Leadership Lesson: Fire your brain. Hire your “or/and” insight

Published in the Phoenix Business Journal on March 8, 2019

“Or” vs. “And.” Black or white thinking has been the way of western business culture for centuries. On or off, in or out, good or bad has been our conventional, polarized way of looking at business issues and opportunities. Call it dualistic thinking. It served us well for centuries in a highly ordered business world. But, it is in decay because there is a better way. Insight.

Non-dual, or integral, thinkers see both – black and white, on and off, good and bad. They see infinite shades of gray between black and white – instead of a rigid black or white perspective. They see both or/and. A paradox.

Leaders, managers, and individuals who transform to the more effective mode of non-dual thinking path see, know, and practice these effective traits in the emerging new world of business. 

What killed Kodak?

A pileup of great American corporations decayed in the dump of hierarchical, one-way polarized thinking - dualistic thinking. The road to their long-ago success is now littered with the rusted-out company busses and their locked steering wheels against change. Employees were thrown under the bus and leaders parachuted out of the bus. That ride is over.

What gestated Google?

Flexible turns on the speedway to success birthed the new corporation. And the pivot point is based upon more leaders, managers, and employees adopting non-dual, integral thinking. This new company bus is on a roll, with new leader-drivers and every seat occupied by happy employee-riders. This ride is thrilling. 

The world of non-dual leaders

Rather than the polarized “either/or” way of the dualistic view, the non-dual thinker sees the business world from a both “or/and” perspective. As a result, they have the insight to:

  • See options and alternatives.
  • Progress by influencing events and inspiring people.
  • Know that every one-sided solution is predestined to fail.
  • Learn to work together with others for solutions.
  • Understand that dilemmas happen because of fearful, fixed positions.
  • Search for middle ground, win-win solutions. 
  • Get that there are no perfect solutions, only optimum solutions. 
  • Avoid polarity and all or nothing thinking.
  • Realize that rapid recourse to hard rules is often just a sign of laziness.
  • Sense that adhering to rigid rules can avoid the responsibility.
  • Believe that wisdom is “the art of the possible.” 
  • Keep offering new data, until they get some consensus from all sides.
  • Have an ability to care beyond their own personal advantage.
  • Do not seek to quickly get a problem off the plate – they seek to achieve good for the largest number, now and into the future. 
  • Want to increase both freedom and ownership among the group, not just subservience, which will ultimately sabotage the work.
  • Let people know the why of a decision, and show how that is consistent with the group’s values.

Integral-thinking leaders know that compromise and consensus does not abdicate values, but can find other values such as community building and giving more people a personal investment in outcomes.

The paradox of both Or/And

“How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.” – Niels Bohr, Danish quantum physicist, philosopher 

The bottom lines

Or/And. Abandon black OR white thinking. Adopt black AND white, gray thinking. Be an integral, non-dual business leader. Seek options and be flexible. Build consensus teams that get into the company bus and burn rubber. Get integral insight.

Note: some of these ideas are drawn from the book by Richard Rohr,The Naked Now.

Click here to read this article on the Phoenix Business Journal site.