Zen Vs. Zoom: Is Person-to-Person Interaction Better For Innovation?

By: Gary Davis

The writer makes use of the idea of “emptiness” and different ideas of Zen Buddhism to guage the desirability of distant versus person-to-person interplay in the course of the course of innovation, significantly the event of recent concepts. This analysis is pursued inside the context of three associated parameters of the ideation course of: interdependence, instinct and depth. A private work setting is beneficial for the extreme phases of processing new concepts.


A latest information article made an assault on the general COVID-19 pandemic work setting for innovation by claiming that “remote meetings dampen brainstorming” (The Washington Post, April 27, 2022). This writer (Gary Davis) has typically examined processes of enterprise innovation by means of the lens of the East Asian philosophy of Zen Buddhism, now about 1500 years previous. Briefly, what would completely different ideas of Zen need to say concerning the work setting? (See Gary Davis, “The Intensity Factor in Innovation: Principles from Zen Philosophy,” innovationmanagement.se, Oct. 16, 2013.)

The Zen perspective emphasizes full consciousness of 1’s bodily, social, sensory, and even emotional setting. This permits for each intuitive and strictly observant and analytical insights – an essential facet of thought creation and enterprise innovation.

The preliminary innovation part of downside identification and enumeration of resolution proposals can simply match right into a distant or telecommuting setting. In reality, a distant connection can add to concepts of staff who’re shy or in any other case uncomfortable in an intimate group setting.

Interdependence Of Concepts – Theory Of Vacancy

At some level, sufficient concepts will seem on the checklist. There is a consequent want, maybe pressing, to collectively contemplate, analyze and consider all proposed concepts or downside options. This is the place the “three i’s” of the Zen philosophy of innovation come into play: interdependence, instinct and depth. A private group or crew is extra applicable at this stage. Company contractors, prospects and suppliers may additionally be included.

First, any proposed thought can have quite a few causal or inferred connections to different concepts, together with shared underlying organizational values ​​and probably contradictions. Here we draw on the idea of “emptiness” (sunyata), generally attributed to the Mahayana Buddhist thinker of India, Nagarjuna (lived ca. 150-250 CE). Ideas, as is the case with different “things” (and even the non-public self), don’t exist independently, however solely as an ever-changing coherence of causal relations inside an infinitely interconnected context that theoretically extends to the perimeters of the universe, and backwards and forwards by means of time (The Dalai Lama, The Universe in a Single Atom, 2005). Steve Jobs, himself a scholar of Buddhism, stated that “creativity just connects things together” (Wired, Feb. 1995).

What does this interdependence imply for innovation? A linear analytic strategy most likely will not work. Consideration ought to be given to all of the completely different contexts during which an thought or set of associated concepts “exists” e.g. technological, enterprise organizational, enterprise, shopper, provider, government-legal, tutorial identification, historical-evolutionary, and many others. Such holistic consideration ought to embody all causal connections which can be linked to an thought by means of completely different domains and instructions. Again, in line with the Buddhist vacancy precept, a brand new thought can’t be utterly impartial of present concepts or their corresponding causal relationships.

This recipe can appear too sophisticated or overwhelming in apply, particularly for only one individual, and much more so for one individual working remotely. An intuitive thought course of might be important in some unspecified time in the future – that’s, understanding a altering subset of various and new causal instructions in your thoughts that you simply would possibly take, whereas on the identical time being receptive to a “sudden enlightenment” mixture of concepts that can produce a sure solves downside. Steve Jobs additionally pressured the significance of instinct in creativity.

Innovation As Intense And Private

Building on interdependence and instinct, innovation within the Zen kind requires the “third i” of depth. One individual can simply lose sight of all connections and relationships between parts inside a altering causal relationship of potential new concepts if the decision-making course of is simply too gradual, tedious, linear/sequential, or informal and inattentive. Technically various groups and a centered supporting solid working inside an intensive interval of inventive engagement could also be required. Multiple thought experiments, debates, testing and prototyping ought to be a part of this depth.

Finally, the depth part of the innovation course of described above might be greatest performed in a private working setting on web site fairly than remotely. Team members interacting face-to-face ought to have a heightened sensory and conceptual consciousness of different crew members’ contributions and viewpoints. Physical mockups and lab demonstrations will be intently inspected. This, in flip, ought to facilitate the intuitive and communicative features of selecting from many competing however related concepts, and probably integrating seemingly contradictory ideas. According to Zen’s nonduality precept, untimely yes-or-no choices ought to be prevented, equivalent to speeding right into a fairly standard, “tried-and-true” downside resolution. Mutual perseverance in direction of one thing higher – more practical, environment friendly and enlightened. At this stage, remote-only staff might lack a full sense of inventive engagement inside the Zen innovation complicated of interdependence, instinct, and depth.

About The Writer

Gary Davis is an economist who works in Washington, DC. He has revealed articles on japanese philosophy for enterprise innovation in varied administration magazines, together with Innovation Management. In 2009-2010, he revealed an article, “Contexts for Innovation”, in magazines in each the US and Malaysia. The article recommends a synthesis of Eastern and Western company crew methods. He has studied innovation processes in reference to a place as a analysis crew chief. Gary Davis has introduced economics papers at seminars and nationwide conferences (e.g., Southern Economics Association and Society of Government Economists). He additionally gave a presentation on innovation at a US federal authorities seminar. He holds a grasp’s diploma in economics and public administration and a doctorate in public administration from George Mason University, Virginia.

Featured picture by Fabrizio Chiagano on Unsplash

Source: innovationmanagement.se

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