by Cliff Kayser, President and Founder

I got sidetracked from this post a month ago when one of our cats had to have emergency surgery to remove a hairball ($6k). I was thinking then about the budding topic of the day, which seems now to be the topic of our time — the Coronavirus.  What a difference a few weeks makes. I wanted to point out early signs of another strain of virus that had already sickened us through using “or” thinking alone to the neglect of “and” thinking. Thinking Or-alone is a thinking virus and the Oralonea” virus causes polarization and a normalization of dysfunction in leadership and organization systems. You don’t need to be a doctor of applied behavioral science, leadership, or organization/systems to spot Oraloneavirus. Early symptoms include instilling fear by “othering” and “or-ing” where tension exists — me OR you, us OR them, short-term OR long-term, etc. — and the inability to see the benefits of me AND you, us AND them, short-term AND long-term, etc. The disease presents as extreme polarization, unsustainable “solutions,” and increased deviance that becomes “normal.”

Supplementing “or” thinking with “and” thinking is like any habit that’s hard to break. “Or” thinking works so well for technical solutions, we try to apply it in places where it doesn’t work. It’s like an immune system that starts running amuck and begins to attack the body, like cancer. When you have cancer, it’s hard to address other viruses when they attack. The most vulnerable people for coronavirus are those with cancer or weakened immune systems. The most vulnerable leaders and systems for coronavirus are those who suffer from Oraloneavirus. The combination of sicknesses becomes a hyper-crisis of hyper-proportion.


We’ve seen Oraloneavirus throughout history and it returns in different strains. Plato’s inoculation was to say, “The part can never be well unless the whole is well.” Barry Johnson, the creator of the Polarity Map and principles offers a similar antidote, “It is always in the interests of the parts to take care of the whole of which they are a part, and it is always in the interests of the whole to take care of the parts that comprise it.”

All of us is on cruise ship earth. No wall, no national boundary, no amount of wealth or status can immunize any of us from the truth of our basic humanity and we can’t blame our way out of it. And when the post-virus reality “what did we learn” time comes, I pray we’ll come closer to accepting the reality that we are all interconnected and interdependent. In the words of the Dali Lama, “We and they no longer exist. The planet is just, us. The destruction of one area is the destruction of yourself. That is the new reality.”  

I know it may be too soon to be talking about silver linings — but I can’t help myself. When we touch our face without fear again, I hope it accompanies a touch of the collective face — our humanity. When that day comes, supplementing “or” thinking with “and” thinking will help.

And so will the Polarities of Democracy.