Kaihan Krippendorff: The Way of Innovation

Krippendorff is the author of The Way of Innovation, which illustrates how ancient strategies can lead to a more profitable future.

NEW YORK, March, 31, 2009 – Innovation is credited for unprecedented growth in China and India just as much as it is blamed for the recent market hysteria in the US. These disparate views highlight the need for innovation that is consistent and profitable. But are the two goals compatible?

Business consultant Kaihan Kripendorff believes that they are. In a conversation at the Asia Society with Philip Berry, President of Philip Berry Associates, LLC, and founding co-chair of the Asia Society's Diversity Council, Kripendorff, author of three successful business books—The Art of the Advantage, Hide A Dagger Behind A Smile, and The Way of Innovation—offered ideas for recognizing, understanding, and utilizing ancient Asian approaches to innovation.

Krippendorff explained that human beings naturally tend to rely on patterns to solve problems. In the opening stages of a chess match, for instance, the most successful players rely on learned patterns of placement to decide their moves. In this stage, victory largely depends on how many patterns chess players can remember and successfully implement—and grand master chess players remember twice as many patterns as expert chess players. Such problem solving is innate, Krippendorff argued, and can be enhanced by learning the 36 ancient Chinese stratagems he outlined in Hide A Dagger Behind A Smile.

But in what situation, Krippendorff continued, should we employ logic, instead of a pattern? Logic becomes more vital to winning in the final phase of a chess game, or any other situation. And here, when patterns become dated, we look for other solutions and begin thinking "out-of-the-box." In The Way of Innovation, his most recent book, Krippendorff explains how Microsoft and Nokia have passed through the "five material agents" of traditional Chinese wu-hsing Chinese philosophy—Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth—to revolutionize business practices around the world. In wu-hsing's last phase, when the Earth begins to disintegrate, we look for other paradigms and the process of innovation begins again.

Krippendorff concluded on a note of tentative optimism, stating that traditionally the greatest innovation has come from pervasive discontent and constrained resources—which made him hopeful that the current economic conditions will provide an ideal environment for fresh innovations on the scale of those achieved by Microsoft and Nokia.

Kaihan Krippendorff's The Way of Innovation is available from AsiaStore.