If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.
-Attributed to Zen Master Linji
I spend a lot of time in the lean space these days. Most of my work is with an advanced manufacturing company and we are busy designing pathways to lean.
Personally, I find that the design perspective in general opens me to a broader range of problems and solutions and, by extension, a more integrated approach than does the lean method. But, here’s what I really think. I think Taiichi Ohno, the founder of lean, was really answering a design question for his business: How do we eliminate waste (and thereby increase productivity) in a production environment today and for the long haul?
Further, I think the actual tools and practices of what we call “design” and “lean” are totally appropriate in different doses in certain models and in certain stages and focuses of any project.
But mostly, I think that it’s very dangerous to mistake any map for any territory. What you read about in a book – whether it’s lean or design thinking – isn’t the thing. The mindset you bring, your willingness to make mistakes and iterate – that’s what’s important.
It’s very human of us to want simple answers, but the truth is: true breakthroughs come from a struggle to understand what’s real, what’s present, and to respond in a way that’s truly helpful.
That’s why Linji warned us about the Buddha. Whatever your idea of the “sacred way” is, it’s wrong. This is not an intellectual exercise, and anyways, what was true when you read that sentence is no longer true. Things are always changing. Get to work dismantling that idea, and start fresh.
My guess is that’s why the Buddha is smiling in the first place. After all, what else can you do in the face of nature’s own constant improvement? Which brings us to another lesson: have fun with it. :)