James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras

If we had to distill our six-year research project into one key concept that conveys the most information about what it takes to build a visionary company that can adapt to a changing world, we would adapt the yin/yang symbol. We selected the yin/yang symbol to represent a key aspect of highly visionary companies: they do not oppress themselves with what we call the “Tyranny of the Or” – the rational view that cannot easily accept paradox, that cannot live with two seemingly contradictory forces or ideas at the same time. The “Tyranny of the Or” pushes people to believe that things must be either A or B, but not both. It makes such proclamations as:

– You can have change or stability.
– You can be conservative or bold.
– You can have low cost or high quality.
– You can have creative autonomy or consistency and control.
– You can invest for the future or do well in the short-term.
– You can make progress by methodical planning or by opportunistic groping.
– You can create wealth for your shareholders or do good for the world.
– You can be idealistic (values-driven) or pragmatic (profit driven).

Instead of being oppressed by the “Tyranny of die Or,” highly visionary companies liberate themselves with the “Genius of the And” – the ability to embrace both extremes of a number of dimensions at the same time. Instead of choosing between A or B, they figure out a way to have both A and B.

We’re not talking about mere “balance” here. “Balance” implies going to the midpoint, 50/50, half and half. A visionary company doesn’t simply “balance” between preserving a tightly held core ideology and stimulating vigorous change and movement; it does both to an extreme. In short, a highly visionary company doesn’t want to blend yin and yang into a gray, indistinguishable circle that is neither highly yin nor highly yang; it aims to be distinctly yin and distinctly yang – both at the same time, all the time.

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