Sunday, February 15, 2009
Chinese Myth Debunked
Working in the corporate world for the past twenty years, I have seen an endless parade of silly fads introduced by various consultants. Usually these initiatives are released with much fanfare (and with great cost) only to be usurped by a new fad within six months.
One of the common business consulting myths was the idea that the Chinese word for "crisis" is composed of elements that signify "danger" and "opportunity." This was presented by consultants as some motivational tripe in order to encourage the employees when things were going to Hell. “Hey, our sales may be down, but remember the ancient Chinese wisdom that a crises is really an opportunity!”
Chinese linguist experts at the University of Pennsylvania have finally explained in detail why this is an urban myth. A better translation that “opportunity” would be “dangerous moment”. Of course, an accurate translation would not sell motivational books.
This whole episode reminded me of the fad motivational book called “Who Moved My Cheese?” As near as I can figure this book was targeted to children in First Grade who suffer from severe learning disorders. The book was silly and patronizing. Basically the “lesson” was that you need to find other opportunities when someone steals your “cheese”. Executives loved to pass out this book in an attempt to appease employees while the executives were financially raping the companies.