A crowd mentality can be difficult to resist. Whether it’s a new fitness workout, yet another so-called “superfood” or even a television show that’s taken over your social media feed, it’s very easy to be swept up by the widespread embrace of the latest and greatest.
That’s particularly true when it comes to technology. When something new comes along, the prevailing mind-set always seems to fall on ditching the old and snapping up the new.
Believe it or not, that can prove a serious misstep. Here’s why.
Yet Another Death That Was “Greatly Exaggerated”
With the introduction of Kindle and other electronic reading mediums, the death knells for print were heard far and wide. Between 2008 and 2010 alone, e-book sales skyrocketed 1,260 percent. The resulting fallout pushed bricks-and-mortar print booksellers such as Borders into bankruptcy. The message seemed clear—print books had the life expectancy of your average mosquito.
Hold everything. Instead of an uninterrupted upwards trajectory, e-book sales began to level off. In fact, sales fell by 10 percent in the first few months of 2015. Meanwhile, the American Booksellers Association grew to 1,712 member stores in 2,227 locations in 2015, up from 1,410 in 1,660 locations five years earlier.
The Publisher Who Chose Both/And
Penguin Random House invested nearly $100 million in expanding and updating its warehouses and speeding up distribution of its books.
Why the shift? Some attributed the reversion back to print to higher e-book prices, while others cited humans’ centuries-old fondness for the palpable feel of an actual book. Still another—a book buyer—summed it up in terms of balance: “Consumers were reading more on their Kindle and now they’re not, or they’re reading both ways.”
That’s an ideal illustration of Both/And in practice. When it comes to how you read, you don’t necessarily have to choose either conventional print or an e-book to the exclusion of the other. You can enjoy both, a middle ground that contributes to the overall pleasure of reading.
Another Example: Desktop Computers
The Both/And Principle makes perfect sense when you see what both sides bring to the overall story. With reading, a Kindle can never replicate the feel of a real book in your hands. By the same token, a book can’t offer the immediate touch screen dictionary system of a Kindle.
The old and the new both have functional strengths. Take mainframe computers, which may seem as outdated as rumble seats. Are they still around? Yes, they are, only we use them in a different manner than we used to. Although our smartphone may be the first option for emailing or looking something up on the internet, we still use desktop and laptop computers.
The list goes on and on. Digital media is everywhere, but you can still go pick up a newspaper at the corner store. Digital media allows access to new music with the touch of a button, but if you talk to a young musician today, many of them are entertaining the idea of putting albums out on vinyl as well as digital.
In another blog entry, I discuss the value of collaboration as opposed to competition. Collaboration is based on abundance, the idea that if we work together, we can grow a bigger pie that everyone can share. In a way, that same dynamic holds true with Both/And Principle.
When something new comes out, there’s no need to completely discard what came before it. Instead, create higher value by integrating the two, a value far greater than either the new or the old would have individually.
In your life and in your organization, what integration of the old and new—using the Both/And principle—can you think of to improve overall function, products and services?
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