Every once in a while, something or someone pops up on our path to affirm that we are headed in the right direction, by pointing us to WISDOM that affirms what we all need to know, documented long ago --- perhaps in a different way. When we least expect it, a supporting "proof point" shows up to cheer us on as we are making our important contributions to advancing business and society. Nice! Interestingly, these bits of WISDOM most often are simply stated bringing a next level of clarity to a concept or idea that we've worked hard to express and many times, it comes from places you never looked. I had one of those discoveries a few days ago. Profound, absolutely. Validating, yes!
This time, the unexpected WISDOM popped up on an app on my iPhone from the Spring and Autumn Period of China (722–481 BC) from an ancient Chinese military general, strategist, and philosopher --- Sun Tzu -- who is traditionally believed to have been the author of The Art of War. This was not exactly a source that I would have researched to validate that diversity drives innovation, but I learned differently.
Consider Sun Tzu's examples. He expresses each with simplicity and clarity of language, using three well-known universal teachers ---- music, taste, and color. They demonstrate that diversity is a key driver of innovation. In its presence, you broaden your inventory of possibilities for innovation.
SUN TZU Insights
What was most exciting about this find was its validation of years of the independent work, collaborative research with my long-time colleague, futurist Joel Barker and also lessons learned as a leader and working with customers. It feels good to discover something so clear and true and universal to explain what we need to know about one another and about life and work itself --- that when we put our differences to work, we can create innovations we never imagined. In my book, Putting Our Differences to Work, I wrote:
Organizations and individuals all over the world are discovering that putting our differences to work is the most powerful accelerator for generating new ideas, creating innovative solutions, executing organizational strategies, and engaging everyone in the process. The breakthrough is the essential ingredient of diversity, in its broadest sense. ...The magic begins when we come together. The secret is learning how, when, and where to tap into all the wealth of insight, wisdom, and new thinking to solve problems, create new products and services, and build stronger communities with benefits for everyone.
Sun Tzu seemed to see this about diversity in all that life offers us. Diversity not only is the key ingredient to generate a wealth of new ideas for innovation, diversity also is the key ingredient that expands the wealth of beautiful music and vibrant art, the wealth of delicious tastes, the wealth of new products, services --- and the unlimited possibilities that all our collective differences can create.
I've always been drawn to wisdom as a source of insight for my work and life. I share three ideas with you:
1. Read outside your boundaries.
This was the advice of one of my mentors long ago. It will open up your mind.
2. Develop a practice of thinking, questioning, and applying. When you try on what you've learned, you build skill, refine practice, boost confidence, and perfect your own knowledge.
3. Integrate diversity of thought into your practices.
Tap into cross-cultural wisdom and philosophy on life and work. A friend told me why this was important. "WISDOM is knowledge with a long shelf-life." (Dr. Bruce Lloyd, Professor of Strategic Management Emeritus, London South Bank University)
Debbe Kennedy, founder, president, and CEO
Global Dialogue Center and Leadership Solutions Companies
Twitter: @debbekennedy @onlinedialogues
Book: Putting Our Differences to Work Buy a Copy
The Fastest Way to Innovation, Leadership, and High Performance
Learn more: http://www.puttingourdifferencestowork.com
** 2010 Axiom Business Book Award Winner - Bronze **
for Human Resources and Employee Training