25 March 2011

Learning Innovation from Confucius Part 8 Group Innovation

Continuing from Learning Innovation from Confucius Part 7 – Method M5 Speedy Process. In the past few posts we cover personal innovation skills. We shall cover group innovation in this post.

There are five things from Confucius that I like to share with you.

1. Begin with the Right Attitude – Group Collaboration is Great Joy
1:1b有朋自远方来,不亦乐乎?
Having friends from far away, is it not joyful?
First is about friends – friends are those who share the same interests and values system as us.  Confucius said in Analects 15:40 ‘道不同不相为谋  Cannot work with those who do not share the same mission and values”. This is the Special Interest Group of the ancient time.
Secondly, interests are not measured by physical distance. The friends come from a far. Hence they are likely to be of different cultures too. China then was not one uniform country. They had many provinces of different cultures, dialects and even writing. Confucius was before the unification of writing by Chin Shi Wang.  Confucius talked about connecting the world and collaboration across cultures. Collaboration is happinesss.

2. The Progress of Teamwork – It take time to Work Well Together
7:32 子与人歌而善,必使反之,而後和之。
When Confucius sang with others, if they sang well, he would asked them to sing again and then he will harmonize with them.
We can see the three stages of
  1. coming together and agree on the main mission (all think is good), then
  2. understand each other strengths with repetitions
  3. harmonize and synergize to greater performance.
This remind me of the Group development model of Bruce Tuckman. He has 4 Stages of Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing. The forming and norming is in the 2nd stage of Confucius’ model of repetitions.
The team must agree on and are committed to the shared mission. This commitment will help them through the storming part before they get to the norming and performing part.

3. Learn the Good & Correct the Bad – Take out the Block of Wood in Our Eyes.
7:22 子曰:「三人行,必有我师焉: 择其善者而从之,其不善者而改之。」 When there people work together, there will surely be someone who can be my teacher. Choose the good things and follow them. Discern the bad things and correct them.
A key part in the storming stage is to discover the good and the bad of each other. We need to know that each one of us have our strengths and weaknesses. We need to appreciate others and to reflect on ourselves. It is easy to project our weakness onto others and criticize them. That is bad. We need to follow Jesus’ advice in Matthew 7:5  “You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

4. Transparency – The foundation for building Trust
7:24 子曰:「二三子以我为隐乎?吾无隐乎尔。吾无行而不与二三子者,是丘也。」
Do some people think that I hide things? I don’t hid things from you. There is nothing that I do without telling some of you. That is just me.
Working together requires trust. Trust comes from being transparent – sharing the motive, success and failures. Be willing to admit our mistake and apologize. We must learn to be accountable for our performance and our failures. Second guessing and doing things to cover up will lead to suspicion, waste efforts, time and even quarrel and breaking up of the group.

5. The Younger Generation are to be respected but not all.
9:23 子曰:「後生可畏,焉知来者之不如今也? 四十五十而无闻焉,斯亦不足畏也已!」 The next generation is to be respected. How do we know they won’t be better? Unless when they are in their 40′s or 50′s and are not making any impression, then we don’t need to respect them.
There needs to be a balanced. The seniors are not to look down on the young but be willing to hear and respect their opinions and contributions. On the hand, they should not go overboard to accept all the ideas of the young. Transformation is not about tearing down of everything, but only the bad things. Key values don’t change, but the mindsets and methods may need to change to embrace the new times.  It is a question of fit – new wine in new wind skin and old wine in old wine skin. You always need a skin to contain the wine. See the concept of the Doctrine of the Mean – Understanding The Doctrine of the Mean in One Minute.

Next: Learning Innovation from Confucius Part 9 Innovate without End.

Lim Liat copyrighted March 2011.
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