Monthly Archives: September 2017

Engage in a Constructive Leadership Dialogue

Conduct Soul-searching Interviews with Outsiders

Engage in a Constructive Leadership Dialogue If you are a leader, what is your most important job? As stated by John Kotter, leaders groom organizations for transformation and help them manage as they struggle through it. That is their foremost job. However, how do they go about doing it? Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, once said: “My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.”

Evidently, setting a direction for the future is an important aspect of leadership. Telling what the organization should become in the long term and how it should get there becomes the foremost duty. Soon after taking the helm of IBM, Lou Gerstner announced, “The last thing IBM needs right now is a vision.” Some people nailed his hide to the wall for that statement. He explains that reporters dropped the words “right now” from his statement. Gerstner felt that IBM was long on vision statements, but short on getting the job done. Fixing the company was all about execution.

Creating a Culture of Leadership

Execution is nothing but aligning people, motivating them, and creating a culture of leadership. Kotter contrasts execution with equally important but managerial duties such as planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, controlling, and problem solving. The value of a wonderful strategy is only achieved when it is carried out. And it is the people who make the grand vision a reality. That’s why, as Jack Welch points out, leaders need to make it a priority to plant and nourish talented people at every level.

If you lead a big organization like General Electric, you might have assets at your disposal like the GE John F. Welch Leadership Center at Crotonville, the world’s first major corporate business school. Here everyone from important customers and partners to present and future GE leaders come together to identify opportunities and debate issues. But few organizations have the resources to invest like GE. They can’t operate a dedicated leadership center.

Creating a Culture of Leadership The constraint of a smaller budget is hardly an excuse to not operate key levers that drive superior performance in people. Going back to Welch’s garden analogy, some aspects of cultivation are free, such as sunshine. But how you choose to orient your garden in relationship to the sun makes all the difference. If you place your garden under a large shade tree, you cut it off from necessary nourishment.

While a leader needs to have a strong sense of the direction, cultivating new culture by changing people’s frame of mind and behaviors is the hardest part. In doing so, they can follow the profit-at-any-price model by relying on fear, pressure, and greed, or they can follow a more sensible leadership model based on inspiration, motivation, and enthusiasm.

Four Bad Leadership Models

Even leaders who articulate a convincing vision, inspire followers, and display passion and courage to take on challenges can have wasteful traits that limit them. These tend to manifest themselves in four ways:

  • Know-it-alls: They start believing that they know and do this better than anybody, and believe that they don’t need others as much as others need them. So they tend to treat others as dispensable and tune them out.
  • Micromanagers: They get mired in minutiae and sometimes miss the forest for the trees. By measuring too much, they measure nothing.
  • Perfectionists: They spend too much time doing things right rather than doing the right things, thereby losing focus. They take any constructive feedback as a direct hit and return what they see as not-so-friendly fire.
  • Detached: They become emotionally distant and lose the intimacy and connection to other people. To any push-back, they respond: “Tough! If I can do it, so can you.”

When these behaviors occur, the results follow quickly: Any constructive confrontation within the executive team ends almost immediately. Honest exchange of ideas on options and their pros and cons ceases. What is happening on the ground to the foot soldiers becomes irrelevant. The pressure people feel becomes unbearable. The “guilt trip” that nobody else is pulling their weight becomes harder to take. Any semblance of work-life balance is lost. Conversations become one-way streets, and people feel like glorified order-takers. It seems like they have ceded all authority to the boss.

The leader is quickly surrounded by loyal sycophants in the inner circle who simply want to ride the coattails. Everyone else is in the outer circle-albeit with more self-esteem, yet fearful to say that the emperor has no clothes. Soon people start telling the leader what the leader wants to hear, lest their heads are chopped off. Collaboration comes to a grinding halt, and providing lip service becomes the politically correct thing to do. Everyone looks out for themselves, and any mutually shared goals, if they exist, take a back seat. Any sense of intimacy, camaraderie, and belonging on the team becomes non-existent.

Any concept of a team breaks down. Any sense of empowerment evaporates. The vision of the leader becomes a pipe dream. The strategic plan to get there suddenly has strong disbelievers. The short-term results, obtained through draconian measures, become harder to sustain. As Michael Maccoby notes: “Narcissistic leaders can self-destruct and lead their people astray.” So, there is plenty of leadership, but little followership.

Foster Competencies to Compete in the Future

Foster Competencies to Compete in the Future A key challenge for leaders competing for the future is to foster competencies that provide access to tomorrow’s opportunities. Further, as discussed by Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad in Competing for the Future, leaders need to find innovative applications of the current competencies. Leaders must objectively assess and proactively improve the caliber of the executive team and the organization as a whole.

However, before a leader can assess the caliber of the executive team, he must take stock of his own. Surveys—whether leadership or 360 degree—are popular and necessary, but rarely tell the leader the whole story. Objective, confidential, and focused interviews by an outsider with each individual on the executive team can deliver unvarnished truth-rich information about what’s really happening behind closed doors. Is there a true strategic alignment? How is the leadership style perceived? How much constructive confrontation occurs? Do people collaborate or simply provide lip service? Is everyone pulling in the same direction?

There are five prerequisites to getting the most from these interviews:

  1. Right reason. First, conduct the interviews for the right reason: improving leadership by eliminating unproductive behaviors. If the hidden agenda is to vilify non-performers or to find scapegoats, the approach backfires.
  2. Objectivity. You need an objective outsider to hold the mirror. This person must not be afraid to find out the truth and tell it like it is.
  3. Confidentiality. The interviews have to be treated as confidential, and the interviewer can’t make any direct attribution to a specific individual. Despite all the talk about openness, blackballing is still a common practice.
  4. Specificity. While recognizing that everyone’s reality is different, the interviews have to focus on direct observations, experiences, and involvement rather than hearsay.
  5. Commitment. There must be a commitment to develop an action plan at the individual and team level.

If these criteria are met, the insights gained from interviews can help create a high-performance culture. The honest feedback and recommendations can raise the candor and constructive dialogue.

Baseball manager Tommy Lasorda said leading people is like holding a dove in your hand. “If you hold it too tightly, you kill it; but if you hold it too loosely, you lose it.” Finding that delicate balance between providing nourishment and pulling weeds is the key to effective leadership. But it begins with looking in the mirror.

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Posted in Leaders and Innovators

Zen Koan #8: Parable of Great Waves – Buddhist Teaching on Mindfulness

Zen Koan #8: Parable of Great Waves - Buddhist Teaching on Mindfulness Zen Buddhism is usually characterized as a no dualistic Zen tradition. The truth can also be unwholesome—even though it’s truthful, it could be abusive towards somebody and done out of anger. Do not try to overcome the pain as if you had to burst through a barrier. The Buddha described observing the precepts as a gift: a gift both to yourself and to the people around you. You give protection to other people’s lives, their property, and their knowledge of the truth. Yes, the miseries of the retreat are quite real. In consummate totality, there is no sense of solitude.

You should see that there are no real differences between the various methods. Then we simply renew our commitment to stay open to others, aspiring to start fresh. When you attach to or reject anything, you are in a position of duality with that object. Otherwise, taking these two lines literally would imply that if one person becomes a Buddha, everyone else has to become a Buddha. However, if you are disposed to apperceive being a dunce, then take the time to climb the mountain. This is prevalent among neophytes.

Our path remains incomplete as long as this third treasure is omitted. When the mind is not making distinctions, there is no self, no other, no good, and no bad.

Zen Koan: “Great Waves” Parable

In the early days of the Meiji era there lived a well-known wrestler called O-nami, Great Waves.

O-nami was immensely strong and knew the art of wrestling. In his private bouts he defeated even his teacher, but in public he was so bashful that his own pupils threw him.

O-nami felt he should go to a Zen master for help. Hakuju, a wandering teacher, was stopping in a little temple nearby, so O-nami went to see him and told him of his trouble.

“Great Waves is your name,” the teacher advised, “so stay in this temple tonight. Imagine that you are those billows. You are no longer a wrestler who is afraid. You are those huge waves sweeping everything before them, swallowing all in their path. Do this and you will be the greatest wrestler in the land.”

The teacher retired. O-nami sat in meditation trying to imagine himself as waves. He thought of many different things. Then gradually he turned more and more to the feeling of the waves. As the night advanced the waves became larger and larger. They swept away the flowers in their vases. Even the Buddha in the shrine was inundated. Before dawn the temple was nothing but the ebb and flow of an immense sea.

In the morning the teacher found O-nami meditating, a faint smile on his face. He patted the wrestler’s shoulder. “Now nothing can disturb you,” he said. “You are those waves. You will sweep everything before you.”

The same day O-nami entered the wrestling contests and won. After that, no one in Japan was able to defeat him.

Buddhist Insight on The Difference Between Mindfulness and Concentration

This little thing in the breath has something to teach us. I didn’t know what an important practice it is and how beneficial it is in terms of purification. Those too are not freedom; they’re simply very groovy states of mind. When these men heard it, they were unable to camouflage the truth. That is the difference between mindfulness and concentration. What can truth or reality gain by all our practice? The American Theravada Buddhism monk and author Ajahn Sumedho writes in Teachings of a Buddhist Monk,

Some people do not know the difference between “mindfulness” and “concentration.” They concentrate on what they’re doing, thinking that is being mindful… We can concentrate on what we are doing, but if we are not mindful at the same time, with the ability to reflect on the moment, then if somebody interferes with our concentration, we may blow up, get carried away by anger at being frustrated. If we are mindful, we are aware of the tendency to first concentrate and then to feel anger when something interferes with that concentration. With mindfulness we can concentrate when it is appropriate to do so and not concentrate when it is appropriate not to do so.

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Exquisite Architectural Temples and Heritage of Pattadakal, Karnataka

Chalukyan Architects Made Experiments with Various Styles of Architecture

Types of Temple Architecture in Pattadakal Pattadakal was a city bubbling with political and artistic activities throughout the time of the Western Chalukyas of Badami more than eleven centuries ago. Situated on the left bank of the river Malaprabha and contained by hillocks of red sandstone amidst scenic splendor, this location became sacrosanct and it was the sincere choice of the kings to carry out the numerous coronation (patta) ceremonies and hence it came to be called Pattadakal. It is also called Kisuvolalu and Sanskritised as Raktapura.

Group of Dravida and Nagara Temples Pattadakal

Along with Aihole and Badami, Pattadakal became a cradle of early Chalukyan temples. It is generally believed that the Chalukyan architects made experiments with various styles of architecture even before the silpashastras standardized them. Hence, scholars are fond of calling these places as workshops of architecture.

In point of fact, Pattadakal represents the final or culminating phase of the early Chalukyan style of architecture. There are no less than twelve worthy temples of the Chalukyan period at Pattadakal.

World Heritage Site -- Group of Temples, Pattadakal

Exquisite Temples and Get a Glimpse of Our Heritage Both Dravida and Nagara type of temples were built at Pattadakal during the reign of the early Chalukyan kings. Sangamesvara, Virupaksha, Mallikarjuna and Jaina temples belong to the Dravidian technique, whereas Galaganatha, Papanatha, Kasi Visvesvara, Kadasiddesvara and Jambulinga temples belong to Nagara or north Indian style.

From the sequential standpoint, the temple building- pursuit as known from the dated specimens started here from the beginning of the seventh century and sustained up until the middle of the ninth century CE.

Thus, three hundred years and more saw a splendid epoch in the evolution of temple architecture in Karnataka in general and Pattadakal in particular.

Early Chalukyan Temples in Pattadakal

Workshops of Temple Architecture in Pattadakal There were master architects like Revadi Ovajja, Anivarita Gunda, supported by sculptors like Changamma, Pullappan, Baladeva, et cetera. It also had the guidance of dance masters like Achalan and devadasis like Chalabbe. More than all, the early Chalukya kings, their queens like Lokamahadevi and Trailokyamahadevi and others, officials and ministers not only helped in building some of these Pattadakal temples but also gave generous grants of land and money for the fitting maintenance as well as the rituals in these temples.

It is but natural that hundreds of visitors both from India and abroad visit these exquisite temples and get a glimpse of our heritage. Hence, UNESCO has declared Pattadakal as a World Heritage site, a great honor indeed to Karnataka.

Silpashastra in Chalukyan Temples in Pattadakal

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Posted in Travels and Journeys

The Idea of Religious Tolerance is to Allow Religious Freedom

Sir Godfrey Kneller's portrait of John Locke, 1697.

No one should be denied equal rights on account of their religion. In A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689), John Locke wrote, “No man can be a Christian … without that faith which works … by love.”

The idea of religious tolerance is to allow religious freedom—in civil terms, to leave the adherents of a particular religion unmolested in private and in public. In a political sense, it means granting equal rights to individuals regardless of their religious beliefs.

Jn 1689, English philosopher and physician John Locke (1632-1704) advocated religious tolerance in his Epistola de Tolerantia (A Letter Concerning Toleration). He wrote the letter, addressed to an anonymous “Honoured Sir,” while in exile in Holland, which was a secular state that permitted religious differences. The recipient of Locke’s letter was his friend, the Dutch theologian Philipp van Limborch (1633-1712), who published it.

The objective of a modern Catholic community is the setting for John Locke’s political philosophy, and what was both a liberal and Protestant reaction to the political beliefs of the Restoration era. Having since 1666 been a disciple of the Parliamentary Whig leader Lord Ashley, later Earl of Shaftesbury, Locke was the scholarly bete noir of the Restoration Stuarts.

At that time, there were fears that Roman Catholicism might take over England. Locke was involved in helping draft the English Bill of Rights of 1689, but it did not go as far as he wanted regarding religious tolerance. The same year, Parliament passed the Toleration Act, which granted freedom of worship to Nonconformists, such as Baptists and Congregationalists, but not to Catholics and Unitarians. Locke suggested that religious tolerance might resolve the problems experienced by both government and religious leaders, and that there should be a separation between church and state.

John Locke held a studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, from 1652, but was evicted from Christ Church on Charles II’s unambiguous orders in 1684. He was previously in banishment in the Low Countries at that point, and did not set foot in England during James’ sovereignty, which began the next year. Locke convoyed the Princess Mary on her return to England, after her husband William, Prince of Orange, acquired the success of the Revolution there in 1689.

Locke’s letter caused a controversy among members of the Anglican High Church. Clergyman and writer Thomas Long thought that the letter was part of a Jesuit plot aimed at enabling the Catholic Church to achieve dominance by causing chaos. There followed a protracted published correspondence between Locke and clergyman and academic Jonas Proast (c.1640-1710), who asserted that the state had the right to use force to make dissenters reflect on the merits of Anglicanism. Locke’s ideas came to form the basis of modern views on the toleration of religious differences.

The important works that define John Locke’s philosophy were written while he was in exile: the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, the Two Treatises of Civil Government and the First Letter Concerning Toleration. None were printed until after the Revolution. As one, they collect Locke’s enduring trepidations: the nature of knowledge; entitlement to property; the legitimacy of government and its use of force; revolution; the nature of religious belief; liberty of opinion. With the benefit of hindsight, these works have also been taken as scholarly justifications for the Revolution and its jurisdictive settlement. That connection should not be overstated. For example, the English Toleration Act was in many respects a reward to Protestant nonconformists for the support they gave to the Revolution, and the honorable restraint they had shown when refusing to take advantage of James’ extra-Parliamentary declarations of indulgence.

  • John Locke’s Jurisdictional Argument: “Force, you allow, is improper to convert men to any religion. Toleration is but the removing that force.”
  • John Locke’s Anticompulsion Argument: “Whatever profession we make, to whatever outward worship we conform, if we are not fully satisfied in our own mind that the one is true, and the other well-pleasing to God, such profession and such practice, far from being any furtherance, are indeed great obstacles to our salvation.”
  • John Locke’s Limits to Toleration—Real and Imagined: “The Magistrate ought not to forbid the preaching or professing of any speculative opinions in any church, because they have no manner of relation to the civil rights of the subjects. If a Roman Catholick believe that to be really the body of Christ, which another man calls bread, he does no injury thereby to his neighbour.”
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Master the Principles of Four Arenas of Positive Power

Master the Principles of Four Arenas of Positive Power

Interpersonal influence (also identified as social influence) has transpired when the actions of one or more individuals influence the attitudes or behaviors of one or more other individuals. Relationships prosper or decline in relation to how well the partakers harmonize with one another about important decisions. Some agreements just fortuitously happen, but many of them are the result of the participants influencing one another. Recognizing the principles explained below will make one a better practitioner of influence and also more aware of how one is being influenced.

Successful managers apply each of these principles within four arenas:

  • Personal power. Managers must access the untapped capacity we, individually, have for personal power. Integrating our intellectual, emotional, and physical energies, the arena of personal power, is the groundwork.
  • Interpersonal influence. We can’t achieve organizational goals alone, regardless of how much personal power we have. Personal power does, however, enable us to achieve interpersonal influence. Influence is the impact we have on others simply because we are part of the same system. Such influence is too often undefined and undirected. Interpersonal influence connotes a specific focus of impact; that is, our ability to support others to willingly use their energy on behalf of our goals in ways that get rid of power struggles that waste energy. Instead, the focus is on improving the quality of our relationships to enhance interpersonal influence. This type of influence is pervasive and is necessary for survival. To not take cues from others would be to ignore much of the information that is available about the world.
  • Team synergy. A group is formed anytime people come together to accomplish something. We may call them departments, divisions, work units, teams, task forces, or committees. Meetings are a group activity. Groups must be turned into a source meaningful power. Team synergy, the most potent manifestation of group power, exists when the whole generates more power than the sum of its parts. Turning groups into high-performing, synergetic teams requires creating safe, conflict-competent, empowering groups that learn from differences and make good decisions. Teamwork has always been recognized as the backbone of leadership, but the stresses that team members now are experiencing might be one of the biggest challenges we will need to overcome to continue to think that way. Efficiency, cost-effectiveness, new technology and procedures, and multiple shifts in job responsibilities are permeating our environments during a time when teams are strained and sometimes broken.
  • 'The Infinite Organization' by Michael F. Broom (ISBN 0891061681) The infinite organization. The payoff occurs in final arena, The Infinite Organization. In this arena our skills of personal power, interpersonal influence, and team synergy are applied in three areas: leadership and the executive team, structures and policies, and management practices that have created the benefits of the infinite perspective of power and its related principles. The synergy that allows an organization to give information and material and to add value through processes that they each offer is a unique quality. The resulting outcome is far greater than one that any individual could offer independently.

With these tools, managers can create the positive and self-sustaining culture that characterizes an infinite organization. When all three areas are fully developed, aligned, and congruent, the focus, energy, and success of The Infinite Organization will be evident.

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Posted in Management and Leadership Mental Models and Psychology

Warren Buffett on Time Management: “All You Need Is … Time”

Warren Buffett on Time Management: Warren Buffett once said on time management, “The rich invest in time; the poor invest in money.”

Buffett is currently the fourth richest men in the world. He can buy practically anything he wants to, and more than nearly everyone else could ever dream of.

Nevertheless there’s one thing that even Warren Buffett cannot buy, and that is time.

Here’s a brief transcript from a Charlie Rose interview:

Warren Buffett: I mean I can buy anything I want basically, but I can’t buy time.

Charlie Rose: And so to have time is the most precious thing you can have?

Warren Buffett: Yes, I better be careful with it. There is no way I will be able to buy more time.

Warren Buffett's Interview with Charlie Rose (Time Management) Charlie Rose: And living in Omaha makes that easy?

Warren Buffett: That makes it a lot easier. I, for 50 whatever, well for 54 years I spent five minutes going each way now. Just imagine that was a half an hour each way. You know. I know the words to a lot more songs and that’s about it.

Charlie Rose: It adds up. Doesn’t it?

Warren Buffett: It really adds up. Now if you’re doing an hour a day difference coming and going that’s two and a half percent of the person’s work week. That means 40 years you’re talking about a year.

An undisciplined mind will find every reason to do what should not be done and every excuse not to do what should be done. Warren Buffett once said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”

Ira Glass Time Management Technique

This American Life‘s Ira Glass talks with Lifehacker about how he works. When asked what his best time-saving shortcut or life hack was, he responded:

I’ve got nothing. Reading other people’s answers to this question on your website today made me realize I live my life like an ape. I eat the same breakfast and lunch everyday, both at my desk. I employ no time-saving tricks at all.

Though come to think of it, I guess my biggest life hack—and this is the very first time I’ve attempted to use the phrase “life hack” in a sentence—is that my wife and I decided to live just a few blocks from where I work. We did this because of our dog. Since I spend at least an hour every night walking the dog, I didn’t want to spend another 60 or 90 minutes a day commuting. I don’t have the time. Like lots of people, I work long hours.

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Posted in Business and Strategy Philosophy and Wisdom

Tap the Power of Your Viral Customers

Viral Customers are Your Brand Ambassadors

Viral Customers are Your Brand Ambassadors Whether you are aware of it or not, customers are talking about you this very minute. They are offering opinions, trading experiences, and influencing other customers about you—your company, products, services, and reputation.

Welcome to the world of the “viral customer,” the turbocharged version of the word-of-mouth customer. If you’re not aware of your company’s viral customers, you need to be. If you haven’t geared your company to their growing influence, you had better start now. These talkative, influential customers will play a critical role in the future of your marketing schemes, loyalty programs, customer service efforts, public relations outreach, brand management, privacy policies, and bottom line.

The Internet has created a generation of so-called “viral customers.” Viral customers can be champions or destroyers. They can talk trash about you or trumpet your worth. Which route they take depends on you.

  • If customers are happy with their encounters with you, they are likely to tell lots of their friends. In essence, they become viral ambassadors who will rave about your company to others to create a gush of goodwill. These ambassadors can be valuable, low-cost avenues for building existing relationships, recruiting new customers and keeping old customers happy for life.
  • But if customers are not satisfied, watch out. So-called “viral rebels” can destroy your products, brands, and reputation as they share negative experiences. Moreover, at the moment of negative feedback, they’re likely to be in a “switch mode,” ready to find someone else to satisfy them in ways that your company hasn’t or won’t.

Are you paying attention to what your own viral customers are saying and doing? We’ve found that some companies and industries are more “viral” than others. Customers are much more likely to pass along opinions to others about insurance firms, health maintenance companies, utilities, banks, long-distance and wireless telephone companies, mail delivery services, Internet service providers and auto manufacturers.

What’s at stake is more than the lifetime value of a single customer. Everyone in the viral rebel’s sphere of influence is also at stake, because even though the original customer may walk away from you, he or she is not necessarily finished. The bad-mouthing continues. Suddenly, one person’s negative encounter becomes everyone’s shared experience, and you’re left to pick up the pieces, re-establish ties, win confidence, and regain long-term loyalty.

Some Brands and Issues are More Viral Than Others

Some Brands and Issues are More Viral Than Others Certain brands elicit highly viral customer buzz. Billing issues typically fly off the virility chart. Other hot-button issues involve safety among automakers, baggage claim among airlines, customer service at e-commerce sites, hygiene at restaurants, and staff attitude at retail stores.

If you listen to your viral customers, you will know whether your marketing budget is based on the correct assumptions. You’ll be able to apply one-to-one marketing principles to customer feedback, making your customer insight even richer and more robust. You will know which brands are working. You’ll know your company customer service record, because you will have real-time feedback from the customers. You will identify trouble spots or opportunities well in advance, enabling you to take advantage of positive feedback or stop negative feedback before it explodes.

As you analyze the customer insight you receive, you become wiser and more adaptable, smarter and better able to react, respond, and retool. You start giving customers what they want—easy and convenient communication. They want to be heard. They want to help others, and they want a forum that fits their propensity to rant or rave.

In a world governed by customer insight, all feedback is gold and every complaint is a gift. Raw data guides us, but insight that has quality and meaning enlightens us. Anticipation beats perspiration, and the only way to know what is around the next bend is to pay attention to the curve as it develops.

Here’s five things you can do to tap the power of viral customers:

  • Identify them. Viral customers communicate with you frequently by e-mail, letter or phone. They send copies to others, are passionate or emotional about their experiences and are among the first to try new products or services.
  • Make communication easy. Offer as many ways as possible for customers to get in touch with you-a toll-free phone number, Web-site e-mail address, third-party feedback service, street address or special mailing address.
  • Respond quickly. Respond quickly and in the same fashion. Be empathetic.
  • Mine the negative comments. Respond decisively so that the customer decides to remain in your camp. Don’t give a reason to bolt to the competition.
  • Build the relationship. Add communicative customers to a preferred-customer list. Extend special offers, ask their input on new products and services, and ask how you can improve the relationship. The more you integrate the relationship, the stronger it will be.
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According to Daoism, Everything Contains Some Proportion of Yin and Yang

An illustration (c. 1700) of the three sages of T'ai Chi, a martial art derived from Daoism.

Daoism refers to the attainment of tranquility by living in harmony with the natural world.

Daoism is a Chinese philosophical and religious tradition that originated with Laozi (fl. sixth century BCE) and was later expanded on by Zhuangzi (c. 369-286 BCE). It is a type of naturalism that encourages human beings to live in harmony with the Dao, the natural world that is the basis of all existence. The Dao manifests itself as de, the particular things that we see in the world, which contain within them certain proportions of yin (negative or destructive forces) and yang (positive or creative forces). Everything contains some proportion of yin and yang: for example, we can see things only when there is both light and shadow, and music exists as a combination of notes and rests.

According to Daoism, everything contains some proportion of yin and yang If there is an overabundance of yin or yang, the Dao has a tendency to balance itself by reverting to the opposite extreme. Daoists therefore practice wu wei, or “non-interference”: rather than acting against nature, a person should instead follow the natural flow of events and turn them to their own advantage (like a surfer moving in harmony with a wave). Politically, this results in a minimalistic approach to government: a good ruler should educate the people so that harsh laws are unnecessary.

Daoism has had an enormous influence upon East Asia, particularly China and Taiwan. Like Confucianism, its core philosophical tenets are deeply ingrained in the culture. Daoist metaphysics influenced Mahayana Buddhism, which led to the creation of Chan (Zen) Buddhism. Core principles of Daoism have been a cornerstone of the martial arts (for example, Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do).

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Posted in Faith and Religion Philosophy and Wisdom

Zen Koan #7: Parable of Announcement – Buddhist Teaching on Hardening Our Hearts

Zen Koan #7: Parable of Announcement - Buddhist Teaching on Hardening Our Hearts As access to the unconscious is important in many psychological domains, our data are potentially highly relevant in a wide array of areas. When you are thwarted, it is your own attitude that is out of order. It is not that the Buddha wants to save sentient beings. Afterwards, they opiate to return to it in each cogitation.

Conversely, the capacity of the unconscious mind is, presumably, vast. Several different things can be accessible or temporarily primed at the same time. When the method and experiences are no longer necessary to you, you will have returned to the source. However, in the course of practice it is compulsory to first get to the one. Even before attaining the Buddhist Way, practitioners should train themselves in the proper attitudes of one who is already enlightened.

When you have mindfulness, when you have enough courage to go back to yourself and embrace the suffering in you, you learn a lot. The beauty of the object did not radiate out any more, for the reason that it was surrounded by so many other beautiful things. Following on from interdependence there is also the question of our perception of reality in terms of our feelings of being separated from everything else and our consequent clinging to desire and aversion.

Zen Koan: “Announcement” Parable

Tanzan wrote sixty postal cards on the last day of his life, and asked an attendent to mail them. Then he passed away.

The cards read:

I am departing from this world.
This is my last announcement.
Tanzan
July 27, 1892

Buddhist Insight on War Begins When We Harden Our Hearts

The innate state of the mind is neither happiness nor unhappiness. Those who sow the seed of unhappiness, of pain and suffering, will certainly have to reap a full-grown crop of the same in the future. War begins when we harden our hearts. That seems to be the basic point. Many raise fortifications because such a path seems easier. Begin to be aware of that and notice just what’s there. The American Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chodron writes in Practicing Peace in Times of War,

This is a familiar scenario in our homes, in our workplaces, in our communities, even when we’re just driving our cars. We’re just driving along and someone cuts in front of us and then what? Well, we don’t like it, so we roll down the window and scream at them.

War begins when we harden our hearts, and we harden them easily—in minor ways and then in quite serious, major ways, such as hatred and prejudice—whenever we feel uncomfortable. It’s so sad, really, because our motivation in hardening our hearts is to find some kind of ease, some kind of freedom from the distress that we’re feeling.

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Putting Your Creativity to Work and Improving the Bottom Line

Fostering Creativity at Work

Fostering Creativity at Work When the going gets tough, many companies cut costs, cling to tradition, and stay under radar. Such reaction is short-sighted. There are lessons to be learned from companies like HP, Virgin, Disney, and other innovators who not only stay the course through uncertainty, but excel. The most innovative companies don’t take cover—they get going. They embrace creativity and innovation in both good times and tough times.

Creativity helps us reinvent when faced with opportunity and survive when faced with challenges. Creative people find new solutions and enjoy a timeless advantage.

What characterizes a company? Its people, process, values, size, resources—or maybe it’s an unorthodox approach to business.

Few companies even begin to embrace the power of creativity and reinvention. Yet we see bold possibilities. We see signs of a new era where creativity drives the bottom line—where business escapes tradition and embraces new practices that nurture the cultural creative mindset.

A Time for Unleashing Your Creativity at Work

Rule-breakers tend to be the more nimble upstarts.

Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, said: “Today business is about the resiliency of ideas. It’s about rallying people and the ideas of people.” Companies don’t simply want to make a better product; they want to dramatically transform their culture to lead their industry. The best organizations are committing more people, resources, time and money to increasing creativity and innovation. It’s a smart investment.

Look at Eli Lilly. Instead of churning constantly inside the company to generate new ideas, they’ve reinvented scientific research and created a free market of ideas. The company founded Inno-Centive, a web-based community of problem-solvers and solution-seekers. They tap scientific minds worldwide to create solutions for financial reward.

Success can no longer be sustained with incremental improvements; we must find new sources of growth to leap forward in much wider measure.

Why is Creativity Important in the Workplace: Creativity and the Bottom Line

Creativity and the Bottom Line Although it is difficult to measure creativity’s impact on the bottom line, we see that four benchmarks make or break the bottom line:

  1. Profitability. A creative company produces more great ideas that impact the bottom line. Better product = sales; efficient method = savings; better service = more customers. Hanes recognized this when they reinvented the T-shirt. The Hanes Tagless Tee shirt is the first innovation in the industry in 10 years.
  2. Industry leadership. Leading companies innovate for the long-term. They are visionary, looking at the future with a wide lens. Today’s rapid pace of change means companies can no longer deliver the same products and services in the same way for long. As technology services evolved, IBM, Compaq, and Intel all had to transform their business models. Fox News helped reinvent the cable news industry, repositioning itself as a lively, in-your-face opinion page. And it became the number-one cable news outlet. Innovate or get left behind.
  3. Retention. A more creative culture equates to happier employees. Creative companies embrace more humanistic values, like leadership support, risk tolerance, individual expression, and intrinsic motivation. Peter Coy, Business Week columnist, writes: “In the Creative Economy, the most important intellectual property isn’t software or music or movies. It’s the ideas inside employees’ heads. Leaders create an environment that makes the best people want to stay.”
  4. Motivation. When people feel their ideas are valued they contribute more to the company. Creative companies have a people-first approach, embracing attributes like autonomy and personal challenge. Winnebago discovered this with their innovation program. Every Friday, Winnebago CEO Bruce Hertzke hands out dividend-savings checks and has his photo taken with employees who have made revenue or savings suggestions. Over 10,300 ideas have been implemented, and employees have received $500,000 for their ideas. Employee creativity saved the company $5.5 million in the first year alone. Yet people are primarily motivated by intrinsic reward.

Leaders must balance financial rewards with recognition, rewarding work, and enrichment from the culture. Brainstorming is just one technique. It even has variants. Such methods can be useful in creating food for thought. Also has the advantage of including staff and encouraging an innovative thinking environment—if done well.

Finally, let’s not forget basic business survival. Creativity is required to innovate but it’s also necessary to keep the pipeline full and move forward.

Fostering Creativity at Work: The Ultimate Measure of Value

Executives who are committed to increasing creativity and innovation must first accept this universal rule: Creativity requires a new mindset, which is produced only from cultural transformation.

Leaders must accept that development of human capital requires a greater investment than other types of capital—in terms of money, time, and commitment. The ultimate measure of a company’s value is its people. In creativity, everything comes down to people. Dick Brown, CEO of EDS, puts it this way: “Most business leaders are more comfortable with numbers. While I am very numbers-focused, you can’t change a business with numbers. Numbers are the end result. You change a business by changing the behavior of its people.”

Yet it’s not enough to hire a few creative people or hold an off-site meeting in hopes of finding an innovation “quickfix.” Leaders must rebuild the culture, align the systems, and develop the knowledge of the company. Leaders must care for, nurture, and sustain the culture. They must rediscover their child-like imagination, find their passion, surprise people, and be a little unorthodox.

Guiding Strategies for Enhancing Creativity at Work

Strategies for Enhancing Creativity at Work Here are some strategies to guide the creative leader:

  • Nurture creativity from the top down and bottom up by finding champions in the ranks of junior positions and senior executives.
  • Encourage “skinned knees” by developing a risk-tolerant culture that values the mindset of creativity and rewards both behavior and results.
  • Enact intrinsic and extrinsic rewards for creativity that value the balance of knowledge and imagination.
  • Redesign structures to allow for free flow of ideas. Divisions often work differently from one another. Create venture groups, autonomous communities, and flexible innovation processes.
  • Allow employees to venture out and learn about the world they serve. Many innovations fail because people don’t understand the customer.
  • Create new ways of learning and reward it. Jack Welch says, “You raise the collective intellect by learning, sharing learning, and acting on that learning.”
  • Increase accountability and recognition for breakthrough ideas that create new sources of growth.
  • Create a new language for creativity that infuses the culture with fresh, simple, goal-focused vernacular.
  • Walk the talk. Deliver on the vision and promises through committed action. Redesign performance measurement and talent management in line with innovation.
  • Surprise people. Do new things in new ways and be curious, energetic, passionate, and open-minded. Use this research as the basis for highly focused idea-generation sessions.

The most creative companies aren’t always the cutest companies. Creativity does not equal whimsy—or any other idiosyncrasy of the extinct dot-com cultures. Fun is an important part of it; people can’t be inspired when they’re bored in tedium. Yet creativity is so much more. In fact, it’s really hard work. The common thread is that inspiration strikes people in different ways at different, and often unexpected, times.

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Posted in Business and Strategy Leaders and Innovators