The principle of Yin and Yang is that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites, for example, female-male, dark-light and old-young. According to I Ching, the ever-changing relationship between the two poles is responsible for the constant flux of life. When yin and yang are out of balance, we experience catastrophes such as floods, droughts and chaos. When yin and yang are in balance, we experience abundance, happiness and peace.
We all enjoy aspects of both yin and yang. Yang is: masculine, white, light, south, fire, active, odd numbers, hard and provides form. Yin is feminine, black, dark, north. water, even numbers, soft and provides spirit to all things. Yang is about domination. Yin is about collaboration. Yang sees nature as something humanity controls. Yin sees nature as something humanity serves. In order to thrive, yin and yang energy must be in balance with one another. This principle holds for individuals, organizations, ecosystems, and society as a whole.
With my prior knowledge of yin and yang, I discovered the theme of masculine and feminine energy throughout the Greek myths. Two examples remain strongly with me.
(Volt Zeus by GENZOMAN)
According to Greek myths, before he became king, the goddess Metis taught Zeus how to look into the hearts and judge the intentions of others. How to imagine and how to reason. How to find the strength to let passions cool before acting. How to make a plan and how to know when a plan needed to be changed or abandoned. How to let the head rule the heart and the heart win the affection of others.
Despite her loyalty and wise counsel, troubled by a prophecy stating that Metis would bear a line of children that would eventually lead to his downfall, Zeus tricked the pregnant Metis and swallowed her whole. As it transpired, wise Metis had not been tricked at all. She had done the tricking. Metis means ‘craft’ and ‘guile’ after all. She had deliberately allowed herself to be consumed by Zeus – seeing that, if she sacrificed her freedom and remained inside him always, she could assume the role of a wise counsellor, a kind of consigliere, forever able to whisper advice in his ear. Whether he liked it or not. Metis lived on inside Zeus’ head and continued to guide him, offering yin to his imbalanced yang.
If Metis was pregnant inside Zeus, then you might wonder what happened to the child she was carrying. Well, the myths have that covered too. After suffering the mother of all migraines Zeus gave birth to a fully-grown daughter through his head, spear and shield in hand (ouch)! Her name was Athena.
(Birth of Athena by Ekaterina Mudrenko)
While Athena was Zeus’ favourite child, her half-brother Ares was his least favourite. The siblings were both gods of war, but Athena’s interests lay in planning, tactics, strategy and the art of war, while Ares was a god of battles, combat and all forms of fighting. He understood only violence, force, aggression, conquest and coercion. While both were effective warriors, neither was as powerful when not allied with the other.
Now to the point of this week’s Thursday Thought. I believe Innovation will benefit from more yin to what has been a yang-dominated field. Indeed leadership at any level will benefit from the rise of yin.
Simon Baron-Cohen is a Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge. He suggests that the male brain is more systemising than empathising and the female brain is more empathising than systemising. He holds that men are better at working out how systems operate, such as repairing an engine (systemising), while women are better at working out others’ feelings (empathising). In addition, he believes that an extreme male brain is one that is very good at systemising but not so good at empathising, and this may be connected to autism – which tends to affect more men than women.
As we emerge from a command-and-control, yin-dominant business environment, leaders must work on their yin if they major in yang and vice versa. However, an even better alternative is more diverse boards, leadership and innovation teams. According to the late Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, creative people exhibit antithetical traits that are integrated with each other in a dialectical tension. For example, they are extraverted and introverted, rebellious and conservative, wise and childish, and alternate between fantasy and a rooted sense of reality. What is interesting in the sense of this article is creative people, to an extent, escape rigid gender role stereotyping, this shat he calls psychological androgyny. Psychological androgyny is a much wider concept referring to a person’s ability to be at the same time aggressive and nurturant, sensitive and rigid, dominant and submissive, regardless of gender. A psychologically androgynous person in effect doubles his or her repertoire of responses. Creative individuals are more likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other one, too.
This is the rise of Yin-novation and we will see it continue to rise. It is not about male or female, but it is about using our strengths together, diversifying mindsets by diversifying teams neurologically and that comes through diversification of race, gender, background, education and experience.
For more on this theme check out the latest episode of The Innovation Show with Fabienne Jacquet on her book “Venus Genius: The Female Prescription for Innovation”
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