in a society (Hijazi, 2019). It should be noted that this approach can be used effectively for problem solving and analysis purposes, as it offers students the ability of linking events together.

However, it is also important to understand that the way in which cause and effect thinking is presented can be counter intuitive to further discussion. When a person is hard-wired to only seek out causes or direct influences, they are far more likely to ignore other relevant factors to a discussion (Hijazi, 2019). The ability to quickly find a solution to a problem means that a potential discussion is thwarted, and there is no further legitimate avenue to discuss the intricacies of the problem presented. Cause and effect thinking, more than other types of engagement. Does not allow for creativity or variety in solutions.

Cause and Effect Thinking

Paradoxical Thinking

Alternatively, paradoxical thinking is in many ways an opposite way to approach the problem. This method of engagement fully embraces the varied and complex nature of many discussions, understanding that all spheres of life – social, creative, political, economic and others require nuance. During people’s life they often have goals fueled by contradictory sentiment, and need to juggle between their priorities in accordance to derive the most benefit from their situation (Hijazi, 2019). For example, this could mean that one wants to get a high score on a test without actually studying for a long time, or achieve their long-standing goal at the minimum monetary investment. Human lives are full of such discrepancies, where people have to navigate the paradoxes of life for their own benefit or the benefit of others (Hijazi, 2019). The need to make sure that opposing forces are kept at a particular balance is what encourages people to be more creative, to look at problems from a variety of ways.

Examples of Companies Employing Paradoxical Thinking

Google can be taken as one of the most prominent and famous example of a company employing paradoxical thinking. Its approaches to technological development, marketing, organizational efforts and marketing are all radiating creativity, aimed specifically at making people think in innovative or unprecedented ways. Tech companies in particular often employ creative paradoxical ways to a high degree, allowing them to be innovative and ahead of the curve at all times. Microsoft, Apple, or other modern computer giants can all be seen as employing this method of thinking.

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Learning Paradoxical Thinking

When discussing something from a paradoxical thinking standpoint, learners can see that there is often no simple, singular causal relationship between events, and influences of multiple factors needs to be accounted for. In practice, this can mean devising multiple valid solutions to a problem, often thinking outside the box (Hijazi, 2019). When educated correctly, one can learn and understand paradoxical thinking better, it is primarily the case of correct educational efforts and the promotion of critical thinking. The work of educational institutions and facilities can be formative to creating people capable of paradoxical thinking, as universities and colleges are precisely the place where mental engagement is encouraged. By seeing examples from one’s own life, discussing the complexities of the world, people can come to adopt more nuanced perspectives

Paradoxical Thinking and Intelligence

Discussing the intricacies of paradoxical thinking, one can also note that it is a skill intimately connected with intelligence. Being more complex and engaging than normal means of thinking, it both requires a person to exhibit a degree of intelligence and also acts as a way to improve it. It is often credited as one of the eight skills related to intelligence itself, however, it is also often heavily underutilized. While paradoxes fill the human lives, individuals are often hard-wired to either not notice their presence, or regard them as a bad thing. The mismatches and contradictory nature of paradox can often confuse and discourage inquiry, meaning that less people would be willing to engage with it willingly. This means that out of eight intelligence skills, it is one that is used to a much lesser extent (Healthy Companies, 2018).

Organizational Improvement

Alternatively, one can also discuss how paradoxical thinking is beneficial to leadership and organizational management. The method can be effective in improving management, task completion and the general performance of workers. It is extremely useful to facilitate this method of inquiry in employees, and direct an organization to further encourage paradoxical thinking (Healthy Companies, 2018). The use of this approach is beneficial to creativity, expression in work and problem-solving, as well as a healthy and growing corporate structure (Healthy Companies, 2018). Allowing the employees to look at the problems at hand from unconventional angles leads to finding more unique and interesting solutions, opening opportunities and subsequently improving the workflow.


Healthy Companies. (2018). “AND” is the New “OR” – the value of PARADOXICAL thinking in business. The Healthy Leader.

Hijazi, S. (2019). Paradoxical thinking. LinkedIn.

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