|[a] Lesson journey RF|
|[b] Lesson shelter RF|
My book, The Emperor's Teacher, introduces the greatest management book of all time (Sima Guang's Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Ruling), and then explains its key teachings to readers in the twenty-first century. This is challenging stuff for readers today (in East Asia and the West, I might add), just as it was ten centuries ago. No book is deeper or richer with lessons you need to learn to manage your career, your family, your football team...
...or the corporation you lead. We all need it. My book takes you through the lessons found in a thousand year-old text. The "Talking Points" that follow in the next few posts will give a sense of the book as a whole. Close readers of Round and Square will know that I have already posted all of chapters one and two, and the first parts of chapters three on this blog (look for them below). I will post the entire "blog draft" on Round and Square in 2012.
|[c] Roles RF|
Chinese Lessons—The New Hierarchy
Sima Guang begins the Comprehensive Mirror with an elaborate critique of a political order more than a millennium before his own time. His critique can be summarized as a plea for understanding structure and hierarchy. We ignore it at our peril. The chapter begins with a discussion of American business attempts to ignore the implications of hierarchy in our lives, and our inability to see the enormous potential of smoothly operating structures. I argue for “the new hierarchy”—a way to understand the inevitable mountain slopes of knowledge, power, and even status in the fluid and nuanced ways articulated by Confucius, Sima Guang, and other thinkers throughout Chinese history. The common understanding in the West that China is rigidly hierarchical and unimaginative with regard to organizations is stereotypical in the extreme. When organizations worked well in Chinese history, they articulated an elaborate “dance of hierarchy” capable of integrating the thoughts and opinions of a wide range people. Music and ritual elements played a profound role in this, and I will show the potential to make hierarchies work in our favor. It is far from being a call for what most Americans regard as hierarchy. It is a call for attunement that Western readers must understand if they hope to succeed in a complex global marketplace—and at home. (Yes, I envision a Time cover story called “The New Hierarchy”).
|[d] Remonstrance RF|
Chinese Lessons—Remonstrance (The Rock That Breaks the Vessel)
Remonstrance is the concept around which the book is written, and it is by far the most original contribution in the text. It cannot be understood without understanding roles and hierarchy, so it cannot stand alone. Indeed, the three concepts should be imagined as sets of cards on a Rolodex, one leading to another, with the “last,” remonstrance, leading right back to roles…and hierarchy. In its narrowest sense, remonstrance in East Asian traditions is the practice of the junior member of a dyad (a son, a government minister) providing a critique for (note that I did not write “of”) a more senior member. It is the way that one practices being the emperor’s teacher. It is the built-in “check” within hierarchical systems to make the organization work more smoothly and to learn from each other.
Chinese Lessons—Remonstrance (From Cooperation to Coordination)
|[e] Enlightened RF|
Why would one take water and give it the flavor of water? Why would
someone create a lute with but one note? There is no harmony in these
things. Such is the inadequacy of mere assent.
On Thursday, we'll look at the last section of The Emperor's Teacher, when all the swirling themes come together to make you and your organization ready for the new entrepreneurial world in which we live.