10 March 2014

The Power of Yin-Yang and the Teaching of Lao Zi

For the western mindset, existence of bi-polar extremes is considered a dichotomy. The mindset is an either A or B and the co-existence of A and B becomes a dichotomy or a dilemma. For the Chinese mindset, the existence of both extremes and the range of possible intermediaries create a harmony of abundance in options and of lives.. The existence of one extreme requires the co-existence of the other. Either does not and could not exist alone. This complementary and supportive extremes are the key for creating a harmonious world with men and with nature and universe. This thought is clearly expressed by Lao Zi in Dao De Jing Chapter 2.
Dao De Jing 道德经 2

  1. 天下皆知美之为美,斯恶已。
    Everyone knows about beauty because there is ugliness.
  2. 皆知善之为善,斯不善已。
    All knows about goodness because there is evil.
  3. 故 有无相生,难易相成,长短相形,
    Hence, substance and void complement each other for life;
                difficulty and easiness complement each other for completeness;
                long and short make up for all shapes and sizes;
  4.      高下相倾,音声相和,前后相随;
    height and bottom make up for all inclinations;
    sound and voice make up for harmony;
    front and back make up for a progression;
  5. 恒 也 。
    resulting in everlasting.
  6. 是以 圣人处无为之事,行不言之教,万物作焉而不辞;
    Hence, the saints work on non-violating tasks,
                teach by examples without the speech,
                and accomplish much work well without mentioning them (no bragging).
  7. 生而不有,为而不恃,功成而弗居; 夫唯弗居,是以不去。」
    Give birth or create something and yet own not,
    do all the work and demand not,
    completed the tasks and claim no credits or rewards.
    Yet because not claiming credits, the benefits are everlasting.
The lessons learned:
  1. The co-existence of two extremes is the permanent reality. Don't choose either extreme but work within the range, the dynamic balance of extremes according to the situations and people involved.
  2. The opposite is not against you but a help to you.
    Your competitors keep you on your guard and help you to become better. There are an opportunity in crisis and a crisis hidden in an opportunity.
  3. To accomplish great things effortlessly, follow the narrow order of nature. Even if doing the right thing according to the natural order is difficult (there are oppositions against you), you still do it because in the long run, the total benefits of doing right things outweighs the short-term gains or ease of doing the wrong things.
  4. For lasting leadership and success, do things because they are needful rather than for your own glory and gains. Following the natural order or principles will lead to greater productivity.
  5. The better form of leadership is to lead by examples and not by force or lectures only.
  6. Lao Zi does not teach us to take no action and leave it to nature. Rather, he teaches us to grasp the principles and laws of nature and then faithfully follow them to create a better world that last.
  7. What other lessons can you learn from Lao Zi's saying written above?
See also:

Lim Liat (c) 10 March 2014

04 March 2014

Go Beyond Darwin's Survival of the Fittest to Eco-Value-Chain for Innovations

The path to success is generally taught to be improving your ability until Darwin comes out with the Survival of the fittest. But reality is about Eco-value-chain of complementary survival. For your next innovation, you should work backward from the Eco-value-chain.
We started life by believing I need to be faster and stronger than others to win. We have the famous Hokkien Song of 要拼才会赢 'Must fight in order to Win'. This is too self-focus and neglect the external situational factors.

Darwin told us about the survival of the fittest and not of the strongest.
The quote is:
  • "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.
  • In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment."
Darwin is not the first to discover this. Solomon, about 3000 years earlier, wrote in Ecclesiastes Chapter 9:11  I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill, but time and chance happened to them all.  See Business Strategies and Decision Making According to the Bible for more.

So we move from 1-My Ability to 2-My Adaptability to the Environment.

A more systematic study of the laws of nature shows us that spices that survive better than others are those that complement others in the eco-systems cycles or chains. 

The key to growth is then in how we complement or add value to the others that enhance the growth of the chain. Making others richer makes us richer. Making ourselves richer at the expense of others will bring our own downfall! We can see such downfall in business.

Consider the early days of Sony-Betamax vs JVC VHS video-tape format. Betamax was technically superior to VHS in terms of video and sound quality. But JVC licenses its technology to any manufacturer that was interested while Sony kept Betamax to itself. The result was greater adoption and cheaper VHS format. Another major key is the content providers. Consumer will buy the format that the content providers choose. Recognizing the value of the eco-chain explained the success of Apple iPod mp3 players against the technically better Creative Techology and other MP3 players that were released before Apple. iPod player is not just a mp3 player but a key link in the value-chain of $1 a song on the go from the music content providers, the iTunes software for selection and download and payment of songs, through a Mac/PC computer (at the beginning. Later iTouch do away with the need for the PC) and to the player. It broke the need to buy 20+ songs packed in a CD format at $20 for only 1 or 2 songs that you liked. It also explained why Nokia lost the Smart-Phone war.

So we from 1-My Ability, to 2-My Adaptability, to 3-My Augmentation to the Eco-Value-Chain.

For the new business that you want to start, you must first find the value-chain of the part of your business. Then you work backwards as to where you can contribute best to the chain. Then at last, what differentiating advantage that your abilities bring. It is not just something you can do, but something others find it difficult or not worth their while to do.

Hope this help you to re-think your business and enable you come out with innovative offerings.

Lim Liat (c) 4 March 2014