When 2nd is better than 1st

From Michael Hewitt-Gleeson’s new book ET 123: English Thinking, The Three Methods for publication in August 2012:

Chinese thinking is different to Western ET 1 thinking because they do not both share the same cultural evolution. Chinese thinking methods obviously did not evolve out of a medieval bellicose Roman church.

For example, a dominant strategy of ET 1 thinking is to be First. This seems logical to the Western mind because, after all, I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong.

But to the Chinese mind the preferred strategy is not to be First but to be Second. In the words of the father of modern China, Deng Xiaoping;

“Keep cool-headed to observe, be composed to make reactions, stand firmly, hide our capabilities and bide our time, never try to take the lead, and be able to accomplish something”.

There are some Western leaders who also understand the beneficial paradox of the 2 strategy and Jack Welch of GE was a good example. Except in the very few situations, like boxing or poker when it’s a zero sum game, 2 is often a far superior strategy to 1. Have a think about it.

There is much that Western business can learn from Deng Xiaopeng’s ideas.

My personal experience is that many Westerners, even in 2012, are still pre-Enlightenment ET 1 thinkers. While they may know about the Enlightenment and be able to describe some of its breakthroughs their default position is still ET 1 thinking.

On the other hand, while it is true that the Chinese clearly have much to do and many issues of their own to work through and to improve and further develop, my own observation is that they are largely post-Enlightenment ET 2 thinkers.

They deeply understand the ET 2 evolutionary approach compared with the West’s ET 1 revolutionary approach and this gives them a great advantage going forward into the many possible futures. It will be interesting to see where this takes them in the next few decades.

8 thoughts on “When 2nd is better than 1st

  1. An interesting perspective, evolution or revolution, and one that could be argued back and forth foreever. Is one better than the other? We see many problems with the Western world and the bulldogged leadership present there, but the East also has many problems, possibly caused by people not taking a stand. Look at the traditional Chinese heirarchy where the emperor has ultimate power and peasants were kept poor – you could argue that this is still the case is large parts of that country.

    Those who follow the Eastern path sometimes need to make a stand and provide leadership, while those with the Western mindset sometimes need to calm down, shut up and be followers occasonally. So while I agree that the western view has many problems, people from both sides would do well to occasonally borrow from the other.

  2. What I like about second thinking is that it gives balance to your approach, to your outcome, to what ever you are doing. This need shows up more in art than an everyday discussion. In balance we notice that things are connected rather than separate. This is perhaps clearly demonstrated when looking at a glass with water. The close up view shows the glass as half full or half empty. the medium term view begin to reduce the or and increase the and so to speak. If we step back from the glass, the further we move back, the more we realize that the glass is half full and half empty.
    When 2nd is better than 1 the duality of purpose becomes alive.

  3. This perspective is new to me. Although I have read and studied the I -ching, Tao Te Ching and some works by Lao Tzu and Chaung Tzu the concepts seem difficult to grasp and even more difficult to apply. Perhaps this is what needs ( or maybe you’re already doing it ) to be taken further. I ‘m really interested in this and hope to read more on it .

  4. What a relief. I was afraid there was going to be a ptv about english thinking as being uniquely ” the best”. Thank you again for expanding our points of view to include more useful points of view.

  5. Where does Sun Tzu and “The Art of War” fit in to this pattern of thinking?
    To the Western Mind Patience is a virtue (not often observed) – to the Eastern Mind Patience is a Strategy – bide your time. PATIENCE – calm and uncomplaining endurance – perserverance – calmness in waiting – your time will come.

    The “English Thinking Game” is to play hard the Short Game – WIN and Triumph or Crash and Burn….

    The East play a different Game – Don’t play unless you know you can WIN…..Be patient – play the LONG GAME….there-in is the difference.

  6. I like comparing different cultures a lot, and have been thinking about being number 2 benefits for a while. Being number 1 takes a lot from many more useful and wonderful things. For example, maintaining number 1 position as a state you have to put a lot of effort into politics, instead of investing money and efforts into wider range of scientific research; being number 1 versus number 2 like a person – celebrity you have to deal with a lot pressure because of the publicity instead of enjoying time with your family and so on.

  7. Competitiveness kills the spirit of doing things. Why be first or second or third. Just do something because you find happiness in doing it.

  8. Why does that hurt my American consciousness? Some need lead some need follow, the world needs both. Wish we had better leaders here. In USA competitiveness leads to innovation. Microsoft made Apple look to cell phones for new market. What about that? LOL I’d rather talk to a dumb person than a smart phone any day.

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