My colleague Anke Scherer and I published an article called "The Dao of Innovation" in the current issue (5, 2017) of Kindai Management Review, a prestigious Japanese management journal:
A central question for managers in charge of innovation is to what extent creativity and innovation can be controlled and supervised, or whether they just have to be set free and allowed to take shape. In assessing this dilemma the authors conclude that there is a contradiction of action versus inaction on the personal level as well as a contradiction of control versus loss of control on the organizational level. What European innovators can learn from philosophical Daoism is an attitude that allows a process to just develop “naturally” and refrains from premature interference with the intention to permanently be in control. In business structures that judge everything according to its usefulness, i.e. profitability for the company, a look at the laid-back attitude of Daoism where usefulness and uselessness are relative qualities might relief the pressure on people to perform in a premeditated way. Innovation can be supported, but creativity cannot be forced. It can only be allowed to happen when control, interference, and action are balanced out with non-interference, and go-with-the-flow. This attitude in not an excuse for stressed-out managers to neglect their duty, but a time honoured worldview of one of the oldest civilizations in the world that can give them the sovereignty to “get out of the way” and let innovation happen.