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Smart Companies are Soft Companies
Using the Tao Te Ching in Business
The Tao Te Ching, a text studied for centuries, offers timeless wisdom on embracing the natural flow of life. One of its recurring themes is the power of softness and pliancy, as observed in nature, as a means of promoting acceptance and equanimity:
While alive, the body is soft and pliant
When dead, it is hard and rigid
All living things, grass and trees,
While alive, are soft and supple
When dead, become dry and brittle
Thus that which is hard and stiff
is the follower of death
That which is soft and yielding
is the follower of life
Therefore, an inflexible army will not win
A strong tree will be cut down
The big and forceful occupy a lowly position
While the soft and pliant occupy a higher place
In this passage the Tao reminds us that living things are characterized by softness and flexibility, while dead things are dry and rigid. This insight can guide us in approaching various aspects of life, including business. When we apply this idea to our world, we see that a dogmatic mindset, incapable of change, is often more aligned with inefficiency and destruction. While on the other hand, an adaptive mindset, one that responds to changing conditions, is more aligned with liveliness and growth. Adopting a soft and flexible approach allows us to embrace the constant changes and challenges of life with grace and ease. While some may view softness as a weakness, it can be a powerful tool in business and beyond.
Companies that prioritize high-pressure sales tactics will not end up with the most satisfied customers and repeat business. Companies that execute rigid dogmatic strategies that are not pliant and iterative will build something that misses the mark with customers. Similarly, if we apply pressure and rigidity to others in an attempt to make them do what we want we will end up with their resentment and alienation.
Smart companies are soft. Smart companies are agile, curious and plaint. And in doing so they earn their customer’s trust, which can lead to repeat sales and referrals.
Smart people are also soft. They are flexible, adaptive, and embrace change with ease. In doing so they too earn the trust of others, develop deeper connections, and end up with more happy, trusting relationships.
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