In your company, you’re asked to ship this new thing. You’ve got a fixed amount of time, a fixed amount of manpower, and a fixed amount of money. It can be either done well or done on time or done on budget. Pick two. But why? Why not pick all three?
You come at a disagreement with a teammate. You have differing opinions about creating this new thing. Do it like I think or do it like he thinks. But why does it have to be one or the other?
In both of these cases, there seems to be a scarcity problem. There seem to be constraints that are picking a fight with your options. There are tensions, opposing ideas, ends of a spectrum.
It’s either this or it’s that. It can’t be both.
Really? It can’t be both? Only, there’s Apple who can ship high quality in high quantities before everybody else. Only, there are parents who have 6 kids and they all grow up to be well-rounded champions. Only, there are leaders who unfold more productivity out of smaller teams. So surely, some people don’t have a problem with the word ‘both’.
So how do they do it? How do they get to do what others can’t do? They’ve learned something that others don’t know yet:
There is no conflict. There is no ‘either’. They’ve learned to catch themselves putting in an ‘or’ where they can simply change that ‘or’ to an ‘and’: high quality and high quantity; he’s got it right and I’ve got it right.
They’ve learned to see the problem from an entirely new angle. They stop looking at it from the angle everybody else looks at it from and they invent, in their mind, a new angle to see things from. They make up an entirely new possibility. They just don’t give into the trap of the ‘either’ and the ‘or’, the trap that creates conflict where none is required.
So here’s how you can do it too:
Next time you feel conflicted between two options, ask yourself if you’re seeing things with an ‘or’ (this or that). If you are, rephrase that conflict in your head by asking yourself: “Is there any way that we can achieve this and that, that we can do both?”
Maybe you’ll be able to find a new approach you hadn’t thought about when you were sure there was a conflict. Maybe there’s a way for you to step out of the apparent conflict and notice that there’s a constructive third option, right there, at arm’s reach. Maybe you’ll find your relationships to be richer, more mutually beneficial, more engaging, and longer lasting.
"Both", "and": those aren’t just words that are the key to doing great things. They’re also the key to getting yourself out of seemingly conflicting situations. That’s why they’re not only an important part of how excellent people, teams, families operate, they’re an important part of how adaptable, agile and always renewed people, teams and families operate.
It’s just a different way of thinking.