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Higher Virtue has no force;
this is its strength.
Common virtue does not relinquish force;
this is its weakness.

Higher Virtue speaks without voice, without self-interest.
Compassion speaks out, in the interest of others.
Righteousness speaks loudly, out of self-interest.
Piety speaks loudly, then when when nobody pays any attention,
rolls up its sleeves and uses force.

when the Way is lost, there is still Virtue;
when Virtue is lost, there is still compassion;
when compassion is lost, there is righteousness;
when righteousness is lost, there is piety.

Public piety about faith and loyalty
is the dead husk of honor and good faith;
the flowering of piety marks the beginning of disorder.
Such foresight is a flower of the Way;
though to focus on foresight is the beginning of folly.

The great man
values the substance, not the husk;
values the fruit, not the flower:
by avoiding the one, he chooses the other.


chapter notes:

In the second verse, I have substituted “speaking” for “taking action”.

This is one of the few cases where I have let political philosophy lie more or less undistorted. Although you can apply the lessons here to internal corporate bullshit, it is still more apposite to political demagoguery.

The Way is always nameless.
But, if managers and executives can hold to it,
the ten thousand programs will develop by themselves.
Once developed, any desire to depart this path
will be subdued by the nameless — the uncarved block.
Once subdued by the uncarved block,
they will regain objectivity.
Regaining objectivity,
they return to equilibrium,
and the world returns itself to order.


chapter notes:

The art of managing an open source project, and the nature of the peculiar institutional self-preservation open source possesses, seem like particularly Daoist features of the Consultant’s world. Retargeting the chapter to this purpose seems more descriptive than explanatory, but it still works reasonably well.

What you would cut off,
should first be stretched out.
What you would weaken,
should first be supported.
What you would isolate,
should first be encouraged.
What you would seize,
should first be invested in.

This is called Subtle Insight:
the soft and weak defeats the hard and strong;
and, just as fish should not leave the water,
the executive should not expose his sharpest weapons.


chapter notes:

I have tweaked the proverbs in the first verse to emphasize the kind of corporate treachery to be expected with this kind of strategic manipulation.

January 2010

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