Majeed Hosseiney is the Chief Strategy Officer at Elements Global Services, an award-winning HR technology and services company.
During my career, I have seen many “new orders” — both minor and major. New orders seem commonplace and the phrase itself has become its own sort of buzzword. Each is deployed as an intended replacement for the existing orders. Sometimes it pushes us to a binary situation of choosing between either this or that rather than a more complementary situation of choosing both — this and that.
Without getting into a political discussion, one example of this can be seen in society when we put it upon ourselves to pit left or right against each other rather than adopting complementary solutions to better society. You may also see the same behavior in other social practices as psychology, sociology and any other area that requires a human mindset. To better understand these situations, it’s helpful to think of the power of each side — the power of “and” represents complexity, while “or” is about simplicity.
There is a philosophical explanation that helps show why we humans choose the “or” more than “and” and how our desire for simplicity drives our approach in personal, social and business life. It is the old story of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. It wraps itself in anthropology and even offers one explanation of why history tends to repeat itself. There is some level of a natural need to seek simplicity. When oversimplification happens, we may feel better initially, but complexity always shows up on each course and will need to be handled. Each individual is different, however, and as a result, we may observe psychological diversity when it comes to the extent of an individual’s pursuit of simplification.
Historical Examples In Business
Transformation in business is often taken as a process of replacement — it follows the lead of this or that rather than this and that. From my own experience during the time period beginning in the 1980s, here is what I have seen:
• TQM or 6Sigma (the 80s)
• Unix or Windows operating system (the 90s)
• Open office landscape or Office solutions (the 90s)
• Agile or Waterfall Project management (the 00s)
• Millennials or Non-Millennial mind of power (the 2010s)
Lately, there’s even been a bit of polarization between working from home and working from the office.
It is fair to have innovative minds interested in revolutionizing various things. It is also fair to have a paradigm shift in certain fields and attitudes, but it can require a long-term evolution of the mind to maintain the benefits from what has been achieved so far.
Put another way, experience has shown over time that long-term success is typically characterized by the inclusion of “and” — or hybrid thinking. This means saving the advantages of a current mindset to go with the new added value that comes from innovative solutions and processes.
All the comparisons I mentioned above show the advantages and disadvantages of each side. The best result is created by combining complementary solutions — and it depends on the situation, the target group, the product, the services, the seniority, the market demands, the teams, and the talent and skills within your company.
I feel it’s easy in business to create new norms by replacing an older one using “or” instead of “and.”
I have also recently seen more favoritism of old and new ways of leadership style with one replacing the other. With all due respect for the great mind shifts that bring a new concept, practice or even sector forward, I still see instances of believing the ones on the right side are positioned to replace the left ones — and vice versa. To craft better synergy and bring the best from ideas old and new, here are some common “or” situations to keep an eye on as you grow your business.
Profit Or Purpose: Being a great ambassador of purpose-driven leadership as you may be, still there is a certain level of profit focus that is crucial for sustainability. A company focused only on purpose and not profit measures will likely not survive its financial obligations over time.
Hierarchical Or Flat Organization: A pure network structure and a completely flat organization both have drawbacks and can impact efficient decision-making.
Controlling Or Empowering: A fully empowered organization with no minimum level of control can increase the risk of surprise — and major failures.
Planned Or Experimental Organization: An experimental approach might be great for a partly or fully research-oriented organization, and with no doubt, it is needed for innovation. Still, even in research, a pure experimental organization and attitude will not necessarily create a result without at least a minimum level of planning.
Confidentiality Or Transparency: A completely transparent organization with oversharing of information is not beneficial for the purpose of innovation and competing in the market.
When confronted with an “or” situation, try approaching it with the idea that “the points on one side have value while the other side also deserves weight.” This is when I believe we can better see the power of “and” rather than the problem of “or.”
Why Does History Repeat?
In addition to human nature, there is an ease with which simple excitement can rule emotional decisions. The power of marketing and sales is based on the elimination of the old state to sell the new state of the art. Marketing to sell created a need to say how an alternative solution is greater than the current ones. This makes it difficult to orient a sales strategy around “and.” Can you imagine if Apple focused on the iPhone and Samsung phones in an effort to fulfill “and”?
In technology, of course, there are several situations where “or” is needed. You won’t use both an iPhone and a Samsung phone at the same time. You wouldn’t implement both SAP and Oracle or Salesforce as ERP solutions in the same company. You’ll need to choose between Microsoft Azure solutions or AWS for cloud-based data architecture. However, the goal of weighing your business decisions with the complementary framework in mind still applies.
Instead of always chasing a new replacement — “Moving from X to Y” — you may be better served to say “Improving from only X to X and Y.” Alternatively, you may frame it as “X and Y” rather than “X or Y.” The problem with “or” is its short-term focus while the power of “and” is about the complexity that comes with your reality.