Words of Wisdom

Knowing the Limits

Few, if any, companies describe themselves as Taoist organizations. Even consultants, such as Herman, who espouse Taoist concepts don't label themselves as such when advising business clients. Some say that's because hard-nosed businesspeople won't accept a seemingly soft Eastern mysticism as a rationale for management. Others say that the Tao is simply best applied in a subtle manner. "It's something to be used, not necessarily talked about," says Edelman.

Nobody recommends, say, writing Taoist objectives into your mission statement. "Communicate it by example," advises Herman. "If people pick up on it, good. If they don't, let it go, do something else and try it again later on."

It's a Taoist truism that any attempts to define the Tao are doomed, which still hasn't kept many scribes from ancient to modern times from trying. D'Souza describes Taoism's role in business as "a hypersensitivity to nonverbal, nontangible cues and activity." Employing Taoist principles helps entrepreneurs make better, more appropriate decisions, he says. And, perhaps equally important, a Taoist entrepreneur learns to be, if not fatalistic, at least able to transcend the inevitable reversals and disappointments of business.

"When one is sensitive to the Tao, one sees beyond what's at hand, one senses a higher logic," D'Souza says. "And one is armed with a sense of confidence that everything works out just the way it's [supposed to]."

Mark Henricks is an Austin, Texas, writer specializing in business topics.

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This article was originally published in the November 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Words of Wisdom.

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