This article applies a perspective derived from Zen philosophy to issues of life and innovation within cities. Two major, holistic realms of urban existence are identified—the socio-economic and the ecological. These two spheres do not always coexist in a state of mutually sustainable balance and urban well-being.
It is not widely known that most people, before the advent of the Industrial Revolution around 1800, tended to go to sleep shortly after nightfall but then get up around midnight for several hours before going back to sleep until dawn. Modern lab experiments have been able to reproduce this ancient, two-sleep pattern. Furthermore, there is separate anecdotal evidence that a number of people currently practice divided sleep as a natural habit, without the prompting of an experiment. Some of these people, in turn, use their nighttime wakefulness period for creative thought, writing and problem solving. The divided sleep phenomenon fits in very well with the dualistic and holistic principles of East Asian philosophy. One should ideally integrate work, thought and sleep with the natural light cycle in order to maximize the potential for individual creativity over the course of a full day and night.
This article relates selected multidirectional patterns of change—“force fields”—in the business environment to innovation strategy within the context of Zen philosophical principles. Three force fields are selected for brief evaluation: 1) domestic vs. global markets, 2) economic growth vs. environmental quality, and 3) entrepreneurs vs. customer base. Given the omnipresence of force fields in the 21st century, businesses should maintain flexible structures for innovating both incrementally and radically. They also need to engage in collaboration at all institutional levels. Collaboration can facilitate the Zen objective of integrating conflicting ideas, a key feature of innovation over the long run.
This paper is a follow-up to my previous article, “The Eastern Way: How Chinese Philosophy can Power Innovation in Business Today” (June 18, 2012). The present article defines the concept of intensity in innovation, using Eastern Zen philosophy, in a way that can be useful for business while avoiding too much focus on personality traits. Zen intensity in innovation stresses intuition, sensory and physical experience/re-experience, artistry, the integration of conflicting ideas, and the avoidance of premature choices. Examples are cited from the career of the late Zen enthusiast, Steve Jobs. Regarding the use of time, the Zen approach to intensity implies a full and sustained engagement of all creative processes, not simply a rapid time to project completion.