21 March 2011

Learning Innovation from Confucius - Part 3 The Attitudes & Mindsets

Continuing from Learning Innovation from Confucius - Part 2 Ideality & Diffusion,
we discuss the attitudes and mindsets needed for innovative breakthrough thinking.

The Four Basic Attitudes for Innovation:
  1. It is fun.
  2. There is more for me. (humility).
  3. It is energizing.
  4. Let's go to the utmost. (Pursue of excellence, perfection, ideality)
1. It is Fun. The joy of learning and exploring.
Many children hate studying. Guess where they pick up the idea that studying is difficult and painful. It is from us, the parents and even the teachers. We have neglected the intrinsic motivation of learning and substitute it with external motivation of force and fear by having tests and examinations. We warn them that they better study hard or else they will fail and their future will be gone. The motivation by force and fear of failure is bad. This is against our natural instinct. One of the greatest asset of children is their curiosity. They explore endlessly, at times risking injury, and ask so many why's and how's that often tired their parents. What happen to such learning capability?

Confucius told us to get our attitude right in the first place. Learning is fun and joy. He said in Lun Yu 1:1a.
  子曰:「学而时习之,不亦说乎?
  Learning and practicing, is it not a joy?
There are two parts that bring joy, the learning and the application of learning and the two will reinforce each other to give greater joy. We need to make learning easy and fun and also show the usefulness of things learned. Once we find its usefulness, we will come back to ask for more. Learning and practicing are two faces of the same coin. Hence, in the above translation, I treat it as a singular thing, and say it is a joy.

May be the difficulty and boredom of our teaching is the lack of association and demonstration of the usefulness and use of the teaching. This is where innovation comes it. We learn to innovate. We acquire knowledge to make things and contribute to a better world, either by making the tedious easy, reduce or change the pains to joy, or to give new dreams and hope to the depressed and uninitiated.

Degree of Fun
Can we rate our 'fun' in learning. Confucius gave us 3 levels in:
6:20 子曰:「知之者不如好之者,好之者不如乐之者。」
Knowing it is not as good as loving it; Loving it is not as good as enjoying it.
So we have knowing, loving and enjoying and the best is to enjoy the learning and innovating because enjoying gives us the motivation to do more and sustain the growth.

2 There is more for me. (humility)

We must approach learning with humility and a confidence that we can do it. We are not the know-all and we shall not be embarrassed that we don't know. In innovative thinking sessions, we will discover that we don't know much at all and it is OK to not have the answer. It is OK that others don't think much of us. We should also do not think little of others. We must learn to appreciate the opinions of others and not to thumb others ideas down. In my innovative thinking sessions, I tell them that there is no useless idea, it is only that we have not found the situation and the person that could use the idea. Instead of saying the idea is useless. We should ask who, when, what and how will the idea be of use. It may not be useful in the normal situation, but in extreme situation, in crisis, in emergency, in war, in earthquakes, those ideas could be of great use. Here is the encouragement from Confucius:
 1:1c 人不知而不愠,不亦君子乎?
 Not feeling angry when others don't know about or acknowledge you, it not this a gentleman (wise, superior man)?
3.  It is energizing.
Most people think that the smart people are born smart. That was what they said about Confucius. Here is Confucius' reply:
7:20   我非生而知之者, 好古,敏以求之者也。
         I was not born with knowledge. It was that I love the ancient wisdom, and I am diligent in pursuing it.
The best praise for him was given by a guard. He said Confucius is the one that ...
7:19 其为人也,发愤忘食,乐以忘忧,不知老之将至云尔
       He is one that pursue knowledge so that as to forget to eat, so happy that as to forget worries and did not realize of his coming old age.
We can see that innovation done well is an energizing endeavor. The more we do it the more we are charged up. We could forget eating and sleeping and we don't feel the passing of time and age.


4. Let's Go to the Utmost. The Pursue of Excellence and Idealilty.
Confucius shared his big concern about not learning enough to reach perfection below:
8:17 学如不及,犹恐失之
Learn to grasp the full insights fearing otherwise one might loose it.
If you don't go far enough, you will loose what you have started with.

Let's start with right attitudes towards innovation, namely, it is fun, there is more for me, it is energizing and let's pursue excellence. Never give up half way.

Next: Learning Innovation from Confucius - Part 4 Method 1 Observe & Discern


Lim Liat copyrighted March 2011
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