Avoiding a Sucker’s Choice: Choosing “And” Instead of “Or”

Not long ago, I participated in a brainstorming demonstration that challenged us to design the most awesome tree house in the world. The only rule given to the participants was that we needed to use the words “Yes, and…” when suggesting additional features to include in our fabulous tree house. Our team’s enthusiastic response to “Yes, and…” was amazing. Had our tree house been built, we clearly would have been the envy of ten year olds everywhere.

Most of us do not have professional responsibilities for new feature development in tree houses, but we do have an opportunity to benefit from the positive impact of using the words “Yes, and…” to build enthusiasm and creativity among those we lead. Leadership occasionally requires us to choose between two good things. Sometimes leaders need to say no to one thing in order to focus on something more important. Still, in our roles as leaders it is also important that we not fall for the sucker’s choice. Not every decision is an “or” decision. A sucker’s choice suggests that we have to choose when that may not be the case. It suggests that we are facing an “or” when we may need to choose “and” instead.

Should we speak the truth or should we be considerate of other’s feelings? This is a sucker’s choice. We need to speak the truth and be considerate and respectful of other people’s feelings. Do we need to pay attention to the details or focus on the big picture? This is another sucker’s choice. We need to pay attention to the details and understand how those details fit together in the larger system. As a leader, I encourage you to avoid the sucker’s choice. We need to recognize those situations where the ideal response is “Yes, and…” rather than assume we have to choose.

Have you experienced a situation where you were faced with this choice? Share your thoughts in the comments!


David Krahling, Interstates Vice President of Business Development