Finding the "And"

In "Built to Last," the fading classic of 1990s management advice, and in the world of improvisation, which tried to gain some vestige of a toehold in the management advice space of today, there is a concept which remains pretty useful -- the notion of "and" instead of "but."

Framing alternatives as implicitly forcing trade-offs can be a subtle way to derail forward momentum while also seeming wise and prudent. But trade-offs are actually less common than believed. There are many venues, audiences, options, author groups, and business extensions that can co-exist harmoniously, if not actually synergistically.

For example, attend nearly any editorial board meeting, and preserving quality will be contrasted with adding titles to the brand, as if there were an implicit trade-off -- the flagship would need to donate vital fluids of some kind in order for offspring to prosper, weakening the flagship.

Experience runs strongly counter to this presumption. Nature's strong portfolio is one of the most prominent examples of a flagship spinning off journals that any other publisher might justifiably think of as flagships themselves. At JBJS, adding new journals and products did not hinder the flagship's ability to increase its impact factor and continue to serve as the leading research journal in the field. The same goes for portfolios at JAMA, Lancet, ACC, IEEE, ACS, and so on.

But that's not to say that extending a portfolio necessarily enhances the flagship, although the dynamics of organizations pursuing both strategies seem to provide a generally lift. In reality, it seems the two activities can be pursued in parallel, as the techniques around portfolio growth don't have too much overlap with perpetuating and enhancing a flagship journal.

The same goes increasingly for non-journal initiatives spearheaded by publishers. Compartmentalized and treated appropriately, these can flourish without exacting a toll on the flagship or journals portfolio. It's a management challenge, and not an insoluble one.

A key "and" to achieve for any organization, but especially for editors and publishers, is the union between quantitative and qualitative information. Scientifically trained editors rightfully seek quantitative information, but businesses often run on qualitative information with spot checks in quant land.

Bringing editors and editorial teams to the point of considering "and" rather than responding with "but" often means the publisher has to take the lead, with pledges of resources, plans of action, compelling customer insights, and clear revenue projections. Enthusiasm needs to be cultivated.

Growth is an "and" proposal -- we will be what we are now "and" these other things; we will work in our current markets "and" these new markets. This is why getting to "and" is so important.