Midwest Polarity Thinking Initiative

Where Polarity Thinking Convenes and Polarity Thinkers Converge*

About the MwPTI

The Midwest Polarity Thinking Initiative convenes professionals, researchers, and leaders to facilitate progress on complex, ongoing issues by leveraging the power of polarities.  In conjunction with the John C. Culver Public Policy Center at Simpson College, it is the regional destination where groups converge to view presumed paradoxes through a Polarity lens.

The Polarity Approach helps groups define their common preferred future, pathways and inhibitors in progressing towards it, and effective strategies.  Participants engage with each other to identify inherent interdependent pairs of values core to an issue, recognize natural tensions between them, and strive to both maximize the best of each and to minimize their downside potential.

The result of this group dialog is a wisdom organizer of mapped polarity pairs, mutual understanding of their upsides and downsides, and sets of attainable action steps with measurable warning signs.  Outcomes include greater appreciation of opposing viewpoints, higher levels of buy-in on transformative strategies, improved team dynamics, and more effective leadership over time.

The Polarity Approach has demonstrated applicability for public policy and government, community betterment teams, businesses, and NGOs.  Positive impacts are seen in policy development, strategic planning, and managing implementation at all levels of an organization.

The Polarity Approach Case Studies

Polarity approach is founded in established principles for change management, paradox indicators, and leadership development.  Examples to explore include:

Academic Journal-  Reflections – A Perspective on Paradox and Its Application to Modern Management

Articles-  U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, The Power of Polarity Thinking in Leadership

Harvard Business Review; Both/And Leadership

Video-  The Whole/Part Polarity, From Teams to International Affairs


Polarity map


Implementing the MwPTI at the Culver Public Policy Center

The MwPTI is comprised of a design team comprised of regional leaders with both external and internal roles to establish and grow this initiative.  The team has developed a phased strategic plan with Phase I action steps that include:

  1. Approach 5-7 potential stakeholder groups about establishing a framework or committee to host a series of collaborative public policy discussions.
  2. Host focus groups of Simpson College stakeholders to seek input on strategic plan phasing; brainstorm with Culver Center Fellows and present to administrators.
  3. Develop a set of core topics for future facilitated events and engagements based on stakeholders’ interests, prioritized by financial viability.
  4. Hold a series of 3-hour introductory, facilitated, sessions on each core topic; present the phased strategic plan and action steps to external stakeholders, seeking input to improve direction.
  5. Collaboratively develop MwPTI marketing materials, establish its credentials, create a sponsorship & recognition program, and expand the design team.


Des Moines metro-area advisors Bob Riley and Todd Kielkopf, plus regional practitioners, spearhead efforts to engage external stakeholders seeking a common goal to establish the MwPTI as a sustainable resource able to facilitate progress on regional public policy and organizational management issues.

Seth Andersen leads efforts to leverage Culver Center resources and programming, Simpson College faculty and staff, and Simpson students participating in the Center as Culver Fellows to position the Culver Center as a destination for those seeking a Simpson Experience that includes learning and applying the Polarity Approach.

Through its design team, the MwPTI has an ongoing relationship with Polarity Partnerships, the international collaboration of Polarity practitioners.   Polarity Partnerships provides access to a resource library, case studies, and polarity maps addressing common issues.  For example, Iowa-based practitioner John H. Fraser is licensed through Polarity Partnerships to design and conduct on-line surveys that assess how well a group is addressing its core polarities identified during facilitated sessions.

Success Stories

The deign team advised as the Culver Center and Unfolding Energy co-hosted “Envisioning Our Energy Future” in December 2015.  This collaboration obtained grant funding from The Iowa Energy Center and matched with sponsorships to host world-renowned energy expert and Switch Energy Project founder Dr. Scott Tinker.  The day-long event enhanced dialog among energy suppliers and environmental advocates.  It also included an introduction how to continue that dialog using the Polarity Approach.

*The terms Polarity Thinking, Polarity Thinkers, Polarity Approach and polarity-related graphics on this page are © and TM 2016 of Polarity Partnerships, LLC, All Rights Reserved.