THIRTY spokes converge upon a single hub;
It is on the hole in the center that the use of the cart hinges.
We make a vessel from a lump of clay;
It is the empty space within the vessel that makes it useful.
We make doors and windows for a room;
But it is these empty spaces that make the room livable.
Thus, while the tangible has advantages,
It is the intangible that makes it useful.
All things return to the center,
but the center must be empty to receive them
The things, systems, teams we build around us,
depend on our openness to work properly.
We create engagement strategies and preach transparency
but this does not work unless there is space within to receive.
So while your structure, and strategies and plans are well and good,
Remember it is the space you make within yourself and your organization to receive
that makes it all worthwhile.
This is one of my favorite verses and why the concept of an empty bowl is so important to my notion of “Taoist Management”. For far too long I was all about the planning, the strategy and the team building, but left no space within myself to actually receive the wisdom that these plans, strategies, or teams brought to me. As for me, all these things I created were outward expressions of the hard nut of certainty I had within myself. They weren’t so much expressions of openness to external input. That changed this year.
To often, I think that companies focus so much on having ways to bring new ideas into the company that they forget to build a structure within to actually receive and process these ideas. For example, I find that leaders think that if they have a social media plan and function, that this is enough. They fail to plan for the input they might receive, and if they do it is more than likely a plan to address negative feedback by way of justification, distraction, or duck-and-cover.
I think leaders must personally ask themselves how much they are willing to change, and ask their companies how much they are willing to change before they spend any more time on “engagement” or “transparency”.