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Updated: Feb 18

My young colleague

One of my young colleagues asked me once: Jan, how does the new come into the world?

I asked him: What do you mean?

He explained: Well, our brain is like a hard drive or a storage space in the cloud, right? It is full with all the knowledge, emotions, etc. I don’t remember from my biology lesson that we have a free space in the brain, that is waiting to be filled with a new stuff. So, again how does the new comes in? He insisted.

When I was a little boy...

I tried to explain how it might happen based on my experience, both as a little boy in my village and as a leader of different international companies: You know, when I was a little boy, the farmers used to harvest with a scythe. You might not even know what it is. It is the tool that the death is oft portrayed with. The men would cut the wheat, and the kids and women would bound it for later threshing. It was a hell of a work. It took long time and lots of harvest got lost in the process. One day a machine turned up in my village. It was a binder. It cut the wheat and bounded it automatically. You could increase the productivity 10x easily.

That sounds cool! Responded my colleague. I bet everybody wanted to use it, right?

Well, not really. Everybody but one farmer found the machine extremely dangerous. People said that we will starve ourselves to death if we use it. Some stated even that it came from hell. And as we were very religious people, most of us felt that the machine does not have a blessing necessary to be used. In fact, we all were scared.

My young colleague was perplexed: You were scared?!?

Yes, very much so. I confirmed. Yet, after a year or two, more and more farmers tested the machine. Usually later during the day, when it was dark. And there were more and more of them over time. After four or five years, everybody was using it and people kept the scythe hanging in the barn or museum.

So what happened? My colleague asked.

Well, I think that the part of brain where the fear resided got free. People removed the fear piece by piece. And they made space free for the new, for the binder - in this case. I continued. And this is the answer to your question. The new comes in, where the fear goes away. The fear makes space for the new. Once it disappears, the new comes in.

Interesting. My colleague said.

Yes, it is. I continued.


It works both direction, in fact. If some populists want to prevent the new to become part of our life, they put more fear in our brain. By doing so, they occupy the space in our brain, so nothing else can get in.

My colleague was thinking. You are saying that being curious, being fearless, being open to a different thing, is the prerequisite for the new to come in?

Very much so. I said. Allowing something different to exist, adding it to what we know, removing the fear… all of this makes the new happen.

My young colleague was nodding and obviously agreeing with me.

Tyranny of OR

Whenever there is something new, it is amazing and full of aspiration for some of us. OR it is something full of doubts and fear for others. Sometimes both extremes happen in one head, one mind, one person.

The tyranny of OR forces you to make decisions where you always have a feeling of losing something. OR imposes a divide on how we perceive the world. Two different sets that seem not to overlap. You need to go left or right. Buy cheap or good. Get it quick or solid. Parents told you, that you cannot have both. Teachers confirmed.

Big organizations are run by the OR.

Blessing of AND

However, start-ups and innovative corporations do not accept it. Almost all successful companies were founded by not accepting the OR. By going for the AND.


How to lead now…

  1. Always listen to both sides: to those who are excited and aspired by new amazing things AND those who are scared of a change, and sometimes even too scared to express their doubts. To sense them, you need to be a good observer.

  2. As a leader, try to establish an overlap. Nothing is just black or white. Most things are like a yin-yang AND they have it all, even if the surface looks like only black or only white. The overlap that you have established shall be a space of winners, not compromisers.

  3. Whenever you face a decision driven by OR, try to find a different perspective, different alternative by applying an AND. It will not appear obvious but just play for ten minutes with an AND - it may appear suddenly out of nothing. If it doesn't, well, maybe next time.

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