Over the past decade, Jim Collins has established himself as a well-respected business thinker. I have learned much from his writings. One particular concept that has stuck with me recently occurs in his book Built to Last. He calls it “The ‘Tyranny of the Or’ versus the ‘Genius of the And.’”
Collins defines “The Tyranny of the Or” as a type of thinking that pushes people to believe that things must be either A or B but not both. By succumbing to the tyranny of the or, we feel pressed to make a choice, often between two good options.
Conversely, “The Genius of the AND” is a way of looking at a problem without limiting the choice to an either/or proposition. Instead, “The Genius of the And” calls us to look for solutions that include both options. This type of thinking often leads to remarkable innovation.
Take, for example, ice cream. For almost a decade our family lived in eastern North Carolina. It was a culture change in many ways. Being a native Athenian I was used to a regular treat of Mayfield’s Ice Cream. I loved that sweet creamy goodness. But in this part of North Carolina, there was no Mayfield’s Ice Cream. I felt like I had stepped into some alternative, ice-creamless universe. I tried other brands, all the while telling my kids about Mayfield’s. Then the day finally came. We found a store stocked with those wonderful yellow cartons. Then, however, we encountered another problem. We discovered we were a house divided. Some liked chocolate; others wanted vanilla. We seemed locked at an impasse with no hope of resolution. Whichever way we went, someone was disappointed. We were stuck in “The Tyranny of the Or,” until we saw something wonderful. As we stood in front of the cooler, we noticed the word “AND.” Sitting right before us was a carton of chocolate AND vanilla. The tyranny of the “OR” was replaced by the genius of the “AND.” (The even have Neapolitan, which has chocolate, vanilla, AND strawberry. The possibilities are endless.)
For many, “The tyranny of the OR” shapes and sometimes limits educational choices. There are some who care about culture. They want a warm-hearted atmosphere of Christian discipleship, but they assume they will have to sacrifice high academic standards. Others want high academic standards. Yes, they wish it could come in a different school culture, but, they believe, it is what it is. What if parents did not have to make that either/or choice? What if there was a Christian school that thinks with an AND mentality?
That is exactly what we are doing at CLA. We aim for the AND. We work for the AND. Thus we are determined to have high academic standards and warm-hearted spirituality. We train heads and hearts. We are, and will continue to be, an AND institution.