Mystic realism – Shoshin and Business


Shoshin is a Zen Buddhist concept which broadly translates to having a “beginner’s mind”.

This week I was inspired by a conversation with Chip Conley and excited about the future of his initiative around Modern Elders, as also captured here.

In the second article, it quotes from a talk Chip gave:

“LEARNING NEVER ENDS Education is not filling a pail, it is stoking a fire. This is where he talked about being catalytically curious, and taking off the costume of being an expert to start with that beginner’s mind and ask a lot of “why” and “what if” questions”

Now combine that sense of Shoshin with what lies at the centre of Jack Frost (please watch the lovely clip in this post, I don’t want to spoil the “reveal” of what does lie at his centre!)

My friend and collaborator, the amazing Sam Duong, recently met for one of our regular breakfasts. We meet every two weeks with a context of #explore, starting with always finding a new place for breakfast in London, then our conversation is always exploring.

One area we are both passionate about is what, in business, we could call “the intangibles”. This start with the awareness of there being immense (and indeed immeasurable) value in the reservoir of countless centuries of deep understanding from many schools of thought and culture. In modern business, however, so much is founded upon measuring by numbers, from economics to science, so what has been lost and could be found again from all humans have learned and taken back into business in our 21st century?

In Western culture, 20th century business was dominated by the two World Wars, including :

  1. The command and control management philosophy that largely still dominates orthodoxy of business schools, management consultants, corporations.
  2. Innovation being focussed on industrial process rather than innovating humans. After all, Trotsky said “war is the locomotive of history”. and the wars of the 20th century certainly both drove innovation and the paradigm that innovation comes primarily from and through technology.

In Chinese culture, the 20th century was also dominated by radical change, in many ways far more radical, including the devastating misnomer that was the Cultural Revolution.

With a sense of Shoshin, what can we all bring, with our beginner’s mind, to recapture the value of the deep philosophical and spiritual thinkers of both East and West, and what can they mean for business? Could the next phase of 21st century innovation stem from Shoshin?

In our “Shoshin” breakfast conversation, I reflected to Sam about Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the author who was a prime driver in propagating and popularising a field known as “Magical Realism” through his amazing novels that blended the real, measurable and tangible with the fantastical, mystical, spiritual, philosophical, magical.

We then coined the term “Mystic Realism” for an idea of leading business through a blend of commercial drivers, numbers, direction, work ethic (the “traditional” 20th century way), with a sense of belief and then allowing the mystical.

Shoshin. I love being a 52 year old bringing a beginner’s mind to life and business!