The world of business is constantly changing. This rate of change seems to be gaining momentum and it affects not only how we do business, but how we approach the entire idea of business. There are so many contributing factors – globalization, technological developments, highly integrated economies, generational influences entering the workforce – that things have quickly gone from fluctuating between simple and complicated, to fluctuating between complex and chaotic.

Both/AndTo try and cut through the noise, our typical Western mindsets like to see things from a very linear, cause and effect perspective. So we develop processes and policies. Then we feel restricted by these new tools and develop phrases like “out of the box” to give justifiable room to the more ambiguous and intuitive approach that is less linear and more contextual. Both are absolutely necessary to make any real progress.

The unfortunate nature of these two modes of thinking, which seem to be in diametric opposition to one another, is that a preconceived notion has developed that only one can exist – or at least should dominate – at any one time…the ever-so popular “Either/Or”. In a world that fluctuates between simple and complicated, “Either/Or” may just make the cut; however, in a world where complex and chaotic are the norm, “Both/And” must be given proper space to meet the need.

For the sake of pragmatism, many extol the values of Either/Or because it defines a “clear choice”, assuming that there is only one true way for something to be accomplished. Embracing the value brought by both options allows for contextual nuances and gives authority to more than one possibility. It’s not a right/left brain issue…it’s a contextual issue.

Organizations who don’t recognize and embrace the importance of context will definitely be putting themselves in a disadvantaged position. We have a tendency, especially in business, to seek out the black and white space. The world doesn’t seem to be making that easy, so instead of attempting to administrate the trend, simply respond to it intelligently.

The creative tension that comes with ambiguity and allowing things which are fundamentally different to coexist in the same space is becoming increasingly common and necessary to be a malleable and market-responsive organization. This isn’t just true operationally, but regarding how you lead, the culture you develop and the way in which you engage your employees.

Science solves one problem, art yet another. Together they make a beautiful mystery that can move mountains. Embrace the “Both/And”!!

What are your thoughts?