Taoism, also known as Daoism, is an ancient Chinese philosophy that originated in the 6th century BC and was written down in the works of Laozi (also written as Lao Tzu). It is based on the concept of the "Tao" or "Dao", meaning "the way" or "the path".
According to Taoism, the Dao is the original, unnameable source of all that exists. It is the ultimate reality that pervades the universe and keeps everything in balance. Taoism strives to understand and follow the natural order of the Tao.
An important concept in Taoism is "wu wei", which means "non-doing" or "non-acting". It refers to the idea of living in harmony with the Tao by not seeking control or power, but rather by going with the flow of life and natural processes.
But despite the fact that Taoism is largely about "not-doing" and "not acting", entire businesses are set up on the basis of this philosophy. How can you do nothing and still serve customers and make a profit?
Taoism within business
Although Wu Wei's principle means "not-doing" or "not-acting", applying it within a business does not aim at sitting still and being passive. Instead, Wu Wei refers to the pursuit of action in harmony with the natural flow of the situation. As a result, it can actually contribute to increased sales and profits.
Taoism and Wu Wei within Leadership
Some companies apply the concept of "wu wei" in their leadership style. Instead of striving for coercive control through active intervention in every detail (micro-management), they try to create an environment in which employees and processes can flow and develop naturally. They do this, for example, by encouraging self-management, and autonomy, and accepting mutual trust within the company. You could therefore say that Holacracy has a Taoist basis in it.
Taoism and a healthy work-life balance
Enterprises inspired by Taoism usually pay great attention to creating a work-life balance. In doing so, they strive to create a harmonious relationship between employees and their personal development. This can be achieved by promoting flexible working hours, encouraging mindfulness, and providing space for personal growth.
Taoism and adapting quickly and flexibly to change
Taoism emphasizes the importance of going with the flow of natural processes and change. Within a company, this can mean being flexible and able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. So Taoism, on the contrary, can promote a culture of adaptability, innovation, and proactive change.
Taoism and reducing workloads
Awareness and mindfulness also play a role in Taoism. In a company, this can mean encouraging employees to incorporate moments of reflection and introspection. But meditation or breathing exercises can also be encouraged. This can help reduce stress, improve concentration, and reduce the feeling of having a heavy workload.
Taoism and Meaningful Profit
It may make sense that Taoism calls for a deep appreciation and care for nature. Within companies, this can be translated into promoting sustainability, environmental awareness, or becoming a Meaningful Profit company. This can be achieved, for example, by reducing the ecological footprint, implementing green initiatives, and supporting socially responsible initiatives.
Taoism and innovation
Wu Wei encourages cultivating an open mind and letting go of limiting thinking patterns. By providing space for innovation and creativity, new ideas, products, or services can emerge that add value to the market. This can strengthen a company's competitive position and create new opportunities for revenue generation.
It is not a crazy idea at all to embrace Taoism within a company. Companies that are Purpose for Profit-driven are essentially already doing this and proving to be very successful. Like within these types of businesses, Taoism can contribute to more motivated employees, better business results, and more sustainable operations.