Taking In the Tao

Philosophy has a difficult time finding its way into the business skill set.  It is the pursuit of academics and dreamers, not serious-mined business folks. But the truth is we can indeed learn a great deal from picking up the Schopenhauer, the Sutras, the Bible, the Vedas.

As an example, take a moment to reflect on the Taoist approach to living and meaning. Three of the central principles can significantly influence a business and its ability to innovate and grow.


The Taoist teachings emphasized tranquility, and practiced meditation and exercises to obtain the Tao (way). In today’s hectic and stressful business world a tranquil mind is difficult to obtain, but essential to avoid both reactionary practices and burn out. We often work excessively long hours, fixating on a problem to the point that we lack clarity. The end result is stress, disillusionment, bad ideas and a failed business..

Remember, it’s not the quantity of hours you put into a business, it’s the quality of the hours that determine how successful your idea will be.

To achieve a tranquil mind you need to take time to relax, meditate and look at the world from a fresh angle. Innovation comes from the least likely places.


A central tenet of Taoist philosophy is the ability to adapt to any circumstance. The world is increasingly fluid. As we become more connected and conditions change on a minute by minute basis, being rigid in our approach to understanding leads to failure. You need to be able to adapt to changing circumstances or you will not survive.

Be aware of the changes that are going on around you and the world at large. They may be cultural, political, social or economic. This awareness will help you to identify trends that may be critical to your success in business. Be aware of how the information you take in can change your business. This keeps you up to date with current trends and creates an opportunity for you to adapt and think more broadly, creating better solutions and developing genuinely new approaches to addressing the right problems.


Enlightenment is the spiritual awareness that transcends personal wants and needs. From a business standpoint, it is the awakening of the mind that allows you to keep your product and service in perspective. An enlightened attitude is one where you give without expecting anything in return. It creates an awareness and appreciation in your customer’s mind that you are not just all about making a profit. It develops a business ethic that money can’t buy.

Published by gavinjohnston67

Take an ex-chef who’s now a full-fledge anthropologist and set him free to conduct qualitative research, ethnography, brand positioning, strategy and sociolinguistics studies and you have Gavin. He is committed to understand design and business problems by looking at them through an anthropological lens. He believes deeply in turning research findings into actionable results that provide solid business strategies and design ideas. It's not an insight until you do something with it. With over 18 years of experience in strategy, research, and communications, he has done research worldwide for a diverse set of clients within retail, legal, banking, automotive, telecommunications, health care and consumer products industries.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: