Michigan, like many states, faces a variety of complex challenges and issues that require innovative and collaborative ideas and solutions. From economic inequality to environmental sustainability, leaders must find and use viable ways to balance competing priorities and diverse perspectives to reach desired outcomes.
Yet, too often, policy discussions become polarized, with leaders adopting an “either or” approach that pits one solution against another. This “either or” approach can be either counterproductive or limit the volume and quality of ideas to reach maximum solutions.
In contrast to the “either or” dialogue, Michigan needs an “and” approach to policy discussion, ideas, and solutions, all of which create a healthy and productive level of tension among leaders with various points of view. This approach, sometimes written as the “Power of And” or using the ampersand symbol as in the “Power of &,” emphasizes the importance of bringing otherwise polarized sides closer together to provide the needed stimulus for leaders to bring nuanced thinking to problem-solving.
At its core, the “Power of &” approach recognizes that most issues facing the state of Michigan and its people require a multifaceted response. For example, consider the state’s economic challenges. Some leaders might argue that the best solution is to attract large corporations to the state, while others advocate investing in small businesses and entrepreneurs. Instead of choosing one approach over the other, the “Power of And” approach encourages leaders to explore how both strategies can work together to create a thriving economy.
This approach requires leaders to engage in honest and open dialogue, acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of diverse solutions. It also requires a willingness to compromise and collaborate, recognizing that no one solution is perfect and progress often requires incremental steps.
At this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference, held from Tuesday, May 30 to Friday, June 2 on Mackinac Island, policy leaders from the business, political, educational, community, and philanthropic sectors across Michigan will convene, focus, and debate “Why Michigan needs an “and” approach instead of “either or” policy solutions.”
Conference creators believe that diverse Michigan leaders can learn to adopt the “Power of &” when addressing solutions through making policy while bringing polarizing sides closer together to facilitate nuanced thinking to problem solving.
According to Conference information, the “and” approach will be adopted during policy-making discussions on an array of topics, including Individual Freedom & Collective Action, Sustainability & Economic Growth, and Investing in the Future & Financial Responsibility.
Individual Freedom & Collective Action: One of the most pressing challenges facing Michigan is how to balance individual freedom with the need for collective action. For example, when it comes to public health, some individuals might argue that they have the right to refuse vaccinations or to wear masks, while others might advocate for policies that mandate these measures for the greater good of all. Instead of choosing one approach or the other, the “Power of &” encourages leaders to explore how individual freedom and collective actions can work together to promote public health impactfully.
Sustainability & Economic Growth: Michigan has a rich manufacturing history but is also traditionally linked to the natural environment. Balancing sustainability and economic growth can be challenging, but the “Power of And” approach can help leaders find solutions that benefit both sides. By exploring how sustainable practices can create economic opportunities and support growth, leaders can find workable ways to create a more sustainable and prosperous future for Michigan.
Investing in the Future & Financial Responsibility: Michigan must find ways to invest in the future while maintaining financial responsibility. This could involve exploring how investments in education, infrastructure, and other areas can lead to long-term economic growth while ensuring that the state’s budget remains balanced and sustainable. The “Power of And” approach encourages leaders to identify ways to prioritize investments in the future while being fiscally responsible and recognizing that both goals are necessary for Michigan’s success.
One key benefit of the “Power of & “approach is that it encourages leaders to consider broader perspectives and experiences. For example, when addressing issues of racial inequality, an either or approach might pit advocates for affirmative action against those who argue for color-blind policies. However, the “Power of And” approach recognizes that there is value in both methods and encourages leaders to explore how they can work together to create just and equitable policies to empower underserved populations across the state.
Effective use of the “Power of &” is not without challenges because it requires leaders to overcome their biases and preconceptions, which can be difficult, especially when individuals believe their way is the best and only pathway to reaching solutions. However, with the right mindset and commitment to hearing all sides of an issue, a collaboration can be reached with “and” versus “either or.” When facilitated, the “Power of &” will open doors and usher in new ideas for driving progress rooted in creative policy-making for change.
When leaders are encouraged to consider multiple perspectives and approaches – in an evolutionary think tank environment – they are more likely to generate new ideas and solutions that might not have been possible otherwise.
In conclusion, Michigan’s adaptation of an “and” approach to policy solutions will foster healthy and productive interactions among policy leaders with different points of view. By emphasizing the “Power of And” and encouraging leaders to consider multiple perspectives and approaches, a heightened culture of innovation and creativity will surface and help the state of Michigan meet and exceed its most significant challenges now and in the future and excel as a model state for others to emulate how best to use “and.”