BY zach

When in Control & Protect (C&P) Mode, it is easy to think: “OK then, I need to be in Create & Connect (C&C) Mode at work more often. However, the most recent neurobiological research has shown that we actually need to use both brain networks co-operatively, in the same stretch of time; even if not exactly at the same microsecond (the brain can cycle between being active and passive states up to 180 times a minute!). Highly innovative people are able rapidly and repeatedly to shift between convergent and divergent thinking. The complex process of imagining and executing high-value new ideas — whether everyday adaptation or long-range transformational innovation — involves a complex interplay between creative and controlled thinking. We need to have ideas with C&C Mode and then sort them, evaluate them, and prioritize them with C&P Mode.

According to an article called Why Are Some People More Creative Than Others? in Scientific American, the consumer magazine of the most prestigious science journal Nature, genuine innovation — the ability to improvise and create a new solution and then execute it as a transformation — ”involves a complex interplay between spontaneous and controlled thinking — the ability to both spontaneously brainstorm ideas and deliberately evaluate them to determine whether they’ll actually work.”

C&P Mode and C&C Mode do not work against each so much as collaboratively; they are coupled together, partners-in-crime. As researchers state in The Oxford Handbook of Spontaneous Thought: “increased coupling of DMN and ECN has been observed for different creative domains, including creative idea generation, creative drawing, poetry composition, and musical improvisation. These findings show that creative cognition involves the activation and cooperation of brain networks linked to spontaneous thought and cognitive control.”

In other words, the most innovative people can flex between both divergent and convergent thinking. They are masters at both. Although C&P Mode likes to see polar opposites — where we are either in Control Mode or Create Mode — really we need to be in both Control Mode and Create Mode. This means shifting from either/or ‘dualistic’ thinking to both/and ‘dialogical’ thinking. This is the heart of the 3rd Gem of BTT: to find the third way between seeming opposites within a creative tension or harmony.

As leaders, we are invited by the complexities of real life to move beyond easy and conflictual dualisms (self/other, mind/body, nature/nurture) — that see the world as either X or Y — and embrace dialogical thinking that sees that both X and Y can be true. As I discovered from reading Embodied Being by philosopher professor and bodywork practitioner Jeffrey Maitland, one of the earliest philosophers in the West, the pre-Socratic Greek writer Heraclitus, gave us a fragment of wisdom to embrace the seeming paradox of being both controlling/protective and creative/connective.

Heraclitus says, “they do not understand how, while differing from itself, it is in agreement with itself: stretched back and forth in harmony like that of the bow and lyre.” A lyre is an ancient instrument. A guitar would be a modern-day equivalent. Imagine the tension, fertile with potential, that exists across the strings of a guitar between two poles, two opposites. Transformational leadership inhabits that creative tension, embodies that creative tension, and harnesses that creative tension to lead and land positive lasting change.

We embody the tension between both C&C Mode and C&P Mode; between both working productively alone andworking co-creatively in a team; between both becoming an efficient manager and developing into an effective leader; between leading an enterprise that is both on purpose and profitable. We can and must bring seeming opposites together into a dynamic “palintonic harmonie.” the term Heraclitus uses. We can still discern and distinguish opposites but we reconcile them together into a creative harmony: a third way that is the best of both polar opposites. The binary opposition of dualities so common in the West, centered on “either/or” logic, melts into the unity of an integrated bodymind. We can then embrace “both/and thinking,” that still discerns important differences between two seeming opposites but understands how they can be brought together into a third way. When we lead transformation projects, there are many seeming paradoxes. We are invited as leaders to melt away dualistic polarities in the wisdom of our ever-expanding connective consciousness. Otherwise, we will become overwhelmed and confused by paradoxes; and so lose effectiveness. Genuine embodied wisdom dissolves dualities and divisions into palintonic harmonies.

Way back in ancient India, the Buddha also posited in his teachings the cubical importance of a Middle Way or Middle Path. He knew that human beings tend toward nihilism (nothing is important and nothing is real) and essentialism (thinking everything we do is significant and everything is real). Likewise, leaders tend toward becoming modern-day ascetics, denying pleasures and embracing endless self-criticism on the path to perfection (including a bit of self- and employee-flagellation); or we become hedonists, indulging in material pleasures like fame and fortune and not paying attention to our mind and the importance of ideas in
consciousness.

Buddha says to us: “Everything exists: That is one extreme. Everything doesn’t exist: That is a second extreme. Avoiding these two extremes, the [Buddha] teaches the Dharma [wisdom, path] via the middle.” This third way approach seems to be how the brain itself is organized. The complex process of imagining and executing high-value new ideas — whether everyday adaptation and agility of long-range transformational innovation — involves a complex palintonic and generative harmony between creative and controlled thinking. As Dr. Roger Beaty, from Penn State, puts it, “creative people are better able to co-activate brain networks that usually work separately.”

Through developing our leadership consciousness so it can see creative tensions instead of polar opposites, we get constantly to resolve the tensions we see in the world today: between dispassionate objective science and passionate subjective purpose; between Hayekian laissez-faire economics and Keynesian government-investing economics; and between conservative meritocracies and progressive liberal equalities. As transformational leaders, we have to learn how to tune the string between opposites as we walk a constant third way between a ‘scientific’ gaze outward at our projects and balance sheet; and a contemplative gaze inward at our own inner experience.

BTT explicitly creates this third way creative harmony between the objective materialist lens that seeks proven, reliable, consistent information about profit/loss; and the subjective idealist lens that is inspired by reliable, consistent insight about the world through introspection, reflection, and contemplation. BTT as a leadership philosophy unleashes us to harness both scientific material interventions (say more caffeine in the morning or more agile development processes) andconsciousness interventions (say team meditations and psychological safety practices) to thrive as leaders.

With BTT, we are in the game of mastering both the material and the conscious aspects of our single bodymind at all times. With empathy, imagination, and intuition from C&C Mode coupled with accurate data and logic seen though C&P Mode, we learn how consistently to metabolize pain points into opportunities for smart and wise solutions that resource transformation challenges. The Third Way is always about finding the path through that brings the best of all worlds, without descending into banal centrism.

Sometimes, when we try to stand between two stools, we fall between them. We end up in a Lowest Common Denominator (LCD) compromise between two opposites. This low-energy beige-vanilla center has very little passion and vibrancy within it to lead sustained transformation. It relies on smart minds trying to find a middle-ground that pleases no-one much. However, with wise hearts embracing the paradox as well as smart minds, transformational leaders can find a Highest Common Factor (HCF) creative harmony that brings the best of both worlds without reducing creativity and possibility.

We can see ourselves as both individuals looking out for ourselves and an elemental part of society that cares for one another (although not everyone will be able to be a billionaire and have everything their hearts desire; but don’t need). We can both manage our teams to drive excellence and high-productivity and support them and coach them to unleash their potential for their own actualization. We can run a business model that delivers both profit for investors and genuine purposeful impact for staff and users (albeit we might deliver less profit than a purposeless business).

A Highest Common Factor creative harmony can help us find our way toward a more regenerative and responsible form of capitalism. Thus transformational leaders in businesses can choose to drive sustainability through their supply chains (airline Emirates is leading the way in a carbon-heavy industry); put purpose at the heart of their business (as companies like Patagonia and Unilever are doing); and even give up some equity to workers (as outdoor retailer REI, and electronics chain Richer Sounds, both do).