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Leading in the "Age of And"

Cirque de Soleil - entertainment
Apple's iPhone – communication/connectedness
Southwest Airlines - transportation
What do these three consumer services/products have in common? They represent what emerges from what I call And-type thinking as opposed to Either/Or. Let's take a closer look…
Cirque de Soleil. In a nutshell, back in mid 1980s the entertainment industry was going from simmer to rapid boil and the circus…well, it was dying. Electronic games were capturing the minds and hearts of children (and the wallets of their parents). Additionally, more noise was being made about the use of animals in circus acts by the animal rights movement. At this time, a man named Guy Laliberté decided to combine two worlds: The Circus and The Theater. He then took the key/best elements of the circus: The excitement of daring acts, the tent-like environment and the clowns and combined them with the engaging aspects of Theater: story lines, visual artistry, multiple productions. It masterfully blends and plays to the entertainment level for children and the intellectual artistry and themed storytelling for adults.
Apple's iPhone. Steve Jobs is the master of integrative thinking that has lead to historical innovation that has changed the way we interact, purchase, communicate…and dare I say, to some extent, live. He took the technology of cell phones and iPods and PCs and combined it in the palm of our hand making any information, music and communication only a few taps away. This kind of thinking isn't what he does; it's part of who he is and what drives the thinking of his employees and the extraordinary results they produce.
Southwest Airlines. The great minds at this company decided that the current playbook and business models for the airlines wasn't working. So they decided to look outside the industry for inspiration. They combined the low cost of car transportation which doesn't offer meals, lounges, seating class choices or hub connectivity (all of which contribute to higher airfares) and the speed, friendly service and frequent departures of airlines. Southwest achieved a giant hike in value with a low cost model by thinking AND; not either/or.

Either we do this my way or your way.
Either close down this business unit to save money or keep it open and save jobs
Either take a cut in pay or leave
Either/Or...We've heard them since we were kids...
"Either eat your vegetables or go to your room!"
"Either do your homework now or you can't watch TV!"
When you say it and hear it, doesn't it sound like a door slamming shut? Well, it is. It's the door to our minds closing out the possibilities of finding common ground, creating better solutions, exploring new and better options, bridging formerly insurmountable differences and ultimately making better choices.
What would it be like if we evolved from the Era of Either/Or and advanced into the Age of And? What would that sound like? What kind of leader would that make you? What kind of engagement would you get from your staff? How could that make life different for you right now?

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