BEYOND THE EIGHT PARTIES
How the instability and fluidity of the world can make you invulnerable.
“The world is changing,” I muse, starting to write this article. The world is changing, or rather, has already changed. Even about 10 years ago, interest in traditional Chinese culture was the destiny of only specialist synologists, lovers of oriental exoticism and rare people who devoted their whole life to China. And now … Nowadays, the amazing imagination (if you, reader, you have it) of economic growth and the rapidly growing political influence of the Celestial Empire have turned interest in Chinese culture from a bizarre passion into a practically necessary component of any economic, political and business strategy.
They write about China. They say about China. They argue about China. Cultural scientists, political scientists, futurologists, businessmen and journalists. And all these conversations, conversations, discussions have a common denominator: Chinese culture is extremely valuable for modern civilization, which has found itself in the world of VUCA. This is an unstable world, a turbulent world, and, most importantly, a world that will never be the same. In other words, it is better to say goodbye to stability and predictability. Forever and ever.
It is significant that most experts in economics and business agree: yes, from now on we all live in an unstable world; yes, this world is strikingly similar to the picture of reality created by traditional Chinese philosophy; Yes, the successes of modern China in economics and politics are largely due to the unique art of management, based on the philosophical insights of the ancient Chinese sages. And they do not just agree – today there are many attempts to adopt the approaches of the Chinese art of management.
I will give only a few examples: Nassim Taleb with his “black swans” and “anti-fragility”, Agile approach, “turquoise organizations”. Flexibility and softness of management, departure from strict hierarchy, self-organization and a bet on spontaneity. At first glance, the new methods of Western business have a clear resemblance to the principles of Chinese philosophy, but is this really so?
To answer this question, we will try to understand the nature of the Western and Chinese worldviews. The essence of the Western model, in my opinion, was precisely expressed by Nobel Prize winner Dennis Gabor in his work “Inventing the Future”: “The future cannot be predicted, but it can be invented.” And here is what Lao Tzu’s words say about the Chinese model: “Tao does nothing, but nothing remains undone.” I want to immediately warn the skeptic reader’s objections: in Lao Tzu’s words there is no trace of mysticism, just as there is no call for doing nothing.
Lao Tzu: “Tao does nothing,
but nothing remains undone ”
Skoptsov Konstantin “The Way of the Warrior”, 2019
How in the Western business model (economy, politics) create the future and come to success? It is impossible to say brighter and more precisely Donald Trump: “The greatest success comes when you swim against the stream.”
These words are a true Creed of Western culture. If, through the prism of Trump’s words, one looks at innovative business management methods supposedly close to Chinese philosophy, one can find that under the new shell there is still the same directive, violent and controlling style of thinking.
So, Taleb’s anti-fragility strategy ultimately boils down to the need for mobilization after the crisis. And the Agile approach turns out to be inseparable from tight control, from the belief that “in fact, in our unstable, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, much can be calculated and foreseen” (these are the words of the “evangelists” of the Agile approach of Nathan Bennett and G. James Lemoine).
But what about China? Let us, reader, turn around and look at Chinese civilization, culture and thinking. The ancient name of China – Zhōngguó (middle state) – bears the meaning of dynamic balance, harmony, reconciling opposing forces, uniting them into a single whole.
The mind, capable of knowing the whole, should, according to the ancient Chinese thinker Chuang Tzu, “flow like water, reflect like a mirror, and respond like an echo.” How unlike the Western one (may the reader forgive me for such an inevitably vulgar simplification, there are exceptions in Western culture), the mind with its rigid target setting, with its desire to impose abstract and sketchy ideas and concepts on living reality, and ultimately – with his impulse to split the whole into separate parts.
Therefore, the future in the horizon of Chinese art of management is not created, but revealed. The future is revealed only when a person does not rely on abstract ideas, but on the potential of a holistic situation. In other words, when a person does not take any arbitrary actions, but, realizing the integral potential, creates the conditions for its maximum favorable disclosure.
This is the very “inaction” that Lao Tzu and other philosophers of traditional China wrote about. As you can see, no mysticism. Moreover, non-action does not at all reject planning and control. But! Allows them in strictly defined periods of time – only when they are needed.