Decisiveness is hard to come by in today’s world.
It seems to be a new trend that businesspeople, executives, and other types of team leaders stew on what the right decision in a specific circumstance is, or go back on what they have said merely weeks prior to completely change gears, much to the dismay of their employees or equals waiting for resolution.
There is an interesting phenomenon occurring that points to precisely why this trend of hitting “undo” on a supposedly final decision is taking place, and it is rather simple to figure out. When facing a crucial junction in a project, new product, or industry-altering change, executives and leaders alike simply don’t want to make a decision between two perfectly good options.
Yes, what I just wrote is true — renowned business experts and those in leadership roles actually don’t want to decide. Reading that, you may suddenly have a changed opinion about these business leaders, as if they are not true leaders because they are so utterly indecisive. However, this perceived indecisiveness is actually quite natural, and it is more beneficial than you realize.
The primary reason for this phenomenon, which appears to be a lack of decision-making skills, is because we live in a both/and world. Both/and is a situation where there are benefits to all options surrounding a product, process, service, or method.
Generalized views of leadership frequently point to a higher-pressure either/or situation, where an executive selects the route to go in any decision, and the other route is quickly abandoned. Society has painted this process as being the true litmus test of a quality, decisive leader, almost as if each decision is life or death, with only one correct choice.
In a both/and world, you do not cast aside one option for another — you find ways to use both to your advantage. Not only does this open all the right doors for a product, process, or service, but it aids in exponential innovation by helping a team and industry be open to an array of solutions to problems.
The Both/And Principle in my Anticipatory Leader System is not new — I have been teaching it for decades. Yet every year, I consult with companies and business leaders who either have never heard of it or are falling to the pressures of an either/or paradigm cast upon them by the corporate world.
Having explored it above, let’s look at two industry case studies that have long held to an either/or mentality and how a shift to a both/and mindset would transform their products, processes, or services.
Long before the pandemic, higher education institutions faced constant tough decisions regarding their staff, student body, and how they can better train and educate future generations for the workforce. Whether they were a privately funded university or a state school, a common goal of all has been to make higher education accessible and affordable to all.
For many students, especially those looking to further their skills while working full-time and having a family, online offerings are their best bet. The pandemic quickly forced all types of entities to switch to virtual working or teaching, and higher education institutions were right at the forefront of those changes.
Either/Or: Unfortunately, this was met with contention by many older staff members of all different fields, given the circumstances of how quickly this switch needed to be made. Even the administrators of many universities and private colleges spoke of how this would be a short-term shift, and they would do away with the virtual classroom as soon as possible.
Both/And: Getting rid of online education as an option at a higher education institute alienates a whole potential student body — students who do not live near the college, and others who are too busy to make the commute, but want to further their education. Utilizing Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Google Meet in conjunction with in-person options gives those students opportunity to better themselves, but also allows professors to build a huge, institution-specific database of past recordings that, if leveraged as such, act as a virtual textbook for future students.
Perhaps you were born before the existence of the internet. But even if not, the multiple generations of individuals all know what a website is, and they recognize the functionalities it brings to a business or organization in any industry. Learning to build a website, or hiring someone to do it for you, was pure gold in the 1990s, and continued on in content management system (CMS) form into the new millennium.
But when social media burst onto the scene, many companies leveraged these platforms as “the new internet,” where their social pages functioned similar to a website. For instance, a Facebook (now called Meta) page allows you to upload an infinite amount of photos to albums, interact directly with customers on the platform, and even schedule events from the page.
Either/Or: In the shift to an era dominated by social media, companies often decided to forgo a traditional website entirely for a social page, purely because of its easy setup and user-friendly ability to perform those aforementioned tasks. However, when strictly keeping an online presence on social media, an organization’s search engine optimization (SEO) suffers as it is at the mercy of the metadata of the platform itself. This means these companies are completely reliant on running paid advertising on their platform to generate new leads, as opposed to a natural discovery via Google search.
Both/And: Instead, having both a social presence and a website doubles down on SEO strategy and unlocks online freedoms that cannot be utilized on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, or other platforms. For instance, a business can completely customize a website to reflect their brand design; post engaging, informative content on it for consumer consumption; and even create unique login opportunities for those customers, keeping them uniquely engaged.
As I mentioned earlier in this blog, a both/and mindset is a telltale characteristic of a decisive, anticipatory leader. If you are an executive or business leader who feels frozen in an either/or mentality, how exactly can shifting to a both/and mindset play an integral role in helping you become more anticipatory?
The biggest connection of the both/and principle and an anticipatory mindset is by way of exponential thinking. When you consider all options as opposed to omitting one, you instantly unlock the ability to offer more to your clients and customers.
And second, a both/and mindset gives leaders the ability to leverage all options to pre-solve problems brought by Hard and Soft Trends. College students using virtual technology for school is a Hard Trend that will not go away anytime soon, whereas how institutions leverage those technologies both in-person and online is open to influence to improve the student experience.
Embracing all options and making calculated decisions that do not eliminate the possibility of exploring all avenues to transform the industry your business or organization is in is a true sign of a decisive, anticipatory leader.
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker. He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, helping them to accelerate innovation and results by develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. His client list includes companies such as Microsoft, GE, American Express, Google, Deloitte, Procter & Gamble, Honda, and IBM. He is the author of seven books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller Flash Foresight, and his latest book The Anticipatory Organization. He is a featured writer with millions of monthly readers on the topics of innovation, change and the future and has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Wired, CNBC, and Huffington Post to name a few. He has been the featured subject of several PBS television specials and has appeared on programs such as CNN, Fox Business, and Bloomberg, and is quoted in a variety of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Fortune, and Forbes. He has founded six businesses, four of which were national leaders in the United States in the first year. He is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. In 1983 he became the first and only futurist to accurately identify the twenty technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic change for decades to come. He also linked exponential computing advances to economic value creation. His specialties are technology-driven trends, strategic innovation, strategic advising and planning, business keynote presentations.