Zen and creativity for Business innovation

Zen and Creativity and Innovation

The principles of the Zen can inspire the means to unlock creativity and find freedom in the various dimensions of our existence.

Naturalness, spontaneity, and playfulness are all aspects of the ordinary mind that catches a glimpse of the world of things just as they are. However, as the predominant note on Zen Buddhism is more intellectual. Zen teaches to have a thorough insight into the nature of Mind. Zen the seemingly different pursuits of awakening and creative expression are actually kindred, even twins. Creativity is a nebulous topic that fascinates everyone endlessly.

Zen is an art of self-discovery and awakening which the disciple must experience firsthand. Creativity is the ability to associate seemingly unrelated concepts in your mind; and then combine, branch and recombine them until you get an A-HA moment. This is the manner which new ideas, products, processes, and business models are innovated. Most of us use this method subconsciously, but there is a certain mystery and awe around our creative facilities. This intangible process makes our creative process and emergent outputs seem somewhat unpredictable and serendipitous.

Creativity is a property of consciousness itself. Broadly shared by all schools of thought, which is the unity of nature with human thought. Simply put, in ancient Chinese thought humans and nature are actually the same. All the principles that apply to nature could also apply to man. Thus, humanity could experience the process of the development of the universe, just as could the universe itself, or every other being in the universe.

A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 leadership competency of the future. Yet it is not just about sustaining nation’s economic growth. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care.

Koan and Creativity

Suzuki roshi emphasized simple daily zazen practice and ordinary everyday living. Zen Buddhists may practice koan inquiry during sitting meditation (zazen), walking meditation (kinhin), and throughout all the activities of daily life. Koan practice is particularly emphasized by the Japanese Rinzai school, but it also occurs in other schools or branches of Zen depending on the teaching line. A koan is a story or dialogue, generally related to Zen or other Buddhist history; the most typical form is an anecdote involving early Chinese Zen masters. These anecdotes involving famous Zen teachers are a practical demonstration of their wisdom, and can be used to test a student’s progress in Zen practice. Koans often appear to be paradoxical or linguistically meaningless dialogues or questions. However, to Zen Buddhists the koan is the place, the time, and the event where truth reveals itself unobstructed by the oppositions and differentiations of language. Answering a koan requires a student to let go of conceptual thinking and of the logical way, we order the world, so that like creativity in art, the appropriate insight and response arises naturally and spontaneously in the mind. Koans and their study developed in China within the context of the open questions and answers of teaching sessions conducted by the Chinese Zen masters. There are also various commentaries on koans, written by experienced teachers that can serve as a guide. Koans are not scripture in any traditional sense. Bodhidharma said that Zen is without doctrine, without words either written or spoken. Koans, like meditation, are thought of as road signs in these traditions.

The ancient masters devised a way to explain Zen using ox-herding pictograms, which represent ten stages of self-discovery. The ox represents the mind or the self, ego, or pre-conditioned responses. The ox herder is the practitioner attempting to understand his or her nature and, therefore, his or her mind. Throughout the series, these two entities slowly merge until they eventually become one with each other. All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.

Zen inspires our creative soul. To practice “Zazen” is to see into one’s “own nature”, which is from the very beginning, pure and calm, and every being in the world has it.

Creative thinking requires focusing on a problem followed by defocusing, i.e. relaxing and letting the mind wander on its own, creating opportunities for sudden insights to occur. The soul of creativity arises from an undivided mind.

Zen is a great way of relaxing the mind and body. The quieter you become, the more you can hear. Zen is a very creative experience. The wise practice the six virtues of perfection to get rid of confused thoughts, and yet there is no specific consciousness on their part that they are engaged in any meritorious deeds. Obey the nature of things, and you are in concord with the Way. The rare invaluable gem is never impaired however much one uses it. Moving in the direction of your dreams, furthering the life you would love to create. Zen teaches to have a thorough insight into the nature of Mind. The only way to grasp higher order happiness (emptying mind) is through a calm and settled mind. When you see into your own nature, you know who you are, you know what, and how everything and being in the world really is. From this, your action and reaction will be in harmony with the whole and in situations around you.

The Six Glorious Virtues of Zen Buddhism

Every great religion contains precepts or exhortations toward a better life. In Buddhism, the Paramitas are a set of “Virtues” describing qualities of thought and action, which, if made a part of one’s life, will reveal the mysteries of the universe and of man. It has also been said that their practice by the sincere aspirant will lead ultimately to complete higher order happiness.

I. Charity — the key of charity and love immortal;

II. Uprightness — the key of harmony in word and act;

III. Forbearance — patience sweet, that nought can ruffle;

IV. Dispassion — indifference to pleasure and to pain;

V. Dauntlessness — the dauntless energy that fights its way to the supernal truth;

VI. Contemplation — the open doorway to truth. It is only when a system or code helps us to channel our aspirations that it becomes a bridge to a fuller comprehension of existence

Creativity is strongly linked to receptiveness to life and what it has to offer us. It means being open to what is true, about ourselves and about others. Creativity flourishes when the truth about things is admitted to oneself.

Koans and mondos are used to exhaust and disable the analytical mind, paving the way for (existential) insight. Zen is an authentic religious experience. Its authenticity is in its inspiring conscious creativity in human beings. Harmony begins with trust and a positive view of human nature. Harmony is enhanced by practicing a non-judgmental attitude towards others they only contemplate their own words and deeds. The human need to explore, discover, decorate, dominate, conquer, protect, invent, tell stories and make magic goes all the way back to our origin as a species. Zen inspires being Natural, that is examining dispassionately various phenomena in life and drawing indisputable conclusions. It pays attention to very accurate and precise details, and portrays things as they are. It is believed that we cannot create adequately from the control and illusion of the mind.

Both Zen and innovation:

I. involve exploration and discovery

II. Uncover latent possibilities

III. Strive for a breakthrough


Business Innovation

Innovation is driven not just by the need for business growth or market dominance, but also by the imagination, creativity, and ingenuity of the human mind. Whatever learning there may be in Zen, it comes from our own mind. The future demands the whole brain- integrating the left-brain with the creative and intuitive modalities of our right brain. Cultivating mindfulness will help you to innovate and enjoy life more. Focusing on one task at a time, putting yourself fully into that task, is much more effective than multi-tasking.

Ideation is the creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas, where an idea is understood as a basic element of thought that can be visual, concrete, or abstract.

Ideation is all stages of a thought cycle, from innovation, to development, to actualization. As such, it is an essential part of the design process, both in education and practice. Creativity and innovation based on the power of our subconscious. Our subconscious mind is constantly processing the ideas and stimuli received consciously. A useful technique is to work on a problem before going to sleep, allowing the subconscious to take over. Review any ideas when you awake, and make sure you have a pad and pen by your bed to record the ideas.

Focusing on one real objective at a time is also more effective. Focusing on what you are doing right now is highly effective. You are more productive and innovative when you are mindful. Insight is preceded by, but is not the result of, logical effort. It comes suddenly out of “nowhere” and with a feeling of absolute certainty. Nowhere is the creative mind associated with the right hemisphere of the brain. A person, who never has time to think, may turn into a thoughtless person. Likewise, an organization that does not have time to think may turn into a thoughtless organization. Society is moving out of the Information Age, dominated by ‘left brain’ analytic modes of thinking. The future demands our ‘whole brain’, integrating the holistic, visual & symbolic, synchronistic and intuitive modalities of our ‘right brain’. We need to activate the power of your imagination and intuition.

A synergy of techniques, including meditation, drawing, improvisation and visualization teach us to expand beyond the boundaries of our habitual awareness. Words (affirmations) and images (visualizations) affect your mind and body. We cultivate holistic,
intuitive and ‘super-conscious’ capacities that utilize the full spectrum of human potential.

It has well known by now that we only use 10% of our minds, and the other 90% is the unconscious portion. Creative imagination allows people to tap into this unconscious portion of their minds and harness its potential power. Imagine more creative space in your mind and in your workspace. No matter how compelling the two-dimensional image will never measure up to the molecular resolution of physical holographic reality. Finding your voice is your key to the realm of infinite creativity.

Missing link between success and happiness was lack of awareness of one’s “inner self”. To achieve sustainable peak performance, learn to transform your motivation from fear of losing to joy of action. Cultivating a deeper awareness of one’s self can be learned like any other skill through practice.

True inspiration for inspiration is not physically measurable, nor tangible in any concrete way.

Innovation Capacity =

  Preferences + Innovative Work Behaviors + Innovation Practices

Innovation and growth is not just about products or solutions – it is about creating a transformational change in the way people live, work, and play. Zen leads the transformation.


Experiential wisdom – Zen

“Zen emphasizes experiential wisdom in the attainment of high order happiness.”

 Zen DE-emphasizes theoretical knowledge in favor of direct self-realization through meditation and dharma practice.

Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment.

– Tao Tzu

 The idea of “dharma” comes from ancient texts in India that state there is a divinely chosen natural order of things. It says that in order to have happiness, justice, and social harmony in the world, humans must live in a way that reflects the requirements of that order. Zen practice is not about getting away from our life as it is; it is about getting into our life as it is, with all of its vividness, beauty, hardship, joy and sorrow.

Zen is a path of awakening, awakening to who we really are, and awakening the aspiration to serve others and take responsibility for all of life. Zen emphasizes experiential wisdom and the attainment of special states of consciousness.  While a great deal has been written about Zen, one of the central notions of Zen is that true understanding of the mind.

Zen teaches that wisdom should be developed with compassion.  Zen uses the middle path to develop both. The highest wisdom is seeing that in reality, all phenomena are incomplete, impermanent and do no constitute a fixed entity. True wisdom means that we shall not simply believe what we are told but instead experiencing and understanding truth and reality. Wisdom requires an open, objective, and unbigoted mind. The Zen path requires courage, patience, flexibility, intelligence, cuts away delusions, and thus freeing the mind.

Zazen is a powerful tool of self-inquiry, boundless in its scope and ability to reveal the true basis of reality.

Compassion includes qualities of sharing, readiness to give comfort, sympathy, concern, caring. In Zen, we can really understand others, when we can really understand ourselves, through wisdom.

Zen is famous for brief riddles called koans, such as what is the sound of one hand clapping. Meditating on such riddles has the potential to bring higher order happiness, when the mind suddenly realizes the futility of approaching the koan (or the world or the mind) with conceptual thought, and fully embraces the paradox at the heart of the koan (and the world and the mind).

Zen asserts, as do other schools in Mahayana Buddhism, that all sentient beings have Buddha-nature.   The universal nature of transcendent wisdom and emphasizes that Buddha-nature is nothing other than the essential nature of the mind itself.

The various states of consciousness experienced by human beings may be divided into four categories, using the philosophical concept of intentionality: intentional, non-intentional, meta-intentional, and de-intentional states. Analyzing Zen enlightenment in the light of this categorization, one concludes that Zen thinking is a de-intentional self-reflective mental capacity.  This establishes a philosophical basis for the Zen method of mind training, enabling the exploration of connections between Zen, philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and other areas. Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is doing his job. Zen spirituality is just to do the job with complete self – awareness. The job can be anything from peeling potatoes, to watching birds, to washing etc..

Every Individual has four endowments- self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom.  The power to choose, to respond, to change.

 The pursuit of happiness is real. It is an authentic and natural desire of our nature. To create, and live in authentic happiness, you will need to learn not to blindly chase the false beliefs in the mind.


 Self-realization is a concept that has become widely popular in the Western World. It has been greatly influenced by Zen. Self realization as a connection with your self or the first encounter with reality, it defines self-realization as fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one’s character or personality.

Also, Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, American psychologists, developed the concept of self-actualization in Humanistic Psychology. Maslow defined then self-realization as the impulse to convert oneself into what one is capable of being.

Based on Maslow, the most common meaning given to self-realization is that of psychological growth and maturation. It represents the awakening and manifestation of latent potentialities of the human being -for example, ethical, esthetic, and religious experiences and activities.

Awareness is the first step in the transformation process. As you grow in self awareness, you will better understand why you feel what you feel and why you behave as you behave. That understanding then gives you the opportunity and freedom to change those things you’d like to change about yourself and create the life you want. Without fully knowing who you are, self acceptance and change become impossible. We often have a layer of beliefs in the mind that tend to complicate our sense of enjoyment and pursuit of happiness.

Self Awareness

Zen teaches one to live in the present with complete awareness, not thoughts about the future or reflecting on the past. Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to reconcile oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals. Self-awareness, though similar to sentience in concept, includes the experience of the self.

A person, who never has time to think, may turn into a thoughtless person. Likewise, an organization that does not have time to think may turn into a thoughtless organization. Zen teaches individuals to live in the present with complete awareness, not thoughts about the future or reflecting on the past. We can unleash the power of the authentic self: and which results of unlocking the wisdom within.

Self awareness is developed through practices in focusing your attention on the details of your personality and behavior. Think of learning to be mindful and self aware as learning to dance. When you become more self aware you instinctively begin to see aspects of your personality and behavior that you didn’t notice before.

Finding Neutral – Notice the power of every word you think and speak.  Think, Speak, observe, listen, from a neutral point of view (NPOV) means representing fairly, proportionately, and as far as possible without bias.  For leaders neutrality means carefully and critically analyzing the information (words, thoughts) contained in them clearly and accurately.

Prefer non-judgmental language

Self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards beginning to excel.

Self acceptance is love and happiness with who you are now.  You will know when you’re accepting yourself because it feels great. It’s an agreement with yourself to appreciate, validate, accept and support who you are at this very moment, even those parts you’d like to eventually change. This is important even those parts you’d eventually like to change. You can accept those parts of yourself you want to change some day. self-acceptance is considered the prerequisite for change to occur. It can be achieved by stopping criticizing and solving the defects of one’s self, and then accepting them to be existing within one’s self. That is, tolerating oneself to be imperfect in some parts.

You enjoy increased inner-peace by accepting who you are right now, unconditionally so you can relax and enjoy the moment.  Self acceptance gives you a lightness of mind and a self-confidence that is a pleasure for yourself and others to behold.

Leadership and Self awareness

 With self-awareness, the leader becomes a more effective, they are open to change, as they themselves are in a constant state of incremental personal development and changes.  But when you don’t know yourself as well as you should, you can’t capitalize fully on your strengths or minimize your weaknesses.  Effective leadership starts with intimate knowledge of yourself. Simple as that may seem, such knowledge is surprisingly difficult to acquire, because we all have biases that make our perceptions of ourselves inaccurate. We believe that effective leaders can overcome those biases and grow even more effective if they pay better attention to self-awareness and situational awareness. Leaders need to be able to use self-awareness to find the  conditions where they will be most likely to succeed, and to be able recognize the challenges in situations that expose their weaknesses. That’s what we call situational awareness. With this awareness you recognize what a particular situation demands and then align your leadership style or behavior to react accordingly, by matching your skills to that situation.