Is Your Business
a Labyrinth or a Maze?
By Emily Simpson
In his book, ‘A Whole New Mind’, Daniel Pink talks about the need to activate our right brain capacities in order to thrive in today’s economic environment.
“The abundance of our western lives frees us to pursue more than just survival. In an age of plenty, we’re no longer trapped in the maze of those mice in ‘Who Moved My Cheese’. The more appropriate metaphor for our times is the labyrinth.”
The book describes six right brain aptitudes: Design, not just function, Story not just argument, Symphony, not just focus, Empathy, not just logic, Play, not just serious business, and finally Meaning, not just accumulation.
The chapter on Meaning is about the resurgence of interest in the labyrinth. If you’re stuck on a particular issue and your thinking has become tight and closed and you’re ‘busy being right’ about it, walking the labyrinth helps create perspective. You literally walk into the bigger picture, often finding a lateral solution to your problem or that you’re able to at least acknowledge and appreciate the other person’s point of view. Your thinking becomes more spacious and alive.
In a corporate context, we can consider whether a business is being run like a labyrinth or a maze. A business that is run like a maze tends to be very competitive, with everyone trying to outsmart each other. The atmosphere feels adversarial, based on the fear that there is not enough to go around, so that the end justifies the means. A maze is designed to get you lost, so the business will be a game played with rules not everyone fully understands. You would only ever have a limited perspective, unable to see around the next corner, resulting in a sense of isolation and anxiety. It is usually filled with “amazing” people pursuing their own individual agendas rather than working as a team.
A business that operates like a labyrinth would feel collaborative, not competitive. The values and direction of the company would be clear and easy to understand. Individual creativity would be welcomed to enhance the process. It would feel like a more holistic game in which you are able to trust that everything is set up to support your best efforts and that you will all end up in the right place together. It would be based on the view that there is room for everyone to flourish - an interdependent community working together toward a shared goal.
You might like to consider whether your life feels like you’re living in a labyrinth or a maze. Do you feel like you have perspective on whatever is going on for you right now? Or, do you feel trapped by the choices you’ve made and anxious about making changes? Are you able to follow the unfolding path of your life with ease and grace, or does it feel like a constant uphill struggle? Do you find all the twists and turns of your path an irritating and/or frightening inconvenience? Or, are you able to lean into and befriend the changes until they reveal their blessings and you are able to arrive at a sense of gratitude? What if we chose to believe that are truly held and blessed by what is? How would that change the way you walk the labyrinth of your life?
Daniel Pink’s six right brain aptitudes applied in a business context:
1. Not just function but Design: It is no longer enough to have a product or service that is simply functional. It is economically crucial and personally rewarding to create something that is beautiful and/or emotionally engaging.
2. Not just argument but Story: There is just so much information today. The essence of persuasion and communication is ability to create a compelling story.
3. Not just focus but Symphony: Not just left brained analysis but whole mind synthesis. Seeing the bigger picture and consciously developing the ability to combine all the disparate pieces into an arresting new whole.
4. Not just logic but Empathy: The ability to understand what makes people tick – the capacity to forge relationship and actually care for others.
5. Not just serious business but Play: The health and professional benefits of lightheartedness.
6. Not just accumulation but Meaning: The plenty of our western lives frees us to pursue more than survival. It enables us to consider purpose and meaning.