Look at the image of black squares in rows and columns, and count how many black spots you see. While there appear to be many, in fact there are none. When we focus on the figure, we easily ignore the ground. In this optical illusion, the intersections appear to be sprinkled with black dots, which pop in and out and shift about the image with a dizzying effect, purely as a figment of our imagination.
If you calmly focus on any one of the white dots, you can clearly see that it is white, and that the black and grey dots are an illusion. If you focus on the central white dot, and gradually let your field of peripheral vision expand, you may be able to see an expanded range of dots as they are white, without any flickering dots on the screen. This is a challenging shift in focus, because it requires you to see comprehensively the big picture, the details, and the relationships all at the same time.
Easy to get lost in business
The lack of comprehensive vision causes confusion. This happens to many people who enter the world of business. Whether you are an executive or someone on a career path, if you don’t know where you are and where you are going, you may easily find yourself lost in the cross winds.
The flickering mentality leads to a pursuit of short-term profits without regard for consequences. Large organizations and governments which engage in short-sighted or greedy behavior can wreak havoc on the economy and the environment. The pursuit of the flickering dot mirage creates stress, and over time the process tends to chew people up and spit them out.
Itoh Motoshige, Professor of Economics at the University of Tokyo, says that to understand economies today we need a flexible focus, the ability to shift appropriately from the bird’s eye Macro view, to the insect’s eye Micro view for detail, and to the fish’s eye for changes and interrelationships. This is precisely the power of the Mandala Chart, which enables you to shift perspective and focus with ease.
A world of opportunity
The Mandala Chart can help us regain our bearings by seeing our business comprehensively, and what role we want to play within it. It also helps us refocus on the interfaces and spaces between things and people. Because the majority of people are too busy pursuing the mirage to really recognize reality, this is where the opportunities are.
What is typically presented as a good opportunity in business, is often actually an opportunity to be part of somebody else’s business plan. Most of these so-called opportunities are so easy to duplicate, that they lead right to the red ocean of competition for slight edge advantages and dwindling profit margins. If customers are unable to distinguish between brands or quality, they will naturally gravitate to the lowest cost option.
True opportunities are never obvious, because they exist in the spaces between. They represent the world of possibilities and new combinations, and come to life when an entrepreneur or enterprise recognizes and fully engages their potential. This is why so much innovation happens at the leading edge of technology, through interdisciplinary collaboration at the edges, and through networking and mastermind groups.
An ancient principle
The Principle of Comprehensiveness is the second of eight principles in the Framework of Wisdom for the Mandala Chart. Two concepts which help define it have roots in Buddhism, particularly the branch of Esoteric Buddhism which introduced the Mandala to Japan.
空 (kū), meaning empty as the sky, which in fact is full of stars, galaxies, and infinite possibilities. In Japanese painting, architecture, traditional and martial arts, space is a powerful entity. It is also an essential idea in Buddhism, often mistranslated as emptiness, but more accurately representing the infinite potential of that which is without form. The realization of this potential depends on the second concept, which is how you engage with this potential.
縁 (en), meaning edge or relationship, which can also mean the opportunity which is abundant in the intersections where people and ideas meet. It may also be thought of as the present moment and space, which is where the past transforms into the future. Think of how often things have developed according to the people you met and the decisions you made at the time. Yet this is an ongoing process, not a final verdict.
The Mandala itself has roots in India, Tibet, China, and Japan, where it was introduced in the 9th Century by a Buddhist Priest named 空海 (Kūkai). From the sixty-four frame (8×8) structure of the Diamond World Mandala, a National Treasure from 9th Century Japan, it is easy to see the roots of the Mandala Chart. The imagery used then represented the iconography of Esoteric Buddhism, as a graphical way of looking at the Buddhist universe with flexible focus.
Back to business
How then do you apply this to business? Once you understand the importance of flexible focus, once you learn how to look at things comprehensively, then you need to fix your eight compass points for business, and place them in the framework of the Mandala Chart.
How you determine those points depends a great deal on your type of business, your role in the business, and the field on which you play. To get you started, try downloading the PDF template COMPREHENSIVENESS MANDALA, which gives you eight coordinates likely to apply to any business. You can apply the Principle of Comprehensiveness to any area of your life (Health, Business, Finance, Home, Society, Personal, Study, Leisure). It is best if you generate your own questions, starting from the essential ingredients of Quality Questions: WHY? WHEN? HOW? WHAT? WHO? HOW TO? HOW? WHY ME?
- Why are you in business?
- What Legacy do you want to leave?
- What would you do if you had the resources?
- What products and services do you offer?
- What is your plan for ongoing content creation?
- What are the platforms by which you will deliver your value?
- Why are you the right person (people) to carry out this mission?
- What in your background supports or led up to this position?
- Why should people choose you above all of the providers available?
- Who are the key players in your organization?
- Who are the key stakeholders in your business?
- Who are your ideal customers?
- Where will you locate your business physically and geographically?
- Where can people around the world access your business online?
- What venues and stages do you have to showcase and conduct your business?
- When do you plan to begin?
- Can you put your projects on a calendar or timeline?
- What are your milestones for progress?
- How much will it cost to operate your business?
- How much can be expected in revenues?
- What are the key numbers and indices that you need to pay attention to?
- How do you plan to achieve your goals?
- What systems do you have in place for delivery?
- How will you ensure that your business is sustainable?
- How to scale up your business?
- How will your business continue to innovate?
- How will you automate your business processes for efficiency?
- How will your business secure cash flow?
- What operating systems and technologies give you economies of scale?
- What is your system for accountability and follow up?
The logic of the location of these questions on the Mandala makes sense when you refer to the Wealth Dynamics Square covered in the previous article, Time for a Change #16: A Rewarding Business, with FLOW in the center, DYNAMO on the upper side (How to? What? Why me?), BLAZE on the right side (Why me? Who? Where?), TEMPO on the lower side (Where? When? How much?), and STEEL on the left side of the square (How much? How? How to?). The important thing here is to consider them all with the flexible perspective made possible by the Mandala Chart.
Spend some time trying to see your business comprehensively, looking for new opportunities in the spaces between, for new ways to connect and integrate each of these elements.
The next time you find yourself getting tired, confused, or stressed by your job or business, look at your Mandala Chart. See if you can take your mind off of the flickering dots illusion, and refocus on the substantial opportunities that exist in the spaces between. Be sure to write your insights down. What you discover will calm your mind and benefit your business.
—William Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.