As an advocate for Genius of the AND mentality, I felt compelled to write this post after reading Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas. In this book, Anand takes a staunch position on complex topics of social entrepreneurship. One compelling theme that is anchored throughout the read is Win-Win as a charade. More on that later.
CanvasGT as a company is rooted in Genius of the AND. The name of the company itself being so inspired by the mentality. It was illustrated as a business theory in the book Built to Last by Jim Collins. And while he may have coined this terminology, the concept itself is ancient, having been described by many names before it. Most notably, it is embodied in the yin/yang symbol from Chinese dualistic philosophy.
They sound enough alike, Win-Win and Genius of the AND, yet the concepts are far from the same. If confusing them, someone genuinely wishing to achieve one may instead find themselves accidentally chasing the other.
The root of this concept is about maximizing opposing forces. Imagine trying to balance being confident and humble on a classic seesaw (see whiteboard sketches in Figures 1-4 below). Being too confident can be considered cocky (Figure 1). Being too humble may be meek (Figure 2). One or the other is an imbalance. To achieve that balance, we may be tempted to “meet in the middle” as shown in Figure 3. This is a compromise of humble-confidence. Choosing one, the other, or the compromise in the middle would be described by Collins as the Tyranny of OR. But there’s another way to achieve balance: by maximizing both as shown in Figure 4. This is to be fully confident AND totally humble. In this state, one cannot be cocky nor meek.
Genius of the AND is found in nature with waves. Whether light, sound, or the ocean; we can observe peaks and troughs. These opposites when minimized result in darkness, silence, or flat water. When maximized, the results are bright, loud, flowing energy and matter. The whiteboard sketch in Figure 5 serves as an illustration of these increasing and decreasing waves.
Genius of the AND is found in Yoga where a pose may constitute total peacefulness AND full effort.
It is found in GTs, the Gran Turismo cars that don’t compromise between speed AND distance. They maximize both.
This is a concept as ancient as the yin/yang symbol. It could be the bases for the trade economy. You make spice. I grow a garden. We trade. You win. I win.
In a global economy with complex social issues, Win-Win is not so simple. While you are winning and I am winning, all Anand is saying is that someone may be losing. It turns into a charade when one is using Win-Win as justification for actions that have known losers. This can be a slippery slope in social innovation. Consider as an example the education lottery. The justification is most likely going to be rooted in a Win-Win, yet there are clearly losers in the mix.
While Anand may be focused on charades and taking a soap box stand on a worthy topic, my interest is more about clarity and due diligence. What can we learn from these concepts to use them in appropriate contexts and for intentionally good outcomes?
It’s not as simple as finding all the winners.
Genius of the AND and Win-Win do have some things in common. Both are in pursuit of balance and positive outcomes. Anyone interested in finding a balance in being confident and humble has good intentions. Creative solutions to increase funding for education is rooted in good intentions. Both are not so easy. It’s not as simple as finding a compromise between two opposing forces. It’s not as simple as finding all the winners.
Both require a systems approach to see the big picture and dig into the details. They benefit by collaboration from diverse perspectives, experiences, and expertise.
Yet they are different concepts. Genius of the AND requires innovative approaches to maximize two opposing forces. Win-Win requires a life cycle approach to journey mapping and stakeholder assessment. When done wrong, the Tyranny of the OR manifests itself as weakness. Getting Win-Win wrong may mean more losers than winners.
When done thoughtfully and with great care, both can be the source of significant benefit to society.
Health & Happiness for All