Ying-Yang Management: The Dualistic Puzzle of Business

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As a management or business student, we are given contrasted ideas and guided in different directions almost every class we are enrolled in. We are taught one thing, shown another and then experience a third. The world of business is complicated and subsequently filled with buzzwords trying to conceptualize complexity with simplifications. Methodological models are important, because they facilitate one’s understanding of the vibrant and modern world of business. However, in contrast, business is characterized by unpredictability and constant motivation to forecast future business activity. We have all been encouraged to be creative and to think outside the box. Nonetheless, at the same time, we are persuaded to learn models and understand minimalist depictions of the complex factors that play in the environments of business. We are encouraged to be innovative, but also take into considerations the importance of defined familiarity in new concepts.

Tensions exist in every global corner in the world of business. In international business, a high-strung grid often defines strategy formulation and implementation: the pressurized tension between local responsiveness and global integration. A company has to evaluate if it wants to keep its product differentiated or adapt locally.

From a capitalist perspective, the mere idea of business is to maximize profit and minimize costs. This often interferes with another perspective of business: the field of applied ethics. A perspective where stakeholder’s interests and the roles of environment and society are regarded as main centerpieces of the puzzle. Ethics discuss the morality of decision-making while alternating the purposes of business activities.

The world of business, like any other social system based on human interaction, is unpredictable. Yet, we try to break down the perceived uncertainty by applying forecasting techniques and categorize predictable outcomes. In human behaviour, a principal paradox exists: the larger the unpredictability is, the more different actors seek to predict the happenings and conceptualize the outcome.

“15 ways to become a millionaire before you turn 30”, “6 Networking skills you need to learn to succeed” and “How to become the next Steve Jobs” are examples of titles of articles I have stumbled upon. There is a tendency to generalize and predict factors or behaviours that will ensure you success.

The problem with articles like this is the restriction of a business students’ imagination. They are encouraged to “think outside the box” yet these models strongly define the box without any hesitations and often disregard alternative approaches.

There is a generally accepted idea that there are subjective right-doings and wrongdoings in every stage of business. Business practices differ in form, structure and context. By solely relying on prior contextual or ad hoc research conducted by others, the risk of incorrectly identifying factors or predicting happenings increases. We tend to believe that institutional, social and economic factors can be systematically predicted.

The solution to the problem is not to disregard or take no account of the extensive research, but merely to comprehend that it should act as a guideline and not a rule of thumb.  We have to understand simple models and facilitated theories, but not depend entirely on their conclusions or argument. It is necessary to comprehend the external, situational and contextual factors that interfere with the flexible nature of business. We have to be reactive rather than proactive. You can’t do today’s work with yesterday’s methods.

By: Jacques Paul Kryou


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