Buddhist and Taoist Systems Thinking explores a radical new conception of business and management. It is grounded on the reconnection of humans with nature as the new competitive advantage for living organizations and entrepreneurs that aspire to regenerate the economy and drive a positive impact on the planet, in the context of the Anthropocene. Organizations today struggle in finding a balance between maximizing profits and generating value for their stakeholders, the environment and the society at large. This happens in a paradigm shift characterized by unprecedented levels of exponential change and the emergence of disruptive technologies. Adaptability, thus, is becoming the new business imperative. How can, then, entrepreneurs and organizations constantly adapt and, at the same time, design the sustainable futures they’d like?
This book uniquely explores the benefits of applying Buddhist and Taoist Systems Thinking to sustainable management. Grounded in Taoist and Zen Buddhist philosophies, it offers a modern scientific perspective fundamentally based on the concepts of bio-logical adaptability and lifefulness amidst complexity and constant change. The book introduces the new concept of the Gaia organization as a living organism that consciously helps perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet. It is subject to the natural laws of transformation and the principles of oneness, emptiness, impermanence, balance, self-regulation and harmonization. Readers will find applied Eastern systems theories such as the Yin-Yang and the Five Elements operationalized through practical methodologies and tools such as T-Qualia and the Zen Business model. They are aimed at guiding Gaia organizations and entrepreneurs in leading sustainable transformations and qualifying economic growth.
The book offers a vital toolkit for purpose-driven practitioners, management researchers, students, social entrepreneurs, evaluators and change-makers to reinvent, create and mindfully manage sustainable and agile organizations that drive systemic transformation.
Table of Contents
Introduction: the consciousness gap
1. The emergence of the new business paradigm: from the ego-system to the eco-system
2. TAO 4.0: adaptive thinking amidst exponential change and complexity
3. The quest for balance and harmony: the Yin–Yang and the Five Elements
4. T-Qualia, a bio-logic of learning for transformation: the Eastern systems approach to the process of knowing
5. The Zen Business model: from metaphysics to sustainable management
6. Building the Gaia organization: principles and practices
7. Designing the Gaia startup: practical guidelines
8. Managing abundance beyond the triple bottom line
9. Business mindfulness: evaluation for systems transformation
Josep M. Coll is a professor of Strategy, Sustainability and Innovation at EADA Business School, visiting professor at Yonsei University in South Korea, and research associate at Maastricht School of Management. He works as an independent consultant for a wide range of private and public organizations, such as the European Commission and the United Nations. In the United Nations system, he co-led the first corporate developmental evaluation and adaptive management movement in UNFPA. As an initiate in Taoist metaphysics and Zen practitioner, he applies East Asian perennial philosophies into practical systems approaches and methods for regeneration. He regularly speaks internationally on systems leadership and sustainable transformation and coaches organizations, managers and entrepreneurs in transitioning to the new sustainable, regenerative and inclusive business paradigm.
"Addressing the core challenges of our time means to create pathways for transformation. Creating these pathways means to deepen our capacity for systems thinking. And to do that we can return to some of the earliest sources of holistic systems thinking: Taoism and Buddhism. In this fascinating book, Josep M. Coll takes us on a journey from the frontline of transformation for sustainability to the origins of Buddhist and Taoist thought. Highly recommended!"
Otto Scharmer, Senior Lecturer, MIT; Founding Chair, Presencing Institute; author, Theory U
"Transformation: what it is, why it matters, how to achieve it, and meaningfully evaluate it. That's the territory of this book. Systems understandings can propel transformation, but to do so must cut through the cacophonous demands for more rigorous methods to pursue the challenge of engaging in more rigorous thinking. Drawing on ancient and enduring wisdom, this book illuminates the pathway to sustainability where what is at stake is nothing less than the future of humanity on Earth."
Michael Q. Patton, founder of Utilization-Focused Evaluation, author of Blue Marble Evaluation and former president of the American Evaluation Association
"Professor Coll is an intriguing and reflective author who incites a quiet yet formidable revolution in his articulation of the complex challenges facing the global economy. The book is not only insightful on the destruction greed and unchecked interests that have wreaked on our planet but hopeful in the need for spiritual reconciliation as the path to healing the most perplexing challenges of poverty, climate change and inequality. The author is exceptionally thoughtful in his articulation of bringing together Buddhist-Taoist thinking with more traditional theories of economic development that can truly lead to the equitable growth and prosperity needed to revolutionize our approach and engaging with our Universe more harmoniously. A must read for any economist, development professional, politician or humanist."
Laila Baker, Regional Director of the United Nations Development Coordination Office, Arab States
"Coll’s groundbreaking book builds a solid bridge for you to connect the inexplicable and impenetrable world of Eastern philosophies with the wicked and vexatious challenges of sustainable management. From Chapter Five, you can ride on his Zen Business Wheel to roam back inside the mysterious domain of Taoism and Buddhism and forward to apply its wisdoms to your triple business bottom lines, principles, and practices. With this new book, you no longer will feel that sustainable management is akin to teenage sex: everyone talks about doing it; everyone thinks everyone else is doing it; but no one is doing it well."
Yuwei Shi, Academic Director, Blue Pioneers Program at University of California, Santa Cruz
"This book argues that emerging economies contribute to global economic growth, bringing a wealth of wisdom that is essential to fix capitalism. From a business and holistic management perspective, Coll’s new book explores a novel interpretation and enlightening application of Eastern systemic philosophies to build a more conscious, harmonious, regenerative and inclusive economy in turbulent times."
Lourdes Casanova, Director of Emerging Markets Institute at Cornell University, S.C. Johnson School of Management
"This book takes a fascinating journey by building a new approach to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western management disciplines. This journey brilliantly explores the application of Buddhist and Taoist Systems Thinking into sustainable business management, and it does so in very practical ways. We are experiencing how our business system is vulnerable and unable to effectively respond to unforeseeable events like the COVID-19 crisis. In this book, Prof. Coll’s new systematical approach brings not only new management principles but a set of indispensable and essential management tools to guide and transform organizations through more sustainable daily business practices in both the private and public sectors."
Jung-Hoon Lee, Chair of Smart City Committee of Seoul Metropolitan Government and Professor of Technology and Innovation at Yonsei University
"As an Asian business academic trained in the West, I found "Buddhist & Taoist Systems Thinking" to be an eye-opening and original book that explains why Asian companies have succeeded in global markets while retaining their cultural characteristics. Succinctly exposed, the many tenets that many Asian cultures have adhered to for thousands of years can be learned and applied effectively to business practice. In the Oscar-winning Korean film Parasite, the main character asks "You know what kind of plan never fails? No plan." If you read this book, you can understand why that dictum is important especially in the turbulent times that we live in today."
Dae-Ryun Chang, Professor of Marketing, Yonsei School of Business, author of Mastering Noon Nopi: The Art & Science of Marketing in Asia, former president of the Korean Marketing Association
"What if the deepest guidance for leaders set on business systemic change toward sustainability does not come from Western-based management theories? What if, instead of looking outside for inspiration, we look inside ourselves? Could the ancient teachings from Taoism and Zen Buddhism be applied to squaring the circle of creating a harmonious, value-driven, purposeful, equitable and sustainable society? With this book, you are about to find out. Drawing from perennial wisdom, Coll proposes a brand-new set of sustainable management principles and methods that allow us to reconnect with our nature and thereby to regenerate our business and society."
Carles Navarro, Managing Director and Country Cluster Head Iberia BASF