A discussion of the Western obsession with rational deduction and its stranglehold on the business world.
While working in China and trying to understand the country’s culture, Moreau (A Contemporary Tale of Human Connection, 2016, etc.) discovered a remarkable difference between Western and Eastern approaches to comprehending reality. Westerners cling to logical deduction, causal linearity, and binary choices. Eastern thought emphasizes inductive inference, circularity, and a harmony of opposites. Western rationality has, of course, borne considerable fruit, but it’s also often gratuitously limiting and even counterproductive. For example, an overemphasis on scientific deduction leads to false dilemmas, or the misperception that there are only two mutually exclusive choices available, while induction promotes a more holistic interpretation that prioritizes an equilibrium of competing alternatives. “This is the point of equilibrium, the center of balance between yin and yang, productivity and waste, return and loss,” writes Moreau. “It is here that all business should seek to reside, in a position of balance between data and instinct, between expectation and experience, between great innovation and folly.” The author uses this paradigm to diagnose a number of weaknesses with contemporary business management, including its narrow obsession with quantitative assessments of human behavior, a dogmatic attachment to processes that don’t work and tendentious rationalizations of them, and a deficit of intellectual diversity. Also, the insistence on deductive logic ultimately leads to a culture of intolerance and alienation. Moreau recommends his own fusion of induction and deduction—he calls it “indeduction”—which permits the two to operate independently of each other, providing a more synoptic picture than either could on its own. It’s no surprise that the author has more than 40 years of business experience. His observations are consistently nuanced and searching. Moreau adroitly braids a philosophical perspective with a managerial one, discussing Newtonian science and Taoism with as much confidence as employee reviews. The writing is unfailingly clear and avoids precisely the kind of turgid jargon he too often finds in the world of commerce. More than a guidebook for managers, this is a manifesto for an intellectually deeper—and happier—world of business.
A deeply thoughtful book about business management today and the nature of thought itself.