The Power of Both was illustrated for me a couple of years back in a story that shows how creative concepts are on display all around us.
I was driving home one Sunday morning, heading down a quiet two lane highway, with low swampy woods on both sides of the road. Up ahead I noticed two small shapes working their way across the road in an unusual locomotion. I pulled my pick-up off to the side of the road and ran ahead and found two baby snapping turtles, probably hatched within the previous day or two.
When I picked them up one of them retreated fully into its shell and the other stuck its neck out as far as it could and opened it’s mouth wide, threatening me. I thought the difference in behavior was interesting and wondered briefly if it indicated that the first was a female and the second a male, and then I put them in my truck.
I knew a spot up ahead, where I could follow a path to a creek about a mile into the woods, and decided I would take them there. I knelt at the creek bank and put the turtles in the water and in a blink of an eye they both disappeared. One hid by burrowing into the soft muddy creek bottom. The other darted into the deep water and vanished. And I realized that no matter what predator was after them, no matter the nature of the danger, one of them would have survived.
Two opposite behaviors were the answer for survival. Not a compromise between two good ideas, or a choice of one and therefore the discard of the other, but two opposite behaviors were powerful because the right question was asked, the right strategy shaped, that fully harnessed them.
So when we find ourselves working on a creative challenge and two solution are emerging that are both attractive but seem at first to be incompatible, before we compromise, before we discard, let’s try restating the problem we are solving or let’s reshape the strategy we are developing to see if both of the solutions can be fully applied.