08 – The Battle: AND vs. OR

Think about these two words … AND. OR.

AND is inclusive. It sets the tone for a partnership of sorts between the words that it connects.

OR clearly puts the adjoining words into an adversarial relationship that usually ends in a choice of one or the other.

“If you operate within a field, you primarily are able to combine concepts within that particular field, generating ideas that evolve along a particular direction — what I call directional ideas. When you step into the Intersection, you can combine concepts between multiple fields,… — what I call intersectional ideas. The difference … is significant.” (Frans Johansson The Medici Effect p. 16-17)

The Intersection that Johansson is referring to is full of AND.

These intersectional ideas are created by thinking across disciplines, rather than within the confines of a single discipline. Transdisciplinary thinking can be very different from how most of us were taught from elementary school through college. Math was easy for some of us, others were able to create beautiful paintings, and other groups had a solid grasp on grammar and the structure of our language. Over the years, and through multiple feedback loops, we end up labeling ourselves as one thing OR another, instead of a combination of things with the ability to work between them.

What about right-brain or left brain dominance? According to the theory, left-brain dominant people are more organized, rational and logical, and right-brain dominance drives creativity, imagination and artistry.


How about right brain AND left brain, not right brain OR left brain?

The history of the invention of the printing press is a perfect example of “both brains” working together. I think Gutenberg liked AND as well.


“It turns out that the printing press is far from simple. The technological innovations that Gutenberg developed were much more than the modification of a wine press and the addition of the idea of movable type. Gutenberg combined and extended a whole host of technologies and innovations from an astonishing number of areas, and that is what made his work so powerful. He used metallurgical developments to create metal type that not only had a consistent look (Gutenberg insisted on this), but type that could be easily cast, allowing whole pages to be printed simply at once. He used chemical innovations to create a better ink than had ever been used before in printing … Only by having the combined knowledge of all of these technologies does the printing press become possible and cost-effective.” (Samuel Arbesman The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has An Expiration Date)

Two more words for consideration … SCIENCE. IMAGINATION.

As defined by the Oxford Dictionary:

IMAGINATION: the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.

SCIENCE: the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

On the surface, some may think SCIENCE OR IMAGINATION.

You can’t have both, can you?

Science is the process and the proof. Imagination is the pie in the sky thinking.


Let’s look at one topic from both perspectives. Rain.

Here is a video that explains the science of rain:


Here is an observation of rain from the porch of a cabin in Blairsville, GA:

The journey of ages from cloud to ground. What does the ride back up look like?  Together the rhythm of a thousand parachuting droplets into the forest, like a large audience’s approval of an orchestral performance in nature’s slow motion. The thin pine needles are no match for the broad landing zone of the leaves of an oak. To stop only for a brief moment before continuing to the forest floor, crisp and fresh turn to soggy, mossy and damp. Dropping from the sky in organized chaos, dizzied, off-balance circles of life gather to fill their role building the forest. Some continue the journey in a twisting fury descending down the mountain with millions of their kind … falling, growing, flowing, climbing.

Why should we limit ourselves by committing to hard-coded labels?

The best things happen when unexpected combinations come together to create something entirely unique. These combinations happen with AND.

Einstein was said to have come up with his best ideas during his breaks playing violin.

Hmmmm … this sounds familiar.

Back in  01 – Business Cards and Keg Coolers, I referred to a book by James Webb Young called A Technique for Producing Ideas. Step #3 was called Incubation, which is where you stop all work and do something completely different.

In Einstein’s case, math, physics, music and play were all a part of the process.


So what does all this mean?

Find more AND.

Don’t be limited by OR.

Bring ideas and concepts together from different worlds into one sandbox.

It is way more fun.






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