The innovation concept of Confucius is best summarized in the book of "Great Learning 大学". See Understanding The Great Learning DaXue in One Minute.
It tells us about the 3O8S - The Three Objectives and Eight Steps or Stages.
The 3 Objectives - What is the Ideal?
- Glorify virtues
- Transform into New People
- Attain utmost Goodness or Perfection
Innovation is not just an idea, or even any invention. Innovation is new intangible idea implemented that provide tangible business value. Business value means that are users who are willing to pay for the use of the innovations. Innovations must contribute to the betterment of society and environment. This was what Confucius was promoting. This is certainly the trend of Conscious Capitalism. This is another point to add to my post on The Future Of Management is Ancient Chinese Classics.
The 8 Steps
- 格物 Study Things
Observe and discover the working of universe and society. This is equivalent to our hard and soft sciences. This is beginning and foundation of knowledge and innovation. The key is to discover the reality and truth.
- 致知 Gain Insights
The purpose of studying is to gain insights to the fullest extent. Insights is more than just knowing how it works but also being able to predict how it will work. Management is about prediction, according to EＷ Deming. Prediction is about applying our knowledge and putting our insights to work. This is innovation - converting intangible ideas into tangible benefits.
- 诚意 Be Sincere & Truthful
Discovery of truth must be done with sincerity and integrity. In the eagerness to gain fame and wealth, we read about how scientists fabricate experimental results. Such people has forgotten about this key virtue and attitude all researchers should have. Confucius told us not to deceive ourselves, hate the stinking and love the beauty, be humble, reflective, in-depth, and working as if everyone is watching you.
- 正心 Have the Right Heart
Our heart must be right, balanced and in peace then we can focus and think well without prejudices and biased. We must free ourselves of anger, fear, worry and desire. We are all aware of our thinking and cultural biases and how they distort or prevent us from coming out with really good ideas and decisions.
- 修身 Develop Character
We need to develop good and righteous character so that we can truly think clearly and create innovations that truly benefits the world.
- 齐家 Lead the Home
- 治国 Govern the Nation
- 平天下 Rule the World
Point 6 to 8 show the increasing influence we have as we develop our character and knowledge. It shows the growth of our innovation, from home, to the nation, to the regions and to the world. There are 2 S Curves for our innovation that we need to know well. The first is the Market Diffusion S-Curve of how our innovation gets propagated in the market with different aspects and types of innovations that are important at different stages of the curve. The best book on this is Geoffrey Moore - Dealing With Darwin. The 2nd S Curve is the replacement of technology. Any technology or innovation will eventually be replaced with better ones. The best on this topic is Clay Christiansen's Disruptive Innovations.
Next: Learning Innovation from Confucius - Part 3 The Attitudes
Lim Liat copyrighted March 2011