“Life is not ‘either/or,’ it’s ‘both/and.’”

Royce White, NBA player and mixed martial artist

What makes a company stand the test of time? In an era of increasing turbulence, rapid change, and crushing complexity, why do some companies continue to thrive and adapt while others wither and fade away? Jim Collins and Jerry Poras set out to answer this exact question in their canonical business book, Built to Last. In an extensive six-year research project, they sought to discover the specific traits that enable organizations to thrive over time, guaranteeing prolonged success in the marketplace. They studied companies that had both endurance – meaning they had been around for an average of 100 years – and sustained performance, meaning their stock had performed more than 15 times better than average in the stock market since 1926. Their research yielded some fascinating results.

The Genius of the “And”

Among the most important things Collins and Poras discovered in their research is a concept they call “the genius of the ‘and.’” In their own words, they describe the concept thus:

Highly visionary companies do not oppress themselves with what we call the “Tyranny of the OR” – the rational view that cannot easily accept paradox, that cannot live with two seemingly contradictory forces or ideas at the same time. The “Tyranny of the OR” pushes people to believe that things must be either A OR B, but not both.

Instead of being oppressed by the “Tyranny of the OR,” ...

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