Balancing opposites with Polarity Mapping

Have you heard about Polarity Mapping?

Not too long ago I decided I wanted to know more about User Experience design, UX. And I used the same strategy I always use when exploring a subject: immersion.

Reading books and articles, finding people to add to a twitter list on the subject, watching videos and listening to podcasts. To focus on a particular subject on all fronts while I do a deep dive.

I haven’t set a time frame goal this time, like a 30 day trial, but instead simply shifted the sources of my inputs and we’ll see how long I’ll keep them.

And the other day, through the UX podcast with James Royal-Lawson and Per Axbom, I learnt about Polarity Mapping.

So what is a Polarity map?

Well, there are times where you find yourself in a need to balance opposites. It’s not an either-or situation because you can’t choose one over the other. But the options are on the opposite ends of a spectrum and there are negative consequences of focusing on one over the other. You need a both-and solution.

A problem is something to be solved, one option can be chosen over the other and you need to find the best one. In contrast, a polarity cannot be solved by choosing one over the other. Instead it’s a paradox that needs to be balanced.

Like switching between the focus on day to day next actions and planning for the future. Or doing support vs working on new features in product development. If you only do one of them, you will get negative consequences.

The Polarity map starts with a 4×4 matrix where you map out the pros and cons of each end of the polarity.

What makes the Polarity map interesting is that we then work to define the Action Steps needed to gain or maintain the benefits, and the Early Warnings for the unintended consequences.

The idea is to define when to swing back and forth, avoiding the negative consequences of going too far in one direction only.

I am just getting started with this and I keep finding new places where Polarity Mapping would be a great tool.

Instead of me rehashing the contents of the article, I invite you to go and read it for yourselves: The joys of Polarity mapping

Three things

Did you know about Polarity Mapping? Have you used it before?

I’d love to hear about the polarities you are balancing. What polarities do you think would be great to map out?

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