3 lessons that writing haiku taught me about business

Clouds come from time to time-

and bring a men chance to rest

from looking at the moon.

~ Basho

Poetry is a mindfulness in its most exquisite form. It is integral part of human nature and therefore is a sort of celebration of life in all its manifestations. Especially haiku, an “instant” form of poetry, focusing on the world around us and fostering each moment of life.

As a form of poetry, haiku originated first in Japan and later became popular in other regions. Haiku poets write short poems, consisting of only 17 syllables. In Japan these poems are valued for their simplicity, openness, depth and lightness.

In original Japanese form the structural rules are:

  • use exactly 17 syllables
  • syllables are arranged in three lines of 5-7-5
  • similes and metaphors are avoided
  • refers to a season of the year.

Haiku poems can describe anything, but mostly they are a result of the observation from the outer world, and have a major theme that appeals strongly to one of the five senses.

Writing and reading haiku is a wonderful way for us to stay connected to our true nature and recognize our role and position in the world. Further more, what we observe and conclude we can use for the purpose of our business practice and it taught me three valuable lessons:

  1. Observe on the outside, as well on the inside

When you want to start your own small business, one of the best strategies you can apply is to build a niche business, where customers are ready to pay more for specialized products/services. In order to determine your own little “gold mine” you have to carefully look around, listen, observe and sense what is that people need; where are neglected and overlooked markets that you perfectly fit in.

But that is only one side of the coin. When you identify those ignored markets, how that complies with what you like to do, with what you are good at; with your own talents, needs, goals and values; how do you actually want to contribute? For those answers wee need to look deep in ourselves and be honest, because anything that contradicts our passion and our own values – won’t produce results in the long run.

And while writing haiku, I learned to observe the world around me more carefully, to see beyond the ordinary. It also helps us learn more about ourselves, our deepest desires and what makes us tick.

2. Keep your business plan short, simple and well structured

Your business plan is a sort of your road map to success – the more simple – less chance you will get lost. That plan is for you, to help you navigate through certain milestones you want to achieve; how to utilize the resources you have; order of actions you need to take and ext. Preferably, it will lead you to do one thing at the time and leave you just enough room, for any adjustments according to the present conditions.

While writing haiku, one of the first things you learn is to live in the now, do things timely and in order. Haiku is a very short and simple poetic form, yet

business plan tree

very powerful. It has specific structure, and by following that structure while writing, you are able to capture and express the beauty of the moment in the most exhilarating way. As you go beyond that, you might get lost, distracted: just as with your business plan. The more simple and structured, the better chance is that your business plan is going to work out for you.

3. The kind of message is your business sending out to the world

Have you thought about what makes your business different form other similar businesses? What’s your uniqueness –if there is any?

The look, the sound, the feel of your business tells a lot about it and all that information people get from your business name, logo, colors, website design, marketing materials, packaging materials etc.; the written content on your site, product descriptions, newsletters; products you offer, your sales approach, and finally you – your customer service.

That everything put together forms a message about your brand and it should be clear and consistent: in every product you make, on every social media platform, in every single interaction with customers you have. The message should reflect what your business stands for and your values.

Just as haiku: it’s a clear vivid image of the world, reflected moment in our minds that is translated into the words.

Analyzing our business practice from all this corners will not only help us improve, but we will begin to appreciate the beauty of simplicity and how that is beneficial for our life in general.


Can we improve our decision making skills?

Choices are the hinges of destiny.

Edwin Markham

In my previous post I wrote about how effective strategic thinking is essential for any project. And today, I go a step further, discussing the importance of developing skills for good decision making.shutterstock_104922425

Looking back, when I was younger – it seemed that making decisions went much easier comparing to my later life events, where contrary to the popular belief – “older and wiser” – indecisiveness crept into my mind. And it takes me much more time, energy, thinking, “measuring” what’s the best thing to do – in every given situation. Apparently, when we have a spectrum of different life experiences sitting in our memory, it can influence a lot our way of thinking and generally our willingness for risk taking.

Successful decision-making can be derived in 4 crucial elements:

  1. Ability to recognize the problem
  2. Possible scenarios to solve the problem
  3. Identifying one that will move us closer to the solution
  4. Make that solution happen, e.g. make decision.

In order to take perspective of all manageable scenarios we try to gather as much possible information and sometimes just get lost in between rational and irrational thinking. Intuition can be a great support, but also a misleading – the key is to find a balance and know when it’s time to take action.

In one of the recent studies, conducted by global creative agency Gyro and The Fortune Knowledge Group, it has been shown that emotion plays a huge part in executive decision making. After surveying 720 senior-level executives in the spring of 2014, study found that nearly two-thirds (65%) of executives say subjective factors that can’t be quantified (including company culture and corporate values) increasingly make a difference when evaluating competing proposals. Only 16% disagreed.

Successful people usually don’t know everything. They go forward, with their eyes fixed to the prize and ready to “jump off the cliff” – regardless of is there a net beneath to catch them.Their wings might be just strong enough to get them on “the other side”.

And next time you struggle with indecisiveness, read this poem by Robert Frost – it helps me every time:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Can poetry help you become a better strategist?

You have to be fast on your feet and adaptive or else a strategy is useless.

               – Charles de Gaulle

Strategic thinking at its core is a careful planning process where project or business idea is directed in such a way that it has a greater chance for successful, desired outcome. It usually applies innovation, especially in the operational processes.


It’s true we can learn a lot from our past experiences, but we shouldn’t build our future strategic foundation merely on that, but rather considering how to create a value for customers, long-term contribution. And strategic planning helps us analyze and put in perspective the “how” and “when” in our business applications. It requires a dose of creativity and innovation where mixed with our current knowledge is a winning formula for successful strategy. It serves us as a framework for decision making – namely about direction of the business and resource utilization.

This is about strategic thinking seen form a managerial point of view. But what happens on the more subtle levels, when we try to conceive new strategy, innovative approach to an old problem?

C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel suggest in one of their papers that in order to be a successful strategic thinker, you must be aware of the competitive environment, have grasp of the future and be able to motivate others to practically do the same: share the view of the big picture.

In the article “How strategists really think” Giovanni Gavetti and Jan W. Rivkin argue that the reasoning by analogy plays a crucial role in the successful strategic thinking. In the example they’ve given in the paper, you will see how Intel chairman Andy Grove came up with an important business strategy:

In the 1970s, upstart minimills established themselves in the steel business by making cheap concrete-reinforcing bars known as rebar. Established players like U.S. Steel ceded the low end of the business to them, but deeply regretted that decision when the minimills crept into higher-end products. Andy Grove, seized on the steel analogy, referring to cheap PCs as “digital rebar.” The lesson was clear and Intel soon began to promote its low-end Celeron processor more aggressively to makers and buyers of inexpensive PCs.

Our brain frequently uses metaphors in order to compare experiences, make choices, decisions, exclude or include certain things from desired experience –  somehow it guides our conclusive thinking. In our minds we form one set of conditions analogous to another from which we derive great idea for action.

The mind of a good strategist needs to have an intellectual flexibility, a sort of adaptation mode which enables him to come up with the best possible solutions to challenging situations. It’s interesting that by reading poetic metaphors, using them for better understanding of the world around us we enhance our own capabilities of envisioning possible scenarios in every given situation; it helps us train our thinking in a way that from the given conditioning we can set the course of future development in the most favorable direction for us.

And as Emily Dickinson pointed in her poem Life:

 The brain is deeper than the sea,
For, hold them, blue to blue,
The one the other will absorb,
As sponges, buckets do.

The brain is just the weight of God,
For, lift them, pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable from sound.


What poetry can teach us about business ethics?

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay. 

These verses are from R. Frost’s poem “Nothing gold can stay”.  At first Business-Ethicssight it might has nothing to do with the world of business – hence, even when I first read it, it made me think in what kind of business world we live in. Most people see the connection between business and poetry in the realm of advertising, and are very skeptical to notions that there might be something deeper. In my opinion, if we just let ourselves go beyond superficial view of poetry – it can actually motivate us to find the meaning in ambiguity.

Poet is not trying to explain or justify anything. He offers you to see the world with his eyes, but the experience and the understanding is only yours. He takes you on the journey of self-exploration. Just as with the poem written above. Reading the poem, reminded me of the transitory quality of life: sometimes we are so allured to run after wrong values; all our activities mainly oriented towards making more profit that we literally forget that the gold is not everything that shines: quite the opposite “nature’s first green is gold”. And nature’s real green is very hard to recognize as due to pollution, smog, too much concrete in our immediate environment, busy lives we don’t have time to see and enjoy real treasures in life.

Or “The moment” by Margaret Atwood:

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

She is not here dealing with any facts. She doesn’t tell you how many acres of rainforests have been devastated. She doesn’t argue about the amount of plastic bags found in the oceans that are killing our marine wild life. But focusing only on business and material gain, pretending that we are the governors of the nature around us and that we need to subjugate other beings are not the values we should emphasize.  We are integral part of nature. And nature should be integral part of our business endeavors: not by killing and polluting but rather working in accordance with natural laws, fostering any life – no matter how minuscule. The awareness we have is our advantage and we could use it in a way that we can contribute beyond ourselves, beyond profit, beyond corporate expansion. After all, we are just visitors and we can choose what is going to be our legacy that we leave behind.

Reading poetry stimulates specific way of thinking which is vitally important to addressing world’s economic, political and social issues. It can broaden our views, help us recognize wider societal needs and gaps where our qualities can be fully utilized. Especially in entrepreneurship, when difficult and unpleasant decisions needs to be made – is it going to be mainly about the profit or entrepreneurial contribution is going beyond that?

Poetry and Creativity: crucial blocks in building leadership qualities

Hand holding two matching white paper jigsaw puzzles which written leadership word

To lead people, walk behind them.

– Lao Tzu

Success and power can easily hinder our good intentions, making our egos rise like skyscrapers and constantly generate that insatiable need for more. Many of those who fall into this trap, simply never look back, who they are leaving behind, creating unbridgeable gap between themselves as a “leader” and their peers.

But it has never become more clearly as in nowadays modern organizational structures that a good leader cannot be someone who imposes false authority: leader needs to inspire, guide, set an example for other coworkers. A good leader needs to have and foster a dynamic personality, be able to seize the opportunity, recognize talent and bring the best out of people.

I usually think of good leaders as magnificent puzzle solvers: they have that ability to utilize available human resources and reorganize their team in such way that each problem/situation can be managed – like solving the puzzle.

Now, how that relates to poetry?

Poetry can awaken those subtle human qualities that we need to develop in order to become good leaders. It helps us live and understand human experience which is a crucial part of creative process: taste of life and our perspective of the world motivate us  to generate more ideas and innovative solutions.

Organizational life can be draining and sometimes makes us hardly cope with everyday activities. Poetry reconnects us with those forgotten parts – instead of just surviving the working week, it can help us remember who we are and how to thrive, focusing on our best qualities.

In my opinion there is a quite similarity between leaders and poets. Leaders just as poets initiate thoughts and conversation about ideas, causes, motivation and engagement. Both poets and leaders have that ability to touch our souls, minds and connect us on the most intricate levels.

Our world is too complex with overlapping issues and processes: poetry has that magical ability to simplify things and life in general. In other words, reading and writing poetry can support any leader to better conceptualize the world and communicate it.

Furthermore, poem can provide wisdom and insight in the most difficult times. I hope that poem below will inspire your work, persistence and help you seize your value in every team, every relationship, every situation:

Focused Effort Prevails by Henry W. Longfellow

The heights by great men reached and kept

Were not attained by sudden flight,

But they, while their companions slept,

Were toiling upward in the night.


We have not wings, we cannot soar;

But we have feet to scale and climb,

By slow degrees, by more and more,

The cloudy summit of our time.