15 June 2012

Stage 2 Developing Your Business - Some Jewels from I-Ching

Once you get started, you need these 4 jewels to help you. They are Learning, Observation, Clarity of Fire and Do More with Less.

Once you start your business, unless have done it a few times already, you will be very busy trying to do many things. You will encounter many unexpected things. There is the pressure to quickly get your products and services out so that you can have customers and be paid. The wise entrepreneurs may make sure that he has committed potential customers first before he get started. It is important to stay calm and maintain a positive attitude. Obstacles and failures are to expected in any business. The key is to learn quickly and make the necessary changes. Here are some additional jewels from I-Ching. As usual, I will give the key points of the hexagram referred and additional wisdom can be found in looking up the relevant hexagram in Manage Change with I-Ching (registration is required).

Jewel 1 Learning - #04 蒙 Naive  - Copy to Improve
How can we learn and master a subject or skill quickly. I-Ching tells us to follow an example. We need to look for a master to teach us or a mentor to guide us. We look for the best model for us to copy and improve upon. This is not to teach us just to still others IP. It is telling us never to start from scratch but to learn from those who have already walked the path. We should stand on others shoulders and not their toes to reach higher. Some may call this process re-engineering. Learning is about making the strange familiar and innovation is about making the familiar strange.

Copy to learn and Innovate to be better.

Learning is only meaningful when we apply it. Learning should be endless and life-long. Learning is about discerning and improving so that we can be an expert. We should apply our learning for good and not for evil. We should also have the curiosity, purity, humility and boldness of a child to explore and learn. This leads us to the second Jewel of Observation.

Jewel 2 Observation - #20 观 Observation - Discover the Questions
The foundation of learning is observation. Sadly, it is a subject seldom if ever taught in school. Observation begins with exploration. We need to be objective. We need to explore in width and also study in depth. We don't just look at physical things but also social things. We observe to ask the questions what are happening, find out why are they happening, and how they are happening. We may later needs to experiment to confirm what we hypothesize about how and why it works. We observe well to discover the questions or problems. In school, we are given the questions and asked to find the answers. It is a good start but we need to go backward to learn about how to find the relevant questions. Having the right answer to the wrong question could be the failure of some start-ups.

Jewel 3 Clarity - #30离 Fire - Shine the Light
We observe well to get the light of clarity. When we have the answer, we need to explain our plan to others with clarity as well. We need to shine the light brightly so that others can see the paths and walk on them. In this hexagram, I-Ching did not specifically tell us how. Other hexagrams of I-Ching show us how. We can gain clarity and then by focus by being clear in our mission, vision and values. We set up measurement systems (See Control & Management Principles according to I-Ching). Shining the light also reveal the defects and other bad practices or influences. Those defects need to be taken care of.

Jewel 4 Give to Receive - #41 損 Decrease - Do More with Less
Business is like farming. We plant the seeds first and then harvest later. In fact, business practices can mimic farming practices. Business is then invest first and reap the rewards later. Hoarding of resources and sharing out is bad. Most people like to start or to join start-ups is because rewards and challenges are great those the risks are high. The success of the silicon valley start-ups have created millions of wealthy people.

We need to learn the concept of less could be more. Less wastage is more profits. Assets light is the key to flexibility and adaptability. Apple Inc outsource all its manufacturing and retain only the key parts.

Innovation is about doing more with less. You need to figure this out.

Start-ups have to compete with the much larger incumbents. They have more resources than the start-ups. Doing more with more could be their business practices and even formula for success. But for the start-up, you have do more with less. If you can't do that, then you are in for a failure.

Follow this Series:
Previous: Stage 1 Start-Up and The Guidelines from I-Ching
Next:Stage 3 Waiting for the Next Big Thing - Insights from I-Ching

Lim Liat (C) 15 June 2012

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