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Eastern vs. Western medicine for business

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A new rethinking is gaining momentum in Western medicine -- by serious people, and it has nothing to do with politics or funding.

It's about our baseline concept for restoring and maintain health. Eastern vs. Western philosophy. With clues that also ought to be spilling over into business.

Our Western approach to problem solving -- something so pervasive that we don't even question its validity -- isn't natural law. It's a path that Sir Isaac Newton charted with his discoveries in physics, astronomy and mathematics. His breakthrough scientific method led the process for discovery out of the Dark Ages. And in so doing, he set the framework for Western thinking ever since.

Until now, when leading medical minds are considering that he may be wrong!

Newton's scientific method was simply to disaggregate complex things into their component parts, under the presumption that if he could understand the parts he would understand the whole.

It's why business school consists of 26 courses on the subparts of a business. It's also why, if you ask a question about the whole of business, such as "How do you run a business?" the universal response is a blank stare.

Because we think like Newton -- from the parts up, not from the whole down.

Eastern philosophy works the other way. Eastern thinkers start with a broad theory of a healthy whole, then seek to understand the relationships of all the influences, on the inside and outside, in diagnosing problems.

So, how does this translate into running a business? Particularly for us in our Jobs At The Top?

It suggests that we start thinking about our businesses as continuously evolving systems of forces and processes that relate to one another in dynamic and complex ways. That we recognize that shifts in one area reverberate through all the others, positively and negatively (and often counter-intuitively).

And that the most obvious target for a solution might not be the bull's-eye but rather the effect of something else.

From the Eastern perspective, our Job At The Top isn't about fixing parts. It's about maintaining a balanced and vigorous whole. By focusing more on the interactions of things that add or reduce friction to moving forward.

In the Eastern model, our Job At The Top is Head Thinker. It requires a more open field of view than the current month's or quarter's financials chunked down through independent metrics to separate evaluations of departmental and individual performance.

And when you think about it, the businesses we admire most are led the Eastern way: by an individual with the capacity to integrate signals from all fronts into patterns of the whole that others don't see -- and with the courage to act upon them.

Leading-edge thinkers are predicting that medicine 50 years from now will be populated by what they call Functional Physicians: doctors who look at the whole of an individual's life to understand the broader patterns that lead to health. That we'll stop treating patients as collections of independent problems.

So if it works on people, as it seems to work on people in the East, shouldn't it also work on businesses in the West?

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Dick Cross

Dick Cross

Dick Cross is a serial CEO; a professional keynote speaker; a best-selling author; founder of The Cross Partnership Ltd.; and a founding member of Alston Capital Partners. Email him at Follow him on Twitter, @DickCross3.

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