What is the paradigm for integrating contradictions in management?

Thank you for your interest in this note. In this note, I would like to share the most fundamental questions that I have been exploring throughout my working life.

My own life story will be presented in another article, but I will only provide a brief biography here. I studied physics through graduate university and joined the Boston Consulting Group (“BCG”) Tokyo as a fresh graduate. Then in 2003, I started Alue Corporation, an adult education company, and listed it on Mothers Market in Japan in 2018.

Management is an integration of contradictions

Having experienced the process of physics, BCG, entrepreneurship, and public listing, for me, management is an integration of contradictions. When you are involved in management, you are confronted with many contradictions and gaps. There is a gap between what you want to do and what the people around you want to do, an inability to reconcile the pursuit of ideals with the realities of running a business, a gap in the quality and quantity of resources available to meet customer demands, and it is no exaggeration to say that not a day goes by when I am faced with contradictions.

This figure breaks down management contradictions into three categories: the first is self management area, the contradiction between self and the surroundings and business reality around the self. For example, the gap between what we want to do and what the people around us want to do.

The second is business management area, the gap between what we want to be and reality. This can be the gap between vision and reality, the gap between goals and performance, or customer complaints.

The third area is people management area, which is the conflict between the idea of diversity and individuality, where the individuality of each person is valued, and the idea of collectivity, where it is important to work together as a team.

I think we all feel the recent trend in the world to value each person’s values and individuality. On the other hand, in order to be powerful as an organization, we also need to work together as a team. In the people management area, individuality and collectivity are the two poles, and there is always a tension between them. (I’m not necessarily talking about the two being at odds; they can go together.)

It is management that confronts these gaps, but manages to make it work by balancing and integrating these contradictions.

The essence of balancing and integrating is the worldview of Aufheben

Now that we’ve talked about how management is the balancing and integrating of contradictions, I’d like to dig deeper into what is meant by the word “balancing and integrating.”

As expressed in this figure, the essence of “balancing and integrating” is the worldview of Aufheben. This concept, proposed by the German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, refers to a solution that is neither A nor B, but includes both A and B, when A and B are in conflict or contradiction.

For example, in the manufacturing industry, when there is an opinion that “quality should be improved” (A) and an opinion that “costs should be reduced” (B), in the ordinary sense, in order to improve quality, new equipment and research and development will be required, which will increase costs, and if you want to reduce costs, it seems that you will have to cut something that has been providing value in the past.

At this point, you might have idea (C), which may one example of many options, that by narrowing down the number of products, you can consolidate your existing R&D resources to improve quality while increasing production efficiency and reducing costs.

This idea (C) is different from the original (A) and (B), but it encompasses the essence of (A) and (B). Thus, the worldview of Aufheben leads to a higher-order solution that encompasses and integrates two or more contradictory and opposing elements.

By the way, physics, in a nutshell, can be said to be the study of the integration of all the elements of the universe. People involved in physics have a motivation to explain seemingly different events with a single equation. For example, they try to explain the phenomenon of an apple falling from a tree and the apparently different phenomenon of the moon orbiting the earth with one equation, the law of universal gravitation.

I’ll discuss my encounter with physics in another post, but I was drawn to the beauty of physics’ “integration of all the elements of the universe,” which is what I studied all the way through graduate school. For me, when confronted with the various contradictions in management, it was a natural progression to think about how to integrate the seemingly contradictory elements.

Through my experience as a consultant at BCG and as an entrepreneur, I experienced the various contradictions in management and the process of balancing and integrating them, which led me to ask a question from a more meta perspective.

What is the (integrative) paradigm that integrates (various) contradictions in management?

When I went deeper and deeper, I got to “consciousness”

It’s not an exaggeration to say that I have been facing this question since I started to work at BCG and since I started my own business. I’ll share the details in another article, but especially in the past year, I’ve spent more than 1,000 hours in research and development on this question with like-minded colleagues. And the answer we arrived at was something very close to our daily things.

It is consciousness. To answer the first question, the paradigm that integrates the contradictions in management is “ISHIKI(Consciousness) Management”.

What does management and consciousness have to do with each other? Many of you may be wondering. I will now explain how the macro perspective of management and the micro perspective of consciousness can be connected.

There are many aspects of management, including financial results in terms of sales, costs and profits, as well as initiatives such as strategy, operations, organizational development and human resource development.

Financial results (phenomenal results) such as sales, costs, and profits are the result of the interaction of strategic variables for the company, such as strategy, operations, and organizational structure, with customer needs and the competitive environment.

In other words, the result of the phenomenon (e.g., financial results) comes from the structure and background of the phenomenon (customer needs, competitive environment, and the company’s strategic variables).

And, for the company, the strategic variables are based on the actions of each individual, the actions are based on decisions, the decisions are based on thoughts and emotions, the thoughts and emotions are based on mental models (belief systems), the mental models are based on subjective truths (more on that in another article), and the subjective truths are based on self (the subject of self-consciousness.)


Structure and background of the phenomenon



Thoughts and feelings

Mental models (Belief systems)

Intuition (Subjective truth)

Self (The subject of self-consciousness)

And in this figure we can say that everything from “Decision” to “Self” is related to “consciousness”. Consciousness is the source of phenomena.

“ISHIKI(Consciousness) Management” means to manage these elements from Decision to Self in such a way that they bring you closer to what you really want to be. In other words, by “ISHIKI(Consciousness) Management”, our behavior changes, the structure and background of the phenomenon changes, and the outcome of the phenomenon changes.

Consciousness is something we are very familiar with. If you are reading this article, you are focusing your consciousness here and now on this article. So why should we bother to make consciousness such a familiar thing?

The truth is, we often seem to be in control of our consciousness, but we are not. I’m sure we’ve all had experiences where we’ve said or acted in ways that we didn’t originally intend and hurt others, or where things that should have worked have gone wrong. On the other hand, you may have been able to demonstrate more performance than you thought you could.

You can’t control all of your consciousness. (Except maybe the Buddha…) However, you can expand the scope of what you can manage by making your consciousness conscious. By expanding the scope of what you can manage, you will not only become closer to your true self, but you will also be able to produce the desired results in terms of management.

The 3+1 ISHIKI(Consciousness) Model

I’ve talked about how the paradigm that integrates the contradictions in management is to make consciousness conscious. Then, “How can we make consciousness conscious?” This is the question that comes to mind.

So far, I’ve written a slightly longer article, but I hope you’ll stay with me a little longer. In fact, this is where we come in. In our quest over the past year, we have built a “model of consciousness” to embody the concept of “ISHIKI(Consciousness) Management.”

This is the 3+1 ISHIKI(consciousness) Model, in which there are two selves, the self and the meta-self. And it is composed of the three consciousnesses of intuition consciousness, thinking consciousness and bodily consciousness, which belong to the self, and the meta consciousness, which belongs to the meta-self.

What good can come from making the 3+1 ISHIKI(Consciousness) Model conscious?

The essence of the 3+1 ISHIKI(Consciousness) Model cannot be expressed in one article alone, so I will be explaining it at a time in the future, but in this article I will focus on three points.

The first is that by capturing the 3+1 ISHIKI(consciousness) Model, it is easier to prevent a bias towards a particular consciousness and feel your whole self. Today’s working people are easily biased towards thinking consciousness. The thinking consciousness is adept at sharing information with others because it can handle language. In the business world, it is not surprising that the thinking consciousness is especially important because of the importance of accountability and share-ability.

However, too much of a bias toward thinking consciousness can lead us to ignore messages from our intuition and neglect our bodily consciousness (unpleasant emotions and physical discomfort), which can lead to our inability to maintain a healthy state of being as ourselves.

Secondly, having a sense of meta-consciousness makes it easier to deal with conflicts and difficulties. In a film metaphor, if the actor in the film is the self, then the film director is the meta-self. Meta consciousness is precisely the perspective of this film director.

I myself suffered a downturn in business performance in the early stage of the pandemic in 2020. I can now regard this circumstance as the greatest opportunity to promote the digital transformation (DX) of my company’s business, but March/April 2020 was a very difficult time for me mentally.

It was during those times that my pain was eased a little bit by being aware of myself as a film director, watching myself suffer as an actor. I was able to say to myself, “This scene is important to the overall story of the film, so let’s play the role of the painful self.”

In this way, when you have a meta consciousness, you have the sense that you are watching your film from the director’s point of view, it becomes easier to deal with conflicts and difficulties.

Third, the 3+1 ISHIKI(Consciousness) Model is something that is accessible and can be practiced at any time in the internal senses. There are many frameworks and theories that are useful for management, but many of them deal with phenomenal events and are often not replicable to the individual’s internal senses.

If we divide things broadly by cause and effect, the frameworks and theories often deal with the “effect-side” of cause and effect, so it may not be clear to you about “So what do I do?”. (I describe this as being “integral” in mathematical sense.)

The 3+1 ISHIKI(Consciousness) Model, on the other hand, deals with the “cause-side” of cause and effect. This is because, as I explained earlier, consciousness creates action and action creates phenomena. And as I mentioned earlier, consciousness is something that can be felt in the body sensory sense and is something that is close to us that we can practice at any time. (I describe this as being “differential” in mathematical sense.)

We have talked about what the 3+1 ISHIKI(Consciousness) Model is and what its benefits are.

While this talk itself is understandable, some of you may have the impression that we are talking about something quite distant when you return to the initial perspective of “management”.

The Whole Picture of Management that Integrates Contradictions

The 3+1 ISHIKI(Consciousness) Model is the most essential in the sense that it is both a paradigm for integrating contradictions in management and a form that can be practiced by anyone at any time.

On the other hand, because it is essential, it is also difficult to connect with the big picture from a “management” perspective.

If the 3+1 ISHIKI(consciousness) Model is a micro and differential representation of the “paradigm for integrating contradictions in management”, our team has been exploring what the macro and integral representations of that paradigm are that represent the whole picture.

This is the overall macroscopic, integral picture of the paradigm for integrating contradictions in management.

It would be difficult in terms of the volume of articles to explain all of the details of this big picture here, so I will leave it for a future article, but I will limit myself to discussing three features and benefits here.

The first feature is that it encompasses all of the contradictions in self management, business management and people management that I mentioned at the beginning of this article. The contradictions of self and people management are expressed in the dimension of the ecosystem, and the contradictions of business management are expressed in the dimension of value. It also encompasses not only the contradictions within the respective domains of management, but also the contradictions between self and people management and between people and business management.

Thus, by embracing contradictions and conflicts within the whole picture, it becomes easier to have a new idea “C”, a new worldview of Aufheben that encompasses both “A and B”, rather than a worldview of conflict, “either A or B.”

The second feature is that it connects the macro-integral whole picture with the micro-differential sense of the self. As you will notice that the 3+1 ISHIKI(Consciousness) Model is described on the right side of this figure, it encompasses the “ISHIKI(consciousness) Management” which is the root of creating this whole picture.

This allows you to connect and capture what internal sensations of yourself have an impact on your overall management. Simply put, you can intuitively and bodily sense the connection between your consciousness and the company’s sales and profits.

Unfortunately, if you see this whole picture as a goal to be achieved while you don’t have a connection with your own consciousness, it won’t work. This is because the sense of “twisting what isn’t there” depletes the energy for realization. On the other hand, if you have this whole picture as a worldview, as a target for the energy that comes from within you, it will work.

The third feature is that this big picture encompasses the management frameworks and theories that are commonly used in the area of management and consulting. Those who are familiar with management frameworks and theories may have noticed that this big picture includes the following theories.

▼ The SECI process… “The Knowledge-Creating Company (Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi)
▼ Competitive strategy as a narrative story…”Competitive Strategy as a Narrative Story (Ken Kusunoki)”
▼ The Innovator’s Dilemma / Ambidextrous Organization… (Clayton M. Christensen, Charles A. O’Reilly, Michael L. Tushman)
▼ Dual Process Theory … “Fast and Slow” (Daniel Kahneman)

In addition to the above, it encompasses the integrated ideas of Porter’s Structure Conduct Performance Theory (SCP Theory) and Barney’s Resource Based View (RBV), as well as more recent ideas that have been emphasized in the context of innovation, such as design thinking and art thinking.

The model and overall picture proposed in this article is not a rejection of existing management theories. Rather, we believe that they are compatible and complementary to each other.

The reason why we believe it is important to be compatible with these management theories is that by connecting the concepts and language with objectively validated management theories, we are able to test the validity of these concepts and models.

At this point in time, the 3+1 ISHIKI(Consciousness) Model and the whole picture of management that integrates contradictions are not academically validated, they are just hypotheses. However, we hope to create an environment for this model to evolve by making conceptual connections with validated management theories to ensure its future validation.

In this article, I have introduced that the paradigm for integrating contradictions in management is the “ISHIKI(Consciousness) Management” as a concept and the micro and differential “3+1 ISHIKI(Consciousness) Model” and the macro and integral “Whole Picture of Management that Integrates Contradictions” as specific models for this concept.

For those of you who found this article interesting, useful, and would like to use it, I will share this worldview in more detail in future articles, so stay tuned!

Thank you very much for reading this long article.

Bunshiro Ochiai

Founder and CEO of a training company, Alue | MS in Particle Physics. | BCG | Questing “What is the paradigm for integrating contradictions in management?”