Balance. Unite. Integrate.

By Restoring the Soul of Business Archives
Cover image for  article: Balance. Unite. Integrate.

Successful leaders, teams and companies that endure over the long run seek to find balance, unity and integration. They work to balance opposing dynamics and points of view from how they invest for today versus tomorrow and how they compose leadership teams with differing points of view. They strive to unite their organizations to work collaboratively to achieve common goals. They recognize that in diversity there is strength, and it is important to integrate several perspectives and skill sets to succeed in an increasingly fast-moving and complex world. To balance, to unite and to integrate is difficult because it requires nuance, trade-offs, empathy and communication skills. It is recognizing that there is rarely a silver bullet answer or a simple and easy solution.

Balance: The Mandalorian and Lawrence of Arabia

Between 1962's Lawrence of Arabia and 2020's The Mandalorian there is much in common, including each being an innovative use of a new film technology. It was 70 MM wide screen for Lawrence of Arabia and high-definition streaming for The Mandalorian which brought Disney into the future.

But in world view they are completely different.

In The Mandalorian we sense a force and a code best captured in the line "this is the way" repeated throughout the series. There is a code of conduct that is almost religious. A way of doing things handed down over time. A deterministic march forward.

In Lawrence of Arabia a key theme is of old ways and traditions being challenged -- best captured by the line "nothing is written." The desert is empty, and the sands are wiped clean with the winds of change. The past is not an anchor, and one must write, sculpt and invent the future.

Most individuals and firms must balance both the roots (history, legacy, anchored costs, reputation, provenance, rule of law and expectations) of "this is the way" with the wings (leaps of faith, casting of on a new journey, challenging the status quo) of "nothing is written." We must balance roots and wings.

Portfolio managers need to balance safety with risk to reach for returns while working to preserve capital.

Balancing is difficult but a focus on one extreme versus the other rarely allows for long-term success.

Unite: The Lessons of Sports Teams

Regardless of the sport, the teams that win titles tend to share two characteristics:

  1. Talent: They have a disproportionate share of great talent
  2. Unity: They are passionately aligned and united to achieve a common goal

Often it is not the team with the best talent that wins but the one where the talent is passionately aligned and united either due to culture or great management.

Teams are not collected -- they are built and forged. It takes time but once finished in the furnace and foundry of time and experience they operate at levels of performance and delivery that create a unique competitive advantage.

Similarly, companies win contracts and retain clients and take on external challenges where there is a glue of culture, purpose and values that ensure a gestalt (1+1=3) which sets them apart. People choose their partners with their hearts while they use numbers to justify their choice.

A leader can get elected or selected by dividing and conquering for a short while, but sustained legacy and success is usually forged through uniting and uplifting.

Unity is hard and harder still in polarizing times, but a divided house will most likely fall.

Integration: Judicious Surrender to the Force of Opposing Tendencies

If balance is often about allocating between today and tomorrow and unity about aligning different perspectives and people, integration is blending these opposing forces and personalities in a way that works and delivers.

While it may seem difficult, we all do so as individuals since each of us integrate many identities.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that "the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." When applied to companies we could write that first-rate companies are able to operate two business models at the same time -- one optimized for today and one focused on creating tomorrow, even if it eats today.

Today the big luxury brands are seeking to integrate aspiration (specialness, history, limited quality, high price, cathedral-like retail spaces) with access ( bring in tomorrow’s buyers, reflect unique cultures, be available online) and integrating them so the brand can combine these different product portfolios and go-to-market strategies without the underlying story and brand falling apart from its internal dichotomies.

Balance roots and wings.

Unite diverse talents into a common culture.

Integrate multiple and often opposing approaches.

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