Chapter 7: Part 4 – Sailing on the winds: How to running a company impractically

Intuition isn’t right or wrong but feeling and responding. This principle is simple but not easy to master. It requires repeated and repeated practice. In fact this is one of the biggest differences between learning “right-brain abilities” and “left-brain abilities.”

Most training for “left-brain abilities” is relatively easy – they only need to be repeated dozens of times or even a few times to master. A formula – students can master it by doing a few problems. But “right-brain abilities” aren’t like that. Do you remember how many eggs Da Vinci painted? And how many years of training does it take to become a pianist? Flip through their resumes and you’ll find that most musicians start practicing piano at four or five years old.

Therefore cultivating “right-brain abilities” actually requires quite a long period of training. But most companies are eager for quick success in innovation. Therefore I often say that innovation should learn from the military. People often only choose the right method in extreme situations. For the military the cost of making mistakes is life. So they learned to avoid unnecessary mistakes. Combat is certainly one way to improve combat effectiveness but this method is too costly. The real secret of an undefeated general is training. A period of overhaul training then winning a battle.

This method actually applies to other organizations as well especially innovative companies. In innovation success always comes with a considerable number of failures – it’s a probability problem. And the military’s solution is to use failures in training to replace failures in combat. This is equivalent to increasing the success rate of combat through another channel. But most companies do just the opposite – they keep fighting wars. “Look at life and death lightly and fight if you don’t accept it.” This looks magnificent but is actually extremely reckless.

In contrast, The Right-Brained Organization needs to hit the “pause button” and learn and train like the military. You can hold some “unrealistic” innovation competitions or workshops internally. The results of these activities mostly can’t become real products or projects. For some “Left-Brained Organizations,” this idea may seem “unrealistic.” We’re all so busy – where’s the time to play with emptiness? But in fact this seemingly “unrealistic” training will hone the team and let them learn from each other and understand each other’s “mental models.” At the same time when employees try to develop projects they’re also learning and experiencing the user’s “mental model” and trying to think with new “mental models.” In addition companies can take this opportunity to tap into innovative talent. The key here is that if you really want to cultivate “right-brain abilities,” it won’t be effective once a year. Your company has to do this very frequently.

The other side of intuition is having no intuition – feeling empty in your head. If you’re really engaged in innovative work feeling empty in your head will happen often. So in innovation it’s normal to seem idle. Efficiency-seeking Left-Brained Organizations usually can’t accept this – we’d better fill up the Gantt chart with one task after another so that employees don’t waste a single minute.

But in fact when employees are looking for new solutions their brains are exploring like they’re in a maze. At this point they seem idle. Even they themselves don’t think they’re working. But actually their brains are trying different combinations until inspiration strikes like lightning across the night sky and a new idea is successfully combined.

Managers of Right-Brained Organizations must tolerate this “emptiness” and “idleness.” Even encourage employees responsible for innovation to go out and expand their personal networks and participate in some exchange activities such as exhibitions academic activities etc. Ferran Adrià is a world-class chef who created more than 1 800 signature dishes in twenty years and his own restaurant was named the world’s best five times. And he summed up the key to creativity as closing for six months every year.

In order to fill up our work schedule and make ourselves look not empty we will forcibly do many things that don’t need to be done and shouldn’t be done. But the problem is that these seemingly insignificant things will undergo “scope creep” and become “big things” that require more and more resources. Especially when they seem like a “mistake.” A mistake often requires more mistakes to cover up. Many Left-Brained Organizations suffer from this.

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