Leadership Caffeine—Creating Myoshu

Everything about how we structure and manage our organizations is rooted in one objective: to achieve increasing levels of productivity.

  • Create more at less cost with an increasing level of quality.
  • Target more precisely and engage efficiently.
  • Sell more with less investment faster than competitors.
  • Employ capital at a lower cost and drive increasing returns.
  • Innovate faster than competitors. (This one has proved elusive and unresponsive to simple replication.)

It worked well economically for long enough. It’s just not enough anymore.

Productivity is still important, but productivity alone is a potential black hole for human energy and capital. It’s tesuji—skilled but commonplace, in a world looking for myoshu—extraordinary and unexpected.

The Machine Becomes the Teacher:

In the fabulous and thought-provoking read, Whiplash by Joi Ito, Director of MIT’s Media Lab and Jeff Howe, they describe the moment when the computer, AlphaGo made a move so profound in the game of Go (more potential moves than atoms in the universe) that the greatest living human player, “Lee Sedol, paled, excused himself, and then left the room… .”

One of the commentators responded after a long, awkward silence: “I’ve never seen a human play this move.” Later, a commentator noted: “Nothing in the 2,500 years of collected Go knowledge and understanding prepared anyone for (this) move.”

Pure myoshu. As described, “a work of aesthetic as well as strategic brilliance.”

Pursuing Myoshu:

We still manage for productivity when we should be leading for insight.

Relying on productivity alone will help you go out of business efficiently.

You need to find a way to punctuate equilibrium.

For that, you need the ability to both play the game of your business efficiently as well as to capture and act on insights in remarkably unique, counter-intuitive ways in real time.

I’ve never seen a human play this move.”

You won’t see nor seize those insights managing solely for productivity.

Nor can you command innovation to occur much like you would a quality program.

The formula is simple. Myoshu is hard.

  • Create cognitively diverse teams.
  • Ask questions that stimulate extreme critical thinking.
  • “Why will autonomous automobiles lead to remarkable demand for artificial hearts?”
  • “What trigger events will change everything?”
  • “What should we do about it?”
  • Experiment wildly. (The antithesis of productivity.)
  • Cut the ties to your past. Regularly.
  • Use the productivity machine to turn insights into actions.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

It’s time to rethink the purpose of your organization. Not the mission—the purpose. Blow it up and rebuild it around ideas and productivity. Just pursuing productivity is a surefire way to efficiently build a high-quality path to obscurity.

What can you do that will have competitors turn pale and walk away from the game?

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By | 2017-01-24T06:49:28+00:00 January 24th, 2017|Leadership, Leadership Caffeine, Strategy|5 Comments

About the Author:

Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.


  1. Dave Dobson January 24, 2017 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    OK, I’ll need the answer on why autonomous autos will drive the need for artificial hearts. That one is a stretch for me. I would think in completely the opposite way. If we take more of the bad drivers off the road, then my heart will survive a lot longer because I won’t become so frustrated with the poor driving skills I observe every time I drive. I am truly grateful to work from home, by the way! 🙂

    • Art Petty January 24, 2017 at 3:54 pm - Reply

      Dave, agreed on the QB scenario! OK, for cars/hearts. Autonomous autos are an example of a trigger event that will have significant impact in many related and removed industries. Certainly, they will alter transportation, logistics, auto ecosystem etc. Those are easy. However, the deft analyst somewhere else (biomedical or even VC) will make the connection that the primary source of organs for transplantation come from car crashes at intersections. As autonomous autos become ubiquitous, the number of fatalities at intersections should drop to the limit approaching zero. Juxtapose this on an aging population with capital to afford replacement parts and the elimination of supply plus the huge demand will drive opportunity and innovation. (I grabbed this from somewhere else that escapes me, so not taking credit, but I love the example!) Our challenge in all of our firms is to spot and assess these trigger events for the opportunities, threats or noise they may be and act accordingly. -Art

  2. Dave Dobson January 24, 2017 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    And if we get Aaron Rodgers some help at running back, that might also help my heart to last a few more years…

  3. Dave Dobson January 25, 2017 at 7:18 am - Reply

    That answer makes sense to me. I hadn’t considered that the supply would go down based on a smaller supply of the real item. That would be a good thing. However, as a software guy, I still find it hard to believe that these companies will succeed in melding sensors and software in a way that will approach the skill of a real driver. I know a lot about software quality, and also how hard it is to get multiple teams of people across the globe to successfully build large software systems. An AI on that level will be hard to build. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. When they talk about the software quality required to run something like the space shuttle or military jets, they are talking about systems like this. I hope the same (or better!) development practices are guiding those teams. Maybe the day will come. But I’ll always want my hands on the wheel. Thanks for the explanation!

    • Art Petty January 25, 2017 at 7:24 am - Reply

      Dave, I have every belief this transformation will take place over a generation (or more), so no need to turn in your driving gloves yet! The development efforts will be fascinating to watch. The bugs…not so much. Thanks for your contributions as always! -Art

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