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Finding the right balance in business

May 30, 2011

I wear a yin yang ring on my right hand just about every day of the week. Not because of any spiritual significance, and not because I have Chinese roots somewhere in there (among other things). The Ying Yang symbolises perfect balance – the recognition that every action has a reaction, that every great idea must be tempered with pragmatic, rational thinking. It is that very counterbalance of thought that allows us to understand other cultures and religions, to understand the strengths and weaknesses of any given plan – that counterbalance in turn makes us better, more effective. We learn.

So it is this imperative that in the business world – and this doesn’t just apply to my social media colleagues out there, but in fact all facets of business and community –  that is essential to being more effective in what we do.

I’m no self-help writer either, mind you. But take a look at your own business career and you’ll see what I mean.

In my own career, I’ve worked in big companies where critical thinking was so institutionalised, nothing ever got done and no one ever wanted to speak up with a good idea. In such organisations, you can see and feel the frustration of those who simply want to be more effective, to do a better job, and in most cases, to do the right thing. These situations are often shouting out for an injection of something fresh – a new idea, a new way of thinking, a removal of layers of bureaucracy – anything to break the cycle of repetition. And you know the definition of insanity, right? Doing the same thing over and over again the same way, but expecting a different result. Unfortunately in bigger organisations we don’t see this fresh injection or counterbalance to the institutionalised culture until change is made at the top.

I’ve also worked with startup and smaller organisations that are led by entrepreneurial, forward thinking people. Always fresh, always on the move, always heading to bigger and better things. I hope we’ve all had the opportunity to work at such organisations. But even Richard Branson in his prime entrepreneurial days admitted that once he initiated an organization, the longer he personally ran it, the more doomed to failure it was. And why? Each Virgin business that Branson started simply needed something or someone to counterbalance the entrepreneurial thinking – when is it time to put the brakes on nomadic, forward thinking and when is it time to start laying foundations for a solid business and brand? When do you call in the accountants and consultants to set things up and when does the entrepreneur have to start delegating their idea to others?

So if we’re talking about balance here – which we are – I’d like to think I have the ability to switch between the two modes – forward ‘big idea’ thinking and rational thinking. It’s important for those of us trying to get new ideas and opportunities off the ground, to recognise when it’s time to let others bring the idea to life. When you’re a manager of people, balance is about knowing when to let things slide with your people, and when to intervene. In personal relationships, it’s very much the same. Often, it’s even about finding the right balance between when to be serious and professional, and when to relax and be yourself.

When I first started this blog a long time ago, I put forward the principle of Deliriant isti Romani – an old latin term which simply reminds us to challenge the status quo.

In 2011, in our line of work – media, technology, social media – whatever you like to call it – the status quo is to push forward with new ideas relentlessly (just check your twitter feed if you don’t believe me) – but at some point we need question that, and to balance that with action, rational thinking, and planning. We should apply the same to our personal lives in order to be more effective at everything we do, and on a more philosophical note – to be better people full stop.

That’s my two cents for a Tuesday morning!





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