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How to predict human behaviour and respond wisely according to The Chinese Book of Change–one modern scenario.

Whoa I was watching this Chinese philosophy series from a genius Taiwanese Professor:

It’s really a good series illustrating wisdom from Chinese history and philosophy. And most importantly, how to apply great wisdom to modern situations.

There was this example given of this lady Z who requested for a change in department, from department A to department B. She made the request to HR. HR went to ask the department heads of A and B for their advice on whether to approve this request for change. Both A and B said OK. So HR went to the general manager to seek final approval, and it was given.

However, a day after the general manager issued the final approval, the department head from department B went back on his word and said “No” to the transfer.

“It’s either we reject the transfer, or I’d quit.”

The HR manager was dumbfounded by this behavior, since the department head from department B has always been a man of his word and wise. So the HR manager sought the advice of this wise professor. And the wise professor said, “Oh, this must be a problem with his wife.”

The HR manager replied,

“Seriously? I’d talk to him and ask.”

So the HR manager went to ask the department head if it were really so, and the department head was surprised. He replied,

“Yes, my wife did have a concern. 5 years ago I made a promise to her that I will not have any single female ladies in my department within 3 years of our marriage. 3 years has lapsed and honestly, I did not expect her to still insist that this rule apply.”

The HR manager then came back to the professor to ask,

“Oh dear, what should I do now?”

The professor then said, “it’s really simple, you have three options now.

Option 1: Ask the GM to cancel the transfer. This is not feasible since the GM cannot take back his word.

Option 2: Ask the department head B to quit. This is not feasible either, because the company will lose a good department head.

Therefore, there is only option 3: Buy a huge basket of flowers, go to the department head’s wife, and apologise saying:

“We are truly sorry for this decision that was made. If we had known your heart, we would never have allowed the transfer. Since we have come to this stage, please do us and our general manager a favour: for the period of 2 months, please observe your husband’s behaviour. If you sense anything amiss or are extremely uncomfortable after 2 months, please let us know.”

The wife accepted the flowers and the plea because she sensed the sincerity of the HR department. After 2 months when the HR department checked back, asking “Is she okay? Should we move her back to the original department?”–she was perfectly fine with lady Z being in department B.

WOW. This is true diplomacy!

This Taiwanese professor wrote this set of rules:

  • Rule Number One: It’s okay to be flexible, but it is not okay to change to an unreasonable extent. In Chinese: 外圆内方。The key word here is “reasonable”.
  • Rule Number Two: Always protect the ego of all parties involved. The book of change says to always “大事化小,小事化无”。This means that problems can never be “solved”, but they can be dissolved. Big problems can be dissolved into smaller ones, and small problems can be dissolved into nothingness.
  • Rule Number Three: Don’t change too often. If you change too often, it shows that there is something wrong with your principles. The problem with today’s society, according to this wise professor, is that we are all for “innovation” and we tend to favour the new over the old. The Book of Change however points out that while innovation is not wrong, usually for 80% of the time the de facto way is better than the “new” way. Just take some time to chew on that. 😉

Wow, too much wisdom. I really love this series! 🙂

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