The purpose of this paper is to propose an alternative perspective on Zhong-Yong that is different from the notion of “Yin-Yang balancing” and apply it to understand the issue of balancing the top-down and bottom-up processes in strategy making.
The authors adopt a “West meets East” mindset and approach to develop an alternative perspective on Zhong-Yong, and then apply this perspective to understand the issue of balancing the top-down and bottom-up processes in strategy making. There are three steps in the process of developing the alternative perspective. First, the authors argue that the essence of “Yin-Yang balancing” is a ratio-based solution to paradoxical balancing, which is in fact equivalent to Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean and compatible with some western management scholars’ approaches to solving paradox. Second, the authors identify a different generic solution to paradoxical balancing implicit in the western management literature. Third, the authors find in the original text of Zhong-Yong equivalent ideas to the identified different generic solution and then propose an alternative perspective on Zhong-Yong that is fundamentally different from the notion of “Yin-Yang balancing.”
Applied to the issue of balancing the top-down and bottom-up processes in strategy making, the new perspective on Zhong-Yong provides us with the following prescriptive insights from the life-wisdom of eastern philosophy: first, top management (e.g. Shun as the sage-king) must listen to various views and opinions also from employees and low-level managers at the bottom of the organization to be better informed about complex issues. Second, top management must analyze the diverse elements of the various views and opinions they collect and synthesize by taking the good from the bad to find smarter solutions and make decisions with better outcomes. Third, abiding by a set of (more or less) cohesive values help top managers be open and receptive to information and insights from low-level organizational members and enhancing unbiased information.
This paper is mainly a theoretical perspective. Empirical work is needed to test the prescriptions offered in this paper.
Practitioners may learn new perspectives from ancient Chinese philosophies on how to balance.
This paper applies a new perspective on Zhong-Yong to an important paradox in strategic management.
The research was partially supported by the Carlsberg Foundation’s Postdoctoral Fellowship in Denmark grant (CF15-0270), a project granted to the first author.
Li, X., Andersen, T.J. and Hallin, C.A. (2019), "A
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