Organizing reflection 26

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
I’ve finished reading Managing as a Performing Art by Peter B. Vaill. It’s an excellent and fascinating book! Peter explores Taoist vs. Western management in one of the chapters.1 He quotes Alan W. Watts who discusses the Taoist principle of wu-wei (“nonaction”):

Among the several meanings of wei are to be, to do, to make, to practice, to act out …2

… in the context of Taoist writings it [wei] quite clearly means forcing, meddling, and artifice—in other words, trying to act against the grain of li.3

Li may … be understood as organic order, as distinct from mechanical or legal order, both of which go by the book.4

Wu-wei … must be understood as primarily as a form of intelligence.5 But this intelligence is … not not simply intellectual; it is also the “unconscious” intelligence of the whole organism …6

Peter B. Vaill thinks that “wu-wei is a more powerful idea about taking action” than anything that “we have produced in the West.”7 There has not been much “emphasis in the our culture on just being effective in the moment.” Yet, “about the only thing that one can be in the moment is wu-wei”.8 Wu-wei is “a perfect consciousness … for action in complex systems.”9

Wu-wei is a way to access a deeper generative order for organizing.10

1 Chapter 12. Taoist Management. See Peter B. Vaill, Managing as a Performing Art (Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1991, first published 1989), pp. 175–190.
2 Alan W. Watts, Tao: The Watercourse Way, (Souvenir Press, Kindle Edition 2010, first published 1975), loc. 1248.
3 Ibid., loc. 1250.
4 Ibid., loc. 980.
5 Ibid., loc. 1257.
6 Ibid., loc. 1258.
7 Peter B. Vaill, Managing as a Performing Art (Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1991, first published 1989), p. 177.
8 Ibid., p. 182.
9 Ibid., p. 184.
10 The notion of generative order is from David Bohm and F. David Peat. See Bohm & Peat, Science, Order, and Creativity (Routledge, 2010, first published 1987), pp. 80, 148, 154–157, 216, 286–287.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Published by Jan Höglund

Jan Höglund has over 35 years of experience in different roles as software developer, project manager, line manager, consultant, and researcher. He shares his reading, book reviews, and learning on his personal blog.

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