Tao of Management: Verse 4

Today we take a look at Verse 4, which speaks more specifically about the Tao itself rather than actions to be taken in keeping with the Tao.

So rather than a line by line reading, I think I’ll focus more on how the application of the principle of the “empty bowl” as a management tool.

Verse 4:

The Tao is like an empty bowl,
Which in being used can never be filled up.
Fathomless, it seems to be the origin of all things.
It blunts all sharp edges,
It unties all tangles,
It harmonizes all lights,
It unites the world into one whole.
Hidden in the deeps,
Yet it seems to exist for ever.
I do not know whose child it is;
It seems to be the common ancestor of all, the father of things.

My Interpretation:

The question of whether the principles of Taoism be applied to modern management issues is answered by this verse.

The Tao is an empty bowl. This is one of my favorite metaphors.  A wise man once told me that the important part of the bowl was the part that was not there.  The thing that defines a bowl is the empty space it creates.  Into this space you can put the things you need, you can hold them, examine them,or partake of them as you need.  The Tao is an empty bowl that can never be filled up.

Maybe one thing to consider is as a leader, to practice your ability to maintain an empty space within yourself into which your team can bring their concerns.  It is a similar concept to the open mind.  If you can maintain an open mind, governed by principles that are flexible enough to handle the ten thousand things that modern managers face every day, then you are on “the way”.

The Tao is an empty bowl into which you can pour your concerns, your needs, and those of your team, and by using the principles of Taoism, you can blunt the sharp edges, untie the tangles, and harmonize the lights that you find in your every work life.

I welcome your comments and criticism.


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