Leadership: The Power of AND for a Complex World
Our world is increasingly complex. Leaders need new approaches to be effective. Building on her bestselling book, Both/And Thinking, WENDY K. SMITH draws on over 25 years of research to show how our typical leadership approaches fail us. She argues that effectively leading in this complex world requires us to embrace organizational paradoxes and apply both/and thinking to value competing demands. She animates these ideas with examples from leaders in large companies such as Unilever, and LEGO, to social enterprises and NGOs.
This session can support the growth and development of leaders whether your organization is grappling with strategic challenges around innovation and change, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, employee wellness – or seeks new ways to confront the challenges of our times. Participants will leave this session with new language and strategies for leadership.
Decision-Making: Navigating Complex Tensions In an Era of Paradox
Our lives are riddled with ongoing tensions. We face a tug-of-war between our work demands and the rest of our lives, being productive while also ensuring our well-being, performing well while also learning new skills. WENDY K. SMITH argues that it is not IF we face tensions, but how we do so. She shows how we resort to either/or approaches to address these challenges and why that approach is limited at best and detrimental at worst. She then draws on 25 years of research to offer an alternative both/and approach. Animated by provocative stories and powerful research findings, this session will leave people seeing their challenges in a new light and inspired to draw on tensions as a strength to embrace rather than an obstacle to avoid.
This session is often valuable as leadership development for any level of the company.
Paradox Mindsets: Building the Intellectual Muscle to Navigate Complexity
Our challenges do not come from the problems we face, but how we face our problems. In this talk, WENDY K. SMITH helps us to see how quickly we fall into either/or traps that diminish diversity and exacerbates detrimental conflict. She then draws on her award-winning research along with her co-authors to describe the nature and approaches to build a paradox mindset. This session will leave participants feeling inspired and equipped with practices to build a paradox mindset to work through conflicts and tensions.
In advance, participants often take the free Paradox Mindset Inventory assessment. As an add-on, leaders can opt for an anonymous analysis of participants Paradox Mindset Inventory averages. This session is valuable in any leadership development context or for a group of leaders seeking to make strategic change.
Innovation and Change: A Both/And Approach
Long-term organizational success depends on the ability to innovate and change. Yet innovation leads most employees to feel anxious and resistant. WENDY K. SMITH draws on over 25 years of research to suggest that we can embrace change with a both/and mindset - simultaneously valuing the past while looking toward the future. She animates this talk with examples from IBM, Netflix, CISCO, as well as nonprofits, schools, and other organizations.
This session can help leaders and employees in any organization navigate a change effort. Participants will leave this session with new language and strategies for addressing innovation and change.
Sustainability: A Both/And Approach
Our world is facing grand challenges. Organizational leaders are increasingly stepping up to be part of the solution, not the problem. But doing so creates tensions –profit or planet, mission or market, social or financial. In this talk, WENDY K. SMITH draws on her research in large organizations like Unilever to award winning social enterprises like Digital Divide Data and Shorefast to argue for a both/and approach to sustainability and offer specific tools and strategies.
This session is valuable for leaders and employees in any organization confronting the tensions of sustainability. Participants will leave this session with new language and strategies for confronting sustainability.
Women’s Leadership: A Both/And Approach
Women leaders often feel stuck ‘between a rock and hard place’ - confronting ongoing tensions between being competent yet cooperative, assertive yet diplomatic, independent and collaborative, career oriented yet family oriented. Moreover, women of color grapple with increased tensions of intersectionality that surface between race and gender. These tensions often leave women feeling forced to choose between the opposing demands. In this talk, WENDY K. SMITH integrates her academic research on paradoxes with her work as Faculty Director of the Women’s Leadership Initiative to suggest alternative approach. She invites participants to lean into these tensions as paradoxes, drawing on their opposing sparks as a source of power rather than pain.
This session is valuable for an audience of women and nonbinary people that seek to bring their full selves to their leadership, as well as men interested in being more effective allies. Participants will leave this session with new language and strategies for addressing diversity in general and enabling gender equity in particular.
When Wendy K. Smith visited our team, she made it clear how both/and thinking will transform our workplace
When confronted with uncertainty, we have learned to analyze the data and choose the ‘right’ answer, adopting either/or thinking. But in her research, organizational psychologist and bestselling business author WENDY K. SMITH finds that BOTH/AND thinking leads to more expansive possibilities and creative, sustainable decisions. When Wendy joined our HWA team to talk about her work on the power of paradox, she made it clear how both/and thinking will transform our workplace. With an engaging style that immediately draws her audience in, Wendy lays out the big idea – we all face competing demands, tensions, and challenges – the issue isn’t IF we will face these issues, but how we do so. Through her workshops, keynotes, and in generative fireside chats, Wendy invites her audience to think about the tug-of-wars faced in their work, their leadership, their strategy, or their own lives – grounding the session in real issues facing attendees for maximum impact.
Wendy has supported groups across industries through real challenges, like when she spoke to Comcast, Barclay's, CISCO, and Microsoft about navigating big changes and innovation. She helped enable sustainability and social responsibility in organizations like the Asheville Tourism Industry, Freddie Mac, and a consultancy in DC. Much of her work is focused on cultivating a both/and approach as a leadership skill - Young Presidents' Organization, a hedgefund in Hong Kong, and a leadership development program for women leaders are some of the places that benefitted from Wendy’s perspective.
To bring Wendy and her expertise to your next kick-off meeting, leadership series, or to up-level your team’s skills to face fresh challenges and opportunities, reach out to HWA today.
Wendy Smith and Marianne Lewis win the Thinkers50 Breakthrough Idea Award.
In 2023, Wendy Smith and Marianne Lewis won Thinkers50 Breakthrough Idea Award for showing us how to engage with both/and thinking to address our greatest challenges. Thinkers 50 has been named the Academy Awards of Management Thinkers. The Breakthrough Idea Award recognizes a novel idea that can change our approaches to management and leadership.
Management thought leader Wendy K. Smith helps leaders around the world respond to competing demands with ‘both/and’ thinking
Life is full of paradoxes. How can we each express our individuality while also being a team player? How do we balance work and life? How can we improve diversity while promoting opportunities for all? How can we manage the core business while innovating for the future? For many of us, these competing and interwoven demands are a source of conflict. Since our brains love to make either-or choices, we choose one option over the other. We deal with the uncertainty by asserting certainty. According to organizational psychologist WENDY K. SMITH, there’s a better way.
In her insightful and inspiring book Both/And Thinking: Embracing Creative Tensions to Solve Your Toughest Problems, and through her global consulting and mind-blowing speaking engagements, Wendy shares how audiences can make more creative, flexible, and impactful decisions in a world of competing demands. Drawing from more than twenty years of award-winning and pioneering research, Wendy provides tools and lessons for transforming these tensions into opportunities for innovation and personal growth. Both/And Thinking was named a Top 10 Management Book by Thinkers50, a finalist for the Next Big Idea Award, and was a #1 Amazon New Release. Wendy and co-author Marianne Lewis were awarded the Thinkers50 Breakthrough Idea Award for these groundbreaking ideas. In her talks, Wendy brings science-based research to life with real world stories to both captivate and motivate her audiences.
Wendy K. Smith is on a mission to help individuals and organizations turn our problems into possibilities. As an organizational psychologist, she is a leading expert on the power of paradox - applying both/and thinking to help us innovate, change and generate more creative, sustainable solutions to our toughest challenges. In her talks, Wendy brings science-based research to life with real world stories to both captivate and motivate her audiences.
Wendy and co-author Marianne Lewis are the bestselling authors of Both/And Thinking: Embracing Creative Solutions to Solve Your Toughest Problems, named a Top 10 Management Book by Thinkers50, a finalist for the Next Big Idea Award, and a #1 Amazon New Release. They were awarded the Thinkers50 Breakthrough Idea Award for these groundbreaking ideas.
Wendy is also an award-winning scholar. She has been named the Web of Science Highly Cited Researchers for being among the top 1% most-cited researchers for 5 years in a row. She won the Academy of Management Review Decade Award for the best paper in the last 10 years in the top management journal. She received the first University MidCareer Excellence in Scholarship Award. She has published her research in influential journals such as the Academy of Management Journal, Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization Science, and Management Science, while also reaching beyond academia to publish in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fast Company, Newsweek and others. As a compelling and engaging teacher, she won the MBA Excellence in Teaching Award 5 times.
Wendy earned her bachelor’s degree at Yale University and her Ph.D. at Harvard Business School. She currently holds the prestigious title of Dana J. Johnson Professor of Management and serves as the faculty director of the Women's Leadership Initiative at the Lerner College of Business and Economics, University of Delaware. Wendy is also one of the youngest people named as an Academy of Management Fellow.
Beyond accolades and awards, Wendy's passion lies in helping leaders worldwide tackle the complex challenges of interpersonal dynamics, team performance, organizational change, and innovation to transform their organizations and the world. Approachable, insightful, and globally revered, she continues to shape the future of management thinking.