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The Genius of the AND

Dr. T loved important concepts embodied in simple, thought-provoking sayings or parables. They were memorable, and once understood were effective ways of transmitting culture to employees at all levels of the organization.

Dr. T frequently used used the “Genius of the And”, and was not always understood the first time.

In the mid 1990’s an engineer wandered into my office just to shoot the bull. It wasn’t long before I started to pontificate on the latest parable, The Genius of the And. As he listened to me, he got more and more restless, and finally cut me off by saying “Carsten, you are so full of BS” and stomped out of my 8 x 12 ft. cubicle.

A few weeks later, with a few NSFW words he came back again, and proclaimed, “that amplifier I was working on, I improved the signal-to-noise ratio by 6 dB and cut the price in half. Are you happy now?”

Another example was when Niels Ole Knudsen was interviewing for a job, Dr. T asked to also interview the candidate and asked if he could design an 18-bit 1 MHz A/D converter. That was an impossible combination of high speed AND high resolution, a “genius of the and” question that the candidate could not confirm was possible. The day after the initial interview, he came back and asked to talk with Dr. T again. He had a solution, and was hired. The solution became the Flex I and Flex II A/D converters which earned the “Product of the Year” award by a major electronics magazine and garnered multiple patents.

The concept of the “genius of the and”, is said to originate in the book “Built to Last” published in 1994. Being a voracious reader, Dr. T may well have picked it up there.

I have observed that concise communication in one-liners is effective when

  • It is short. It must be easy to remember, easy to internalize, and become part of one’s instinctive way of thinking.
  • It is profound. It has more than meets the eye (or ear) and provokes deep thought and reflection. It encourages the listener to identify examples of the the concept. “Do you want steak or lobster”? No, I want both.
  • It is provocative. When first heard, it may sound silly, trivial, or even non-sensical.
  • It is visualized. When a story or example is visualized, it is easier to remember.
  • It is repeated. Until it is understood.
  • It provokes derivatives. With the steak or lobster question, the AND concept may provoke the derived concept of “you are asking the wrong question”, trying to box the listener into narrow alternatives. This trick can often be used when interviewed by journalists who want a yes no answer, where the creative answer may well be, “you are asking the wrong question”.
  • It is universal. May as well apply to human relationships, finance, corporate culture and education.

Ultimately, all of these characteristics lead to more open, creative thinking and problem solving.

Written by Carsten Thomsen

2 replies on “The Genius of the AND”

Love it – I will look at this next week I am at the beach for the weekend with terrible internet

Sent from my iPhone

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