Many of our cognitive models are represented on a continuum. For example:
While the representations convey the visual impression of polar opposites, the reality could be quite different.
For example, when we classify someone (in Myers-Briggs language) as an Introvert (I), it implies that they are not an Extravert (E). While for some this may be true—that is, they get their energy internally rather than through external interactions—it is not true for all. The continuum cannot accurately represent some of the potential possibilities.
The same can be said for our strengths and weaknesses. When represented on a continuum, they appear to be far apart. Some might argue that the mid-point is equidistant from both poles and the relative distance will explain varying degrees of introversion/extraversion.
True. But, the visual representation depicts the polarities and suggests that the two are far apart.
It struck me at one point we needed a different, and perhaps more accurate, representation for depicting very different constructs, behaviors, or concepts.
That’s when the Omega symbol appeared.
If, according to Einstein, space and time bend, why couldn’t our representation of polar opposites bend?
So, we bent it with the Greek letter for Omega.
The result is a “bent continuum” that looks like this:
Using the Omega Scale, we assume that the absolute distance from “strength” to “weakness” (one end of the Omega symbol to the other) is the same as in the straight-line continuum depiction of polar opposites. The difference between the two depictions is in the relative location of the strength to the weakness.
The advantage of the Omega Scale is that we get a representation that matches our reality when one of our strengths easily becomes a challenge or weakness. In many cases, the proverbial leap from strength to weakness is not that far.
Daniel Ofman Made the Case
Daniel Ofman developed the Core Quality Quadrant to give us a way to understand how our Strengths can transform into Pitfalls, the complement (polar opposite?) of our Strength, and how our Strengths define behavior to which we are Allergic.
Here is a graphic representation of the Core Quality Quadrant:
In this representation, you can see the relationship between a Core Quality (Strength) and a Pitfall (“too much” of the strength or an “overdone” strength). The example uses “Discipline” as the strength and “Excessive Rigidity” as the Pitfall.
The model continues with the identification of the Challenge (complement) to the individual’s Core Quality. In this case, it is “Flexibility”. As you can see, Flexibility is the positive opposite of the individual’s Pitfall.
Finally, we see the result of too much of a Challenge. It is called the individual’s Allergy. Laissez-faire behavior may annoy or upset an individual with “Discipline” as a strength. So, the individual’s Strength is the positive opposite of the Allergy.
The combination of the Omega Scale as symbol and the Ofman Core Quadrant as tool provide us to consider thinking differently about our strengths and challenges or weaknesses.
This “re-framing” of the classic representation might help us understand how and when our strengths transform to pitfalls and why we are allergic to some people’s behavior in light of our strengths.****