The art of not being

Ancient chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu wrote, "The usefulness of a pot comes from its emptiness." It relates to the captivating—and so oriental—concept of not-acting, not-being: wu wei. Indeed a house is defined not only by its walls, doors, windows, but by the space it conceals. Arguably a house is a way to give meaning to the emptiness within. Actually, one can design a house by defining the empty space you want to envelope instead of the walls you want to build. Notable example of design with a focus on empty space could be [Seattle Central Library] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seattle_Central_Library) (a wonderful video about how this building was conceived is here). Another well known example of a focus no not-being is graphic design, where the most important element any designer must master is not form, or font selection, or balance... it is simply whitespace.

Despite the vital importance of these ideas, we have no training or education for noticing or appreciating nothingness. All we have ever focused on is producing more, make sure we don´t miss anything, overload the receiver with content. When we say we focus on something, we immediately think about what is it that we must pay attention to, we hardly ever think what is it we must not pay attention to anymore (I´m afraid I have to link the famous Steve Jobs video).

Regular corporate lingo says: we want to become a client centric company. But you hardly ever hear: that means we will compromise our product strategy to adapt to what our customers want. When you become something, you must stop being something else. But this second part is regularly overlooked. In any change: what do you want to stop doing?

Many meaningful decisions are really about not-being, not-doing. Arguably, as managers, our most important guidance is about what not: trimming down the content of that report, of that presentation, cutting down on functions, on objectives, ... creating empty space, in summary.

I hope you have great week, full of emptyness ;)

Cheers!

/