Be Like Water

Recently I shared some thoughts on Blooloop about what the martial arts icon Bruce Lee had to say about handling change and how it might apply to the way we do business in the 21st century.

That old adage about change being the only constant in life is only half-true. The pace of change is not a constant. Change–technological change, at least–is theorized to be accelerating exponentially. With that comes a cascade of social and cultural change. The future is coming at us faster and rendering many of our current ways of doing business obsolete. How does any organization in the guest attractions industry–amusement park, museum, cultural site, zoo, resort–survive and thrive in the turbulence and uncertainty of non-stop change?

Bruce Lee had some compelling insights about how to approach change and adversity. “Be like water,” he said.

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Be like water, my friend.”

Lee was expressing a life philosophy that has its roots in ancient Taoist principles. Those same principles retain relevance across the whole range of human endeavors, including how organizations can respond to volatile conditions and an uncertain future. Lee was describing a state of adaptivity, of flowing with change rather than standing against it. The water analogy is useful because it gives us a way to envision a set of abstract properties, like flexibility, resilience, agility, transparency, and systems thinking. The flow of water captures the spirit of transformation for an ever-changing age. For more thoughts on how organizations can apply the “be like water” philosophy to flourish, check out my piece on Blooloop.

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