Tyranny of the “Or”

Tyranny of the “Or”

“The test of first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Business and leadership is often not either/or, it is both. In Built to Last, author Jim Collins used the phrases the “genius of the and” and the “tyranny of the or” to describe the issue. In the book, Collins argued that great companies and leaders do not oppress themselves with “or” thinking and doing. For example, “Should we focus on making a long-term investment or should we focus on delivering short-term results?” Great companies and leaders pursue both objectives equally at the same time. They do not make tradeoffs between the two.

Leaders often get questions like, “Should we focus on building pipeline or closing deals this quarter?” Leaders instinctively know that the answer is “both.” In contrast, managers choose one or the other. When asked if the organization should focus on increased agility or reduced costs, leaders answer “yes.” It is not agility or costs.  It is agility and costs. Leaders have to be able to answer “yes” to both questions and build organizations and teams where each outcome has a strong likelihood of success.

All contents copyright © 2014, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to Tyranny of the “Or”

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