‘Diversity’ from Ancient Chinese
When I hear the following Chinese saying idiom from a radio broadcast, it rings the bell.
This one is extracted from a conversation between a Tang Emperor and his ‘Prime Minister’ over 1,300 years ago. Â Â The literal translation is:
You will be enlightened if you hear different opinion. Â You will be muddled if you just hear opinion from one side.
This piece of advice is rather straight-forward. Â We all know that we should hear different viewpoints. Â But it is easy said than done. Â We are so tempted to side toward opinion we would like to hear or those similar to ours. Â Â In a way, it is a common sense but not a common practice.
There is another layer of connection for myself especially in the frame of Adaptive Leadership – If the problem is a technical one, we do not need much of different opinions. Â We just need to identify who the expert is, and then follow the best practice. Â Â Not necessarilyÂ easy to implement but we can be rather efficient in knowing what to do. Â Â But if the situation is adaptive by nature, we need different interpretations on what is going on and ideas on how to approach the challenge. Â More importantly, we need to create space for the people involved to air and hear different opinions. Â Â This allows both emergent practice and people (and their thought to be exact) to change.
As an example, if the problem is about how to perform a successful heart surgery or produce the best credit analysis report, it is technical. Â It is not easy but we can go to the experts. Â Â But if the challenge is about how to make the patient live a healthier life or install sustainability as a company value, it is adaptive. Â There is no best practice but just emergent ones. Â The ‘leader’ (not necessarily the one in the authority position) need to listen to the people involved and mobilise as well as allow them to experiment.
I think in a way the challenges a Chinese emperor faced were largely adaptive by nature. Â As such, cultivating diverse opinions wasÂ generally the way to go.