The Yin-Yang Thinking Framework

Yin-Yang Thinking Framework – Innovative and Critical

There are two basic thinking framework that I find very useful. The first is the popular 5W1H framework or Why, What, When, Who, Where and How. When I encounter an issue, I will start with finding the answers for the 5W1H. Some adds another H, How many, to put sense of size into consideration. The other powerful thinking framework is the Ancient Chinese Yin-Yang framework (from I-Ching). (note: A more comprehensive innovative thinking method is BVITS).

Yin-Yang Thinking Framework
To a Chinese, the Yin-Yang concept is ingrained in his thinking. For a healthy body, there must a balance of Yin and Yang. Foods are classified into Yang (heaty), Yin(Cooling) and Neutral (Balanced) types. Fried foods are heaty, the Yang type. Most fruits are cooling, the Yin-type. If the body is too heaty, then one needs to take the cooling food staff like fruits, or tea (most common type).

Such Dual polar Yin-Yang Concept provides a good thinking framework.  Here is a mind-map:

Dual-Polar Concept – Opening Up the Options
Any thing or event can be viewed from multiple angles. There should be at least 2 extreme points of view if not more. There is no one right answer. It depends on the situations, timing and the people involved. For any property, we can find the two extremes. Physics tells us there is particle and its anti-particle. For every force exerted there is a reactive force in the opposite direction. This is the yin-yang concept. We can push or we can pull. We can move or we can stop. We can start-stop endlessly over time. In the mind-map above, I classified the yin-yang framework into 4 categories of force, time&motion, space&properties and character values. By going through them, it opens up lots of options that we can choose.
Dual-Polar vs Bi-Polar
I have decided to call the Yin-Yang concept Dual-Polar rather than Bi-Polar. Bi-Polar is a typical western thinking concept of 2 extremes but mutually exclusive. The Dual-Polar Yin-Yang concept is the co-existence of the 2 extremes with the reality dynamically at the one of the extremes or between the extremes. For example, there is white and black but there is a range of grey in between. We are not restricted to just 2 color of black and white, the multi-color of the world comes from the different degree of components of RGB, 3 extremes.
Then, there is the cyclical concept of Yin changing to Yang and Yang to Yin through different degrees of Yin and Yang. This concept is embedded in the Chinese Language as well. Consider the Chinese Word Crisis, 危机. It is made up of 危 danger and 机 opportunity. There is opportunity in danger and danger in any opportunity. Great opportunity  may change into a big disaster if the danger within is not addressed. Conversely, great disaster could become a blessing when the opportunity is discovered and exploited.

Invert – The Power Operator for Innovation
With the Bi-polar concept, we can easily come out with the invert operator. For every idea, we can ask what the opposing idea, or the mirror image or the switched idea is. All the creative thinking methods that I have studied always have this invert operator.

Balanced – Range – Intensify – Extremities
The Yin-Yang concept does not just have 2 extremities or two poles. Discretely speaking, there is the balanced , mid-point or neutral position. It is actually tri-states, Yin, Yang and Neutral. But why should we be restricted to discrete values only? We can have a range of values. If we have a range, then we can intensify, increase the value, of the parameters, even to the extreme points in either direction. Thinking like this open out a big wide range of possibilities.

Win-Win for All
There is not need to be forced into an either or position. We can move into a position where we can have the best of both worlds. That is the true objective and spirit of innovation – never a compromised but a break-through. Breakthrough can be achieved over the I-Ching teaching of time and position(space) and properties.

Cyclical Movement of Yin and Yang
On its own, things progresses in cycle. What goes up must come down. The cyclical change of states tell us that we need to monitor the changes and proactively take actions to prevent, resist, delay (the yang way) or just follow and ride on the trends (the yin way). In whatever phase of an economic cycle, there are always winners and losers. We just have our mind set to be alert and prepare to convert the threats (yin) into opportunities(the yang).

Hope that our mindset are opened with possibilities with the Yin-Yang thinking framework.

Lim Liat (C) updated 10 May 2013

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