Chapter 11: Thinking methods and consumption practice – Consumption and Management

11

Thinking methods and consumption practice

It is often felt in doing certain kinds of specific work that it is hard to keep up with the requirements of the new era and tasks, difficult to perform the work well and to keep the solutions of problems flexible, which result in the fear of hardship. And all of this is not due to work attitudes like reluctance to do the job and laziness. Instead, we do it harder and wholeheartedly want to do the job well. It is just that we feel our ability falls short of our wishes; work results are not satisfactory and we get the opposite of what we want.

The root of these problems lies in the way of thinking. It is an omnipotent golden key, capable of guiding various specific and complicated tasks, providing clues or solving different problems rising in work. Now let’s talk about seven basic thinking ways that can guide realistic work.

Section 1 Concept and importance of thinking method

First, it is necessary to identify the conception of the thinking way and the difference between thinking and the thinking way.

Thinking

What is thinking? Briefly, thinking is the whole process of thinking, understanding, and concluding or summarizing and reflecting the human brain’s cognition process of the objective matters in the real world, which take the forms of concept, judgment, reasoning (inductive reasoning or deductive reasoning), hypothesis, theories, and so on. Thinking, as a kind of human creativity, not only reflects the objective world, but also actively reacts on the objective world through practice. Marx (1867) said:

Many architects are put to shame by the skill of bees in building hives. But the aspect that makes the lamest architect wiser than the most skillful bee at the very beginning is that he has finished the hive in his mind before he starts it with beeswax. The results of his work at the end of work have already existed in the imagination, namely existing in concept. He not only changes the forms of natural objects, but also achieves his own goal in the objects. He knows this goal which serves as a law to determine his activities and ways.

This famous statement of Marx compliments man’s ability to think. Thinking plays a significant role in social life: people understand the laws of nature and society, people figure out purposes and plans with the help of thinking, and transform the world by following these purposes. What is more, the truth of thinking is also tested in practice.

What is the thinking way? It is ways and activities that guide people to think. People try to understand, transform, and utilize the natural world instinctively and naturally with diversified levels of quality and experience. And the thinking way is the cognition way that directs people to understand, transform, and utilize the natural world in accordance with the general or special laws of things. Thinking helps one work out complex problems within a given context, thereby improving one’s level, capability, and speed of reforming and utilizing the natural world.

When doing something, we should first clearly know the purpose or the expected aim, and then work out corresponding plans according to this purpose to take the relevant measures and identify proper strategies. The mentioned links constitute the process of thinking. On the other hand, the thinking way involves such aspects as adhering to principles, using ways or means, and taking corresponding measures. The thinking way runs through the whole process of cognition and is included in thinking. The more flexible and consistent with objective laws of thinking the thinking way is, the more objective people’s cognition is, the stronger the people’s capability to transform nature. And meanwhile, they change from being passive to being active, stepping from a limited realm of inevitably into the realm of freedom. Therefore, it is appropriate to say that thinking is to understand the natural world, whereas the thinking way is the way and activities to understand, transform, and utilize the natural world.

There is a popular Chinese saying: ‘Knit the brows and you will hit upon a stratagem’, and this is the forming process of thinking ways. Whether thinking ways are right or wrong comes from the correct judgment and induction (or deduction) of objects, namely the correct thinking ways. Thinking is the way and method of understanding nature and guiding people to understand, transform, and use nature. Transforming and using, instead of understanding, is the objective. To transform nature, we need to understand it. In any specific issue, there are many objective conditions. That is our understanding of events and the thinking results. Can we resolve these problems? We need to refer to thinking ways.

Thinking and thinking method are both subjective. It is necessary to check whether the thinking way is right or not though practice. No matter what we do, we should first figure out plans, and then we act, and whether we can succeed or not lies in examining carefully, summarizing cautiously, and verifying faulty and inconsistent aspects. And that is why it is crucial to address the dovetailing of subjectivity and objectivity. The cognition of a problem and the method of solving the problem are subjective, and whether the subjectivity can dovetail with the objectivity of reality should be tested in practice. It is not a theoretical issue but a practical problem whether people’s thinking is an objective truth. People should prove the truth of their thinking in practice, namely the reality and the power, also this sideness of the thinking. As for whether thinking divorced from practice is still realistic is purely a scholastic question. Chairman Mao Zedong also said: ‘There is but one truth, and the question of whether or not one has arrived at it depends not on subjective boasting but on objective practice. The only yardstick of truth is the revolutionary practice of millions of people.’

People’s understanding is always behind the objective reality (people’s understanding of nature) rather than ahead of it. This is the basic viewpoint of materialism. But rational thinking, by concepts and reasoning and the like, can overstep the objective and this overstepping, whether it is correct or not, has to be proved through practice. Practice is the origin, a material substance is the origin, so we must go back to the origin to verify the truth, which leads us to the point of making the subjective conform to the objective. People’s ideas, principles, policies, plans, and measures are subjective. During their implementation in practice, if the subjective are correct but fail to be implemented, no good results can be reached. Implement and good results can be reached. In the implementation process, if we meet events of objective complexity and variability that stop the original plan from implementation, what will we do? We should adjust our subjective way of thinking at any time. According to the new situation, we should make the subjective conform to the objective. Only by doing this can we do the job well. Or there may be no problem in planning but problems emerge in implementing the plan since the situation of yesterday is not the same with that of today. So, the subjective should always be subject to the test of the objective and be improved and perfected in practice to get the best benefits and the best performance. This is to analyze and solve a problem from the overall situation.

It is also like this in a specific situation. For example, in my practice, regional general managers are appointed at branches that are subordinate to marketing departments. They were believed to use the same working methods and assigned the same tasks. But with their different conditions and circumstances, the scales of policy to use are different. If all things are done using the same scale and standard, they cannot be done well. The qualities of leaders are widely different, yet they have control over policies, what he says is what should be done. Since he is the one who has the final say on policies, the depth and extent of his understanding is influential. The job cannot be done once the policy is violated and this needs adjustment. Besides, economic conditions are different in the southwestern and northwestern regions; the latter is way behind the southeast coastal areas in economic development. Formulating specific working methods according to this and imposing uniformity in all cases is not acceptable.

This viewpoint and method must be extended to specific work to solve the problems of rigid thinking. There are many policies now, but we lack the one to combine the local conditions and to improve it. We have to admit it as a fact; it reflects the deviation between thinking and thinking methods. We must solve this problem and adjust the way of thinking to meet the objective world and objective facts so as to do the job well.

Section 2 Seven basic thinking methods

Integrative system thinking

The integrative system thinking way is when the system as a whole (overall system structure) is composed of structural systems of various parts, and these parts are a unity of motion based on mechanical interrelations, interdependence, and interactions under certain conditions. The system factors of the different parts compose their own integrative systems, which is a unity of motion of mechanics and conditional interrelations, interdependence, and interactions.

The integrative system thinking way is to guide mankind to develop subjective and motivated cognition towards nature and things, and it is the thinking method used when doing any work, resolving any problem, or facing any event. Work should be guided from the perspective of unity, and in the flow system of the integrative organizational structure, system factors in different systems should be connected closely to ensure that it is a mechanical motion unity with organic and conditional interrelations, interdependence, and interactions.

If we want to solve a problem successfully, the integrative system thinking way and investigating thinking way should be used together to find out whether there is something wrong with the integrative system or with the structure of a single part or all the independent parts, or with the system connection of a certain part, or with a condition in the structural system. By analyzing using integrative system thinking way and investigating thinking way to check the failures, it is possible to solve the problem clearly and quickly in an orderly way.

When people get ready to do work, the integrative system thinking method also means that their cerebra start to study it from the point of unity, and then to work out a solution. The course of study is thinking. Where should we initiate the integrative study? The answer is to start with studying individual things, trying to divide the general law of the overall concept into specific laws, conduct detailed testing and thinking, and then extract the general law from the individual laws with the help of induction, try to obtain a comprehensive cognition through vertical, lateral, internal and external studies. But it is difficult to judge whether this cognition is right or not, so it is necessary to perform deductive analysis as a whole. In western philosophy, induction and deduction are considered as two opposing concepts with the former referring to parts-to-whole and the latter whole-to-parts. Engels stressed that induction is the premise of deduction and deduction is the argument of induction and the two are inseparable:

The induction process cannot be figured out even if we exhaust all inductive methods of the world. Only by analyzing the process can we do it. Induction and deduction, just like analysis and synthesis, are certainly related to each other. We shouldn’t sacrifice one and exalt the other to the skies, but instead, we should put each in the right place. And to do this, we have to pay attention to their inner connection and mutual complementation.

The overall systems thinking method covers a wider area, and is favorable toward the aggregated analysis and will not affect the overall result of the work even in case of ill-conception, or one would catch one and lose another and lead to the ill-coordination of different parts. We must resort to this thinking method in our large-scale work.

Here what is discussed is the thinking ways of integral thinking, not holistic thinking. The larger the scale of an enterprise and a company are, the higher the requirements on its ways of holistic thinking are. For those groups or enterprises with many industry products and a wide geographical span, if they don’t have the overall situation in mind, it could lead to two mistakes. First, all departments and units might emphasize only the importance of their own department and ignore the existence of other departments; second, because some departments have large organizations and it makes no difference even if they lose one or two of them, then they might relax the requirements on themselves.

Both ideas are wrong. Each department is an integral part of the whole and is indispensable. Each department must have the overall situation in mind, make concerted efforts and so that overall work could be done better. For example, the decision of sale at a discount is made after analyzing the overall situation of national policies and enterprise competition at the decision-making level. When the decision is transmitted to subordinate agencies, if they can carry out the job from the overall perspective with holistic thinking, the work will be pushed forward smoothly. In contrast, if they only consider from their own local interest, there may be many difficulties, and the progress of the overall plan would be affected. Facts have proved that all those who have the overall situation in mind can give full play to their subjective initiative, overcome various difficulties and promote the whole work. Thus, holistic thinking plays an important role in specific work.

Logical thinking

Logical thinking is the rational cognitive process of reflecting objective reality actively with the help of concepts, judgments, reasoning and other forms of thinking. Through abstraction and analysis and thinking about the sensual materials, and the thinking process of discarding the dross and selecting the essential, eliminating the false and retaining the true, getting from one to the other, getting from the outside to the inside, logical thinking requires us to put the specific image and individual properties of things aside, reveal the properties and nature of things, form concepts and use them to judge and reason to reflect the objective reality generally and indirectly. Revealing the nature of things through abstractive gives it the features of consciousness, process, and necessity. The basic forms of logical thinking include concepts, judgments and reasoning. Logical thinking ways mainly include induction and deduction, analysis and synthesis, as well as from the abstract to the concrete and so on.

There are differences between the two concepts of logical thinking and the logical way of thinking.

The feature of logical thinking is that it is first based on the ‘should-be’ point; from this perspective it begins to establish a viewpoint, then propose illustrations, and then on the basis of illustrations begins to argue that the viewpoint is correct or to extract the viewpoint from tremendous arguments, and finally draws the logical and normative conclusion with induction and deduction. It is a thinking way in which the brain, with respect to the targeted objects, conducts induction, summary, abstract, and reasoning – an ordered thinking method of inductive reasoning. This thinking way presents the advantage of normativity and easy understanding.

The logical thinking way can be divided into argumentum fortiori and argumentum contrario, the former starts with induction, namely, from the individual to the general; the latter begins with deduction – from the general to the individual. Arrange the work in an orderly way; design it as a whole, and then the plans, measures, methods, tricks, strategies, details, and control, which are the positive thinking method of brain reasoning. Or it can be started from the bottom; making sure how to get higher and at last get to the top to form a tower. These are two kinds of reasoning: argumentum fortiori and argumentum contrario. The normativity and rationalization of this method is very helpful to keep one’s presence of mind in guiding the overall work.

We should analyze the work with argumentum fortiori first, namely starting with induction; first study the phenomena and at last decide the final solution to the problem. For example, to identify a company’s annual work, seeing it from the positive side, analyze first how the annual work of the whole company has been planned and implemented; analyze from the whole how the inspection has been arranged and how subordinates do it, what kind of problems emerge, what the reason for the problem are and why there is problem like this. When problems are particular, few and accidental, solve them from the whole to the bottom and it is a hierarchical solution system. Analyze a problem from the top to the bottom, but when everything is ok and basically reasonable at the top and problems still emerge, solve them from the bottom. If there are problems from the top to the bottom, then reasons for this general phenomenon should be analyzed from the top, from the whole rather than from the bottom.

This is argumentum fortiori. In the analysis, the reasons for the problems are basically at the top. So in summarizing the whole work of a year, we say the major policy is wrong, yet some local specific decisions are correct, but they failed to be implemented. People at the lower levels are responsible for the failure in implementation; yet the root lies in the poor correction and management at higher levels. If the lower levels don’t carry out the work but get away with it, they will go on like this. Therefore, problems should be solved from the top; the relevant principle leaders should take the blame. The lower levels, at the same time, try to understand the problem and solve it level by level. This is argumentum fortiori. Don’t blame the lower levels for not doing what they are told to do. Then who should be blamed for this? Tell him to do it but he doesn’t. Then why not deal with him? Are leaders like these qualified leaders? Why not dismiss or replace him with a more qualified one? If you did this, the orders would surely be followed. With the logical way of thinking, find solutions from the top to the bottom. Problems emerge at the bottom, but the top is to blame. Inspect the work with this way of thinking.

Second, if few problems arise at the lower levels, and the whole are in good shape, only a few departments, people, and leaders are responsible, and then these people should take the blame without implicating the top levels. We cannot always believe that the top levels are to blame for all errors and all problems. This way of thinking is not scientific. It is the leader who should be responsible for shielding and not punishing a person who has made mistakes, while if the leader punishes him severely, it is not the leader but the subordinate who should be blamed. We cannot ensure every leader would do everything correctly and match the subjective to the objective. This is argumentum fortiori. On the other hand, seeing some specific work from the bottom up, which is correct and which has reflected the correct decision-making? Which have failed to show the decision-making level’s guiding theory? Which of them are wrong? To find whether the whole objective, plan, and control are right or not, if the decision is correct on the whole, then the lower levels should take the responsibility for not implementing what has been decided.

The above-mentioned is to inspect work with logical thinking. Some people have such thinking: credits are mine; errors yours. They take the credit for themselves and put the blame on others, which is wrong. The work of leaders should first be inspected if the branches don’t perform well. Leaders should first be charged with responsibility if their subordinates refuse to follow orders since it is the leader’s incompetence that leads to the disobeying. If the leaders are competent, subordinates would certainly obey them. Thus, there is no reason to blame subordinates for everything. We should find out the reasons for the problems from the part of leaders: have they done everything properly? If one is a leader with this kind of thinking, can he do well at leading? If each level would follow, leading by levels, then the responsibilities of levels would be clear.

Sun Wu’s maids of honor

From the story of Sun Wu training maids of honor we can see there is great power in logical thinking. Maids of honor enjoyed the special favor of the emperor and wouldn’t follow anyone else’s orders. They ranked only next to the emperor and would not listen to anyone else, which was the objective situation. The emperor required Sun Wu to train those maids to become soldiers capable of fighting, which was his objective. First, Sun Wu lined up the maids into two groups with the emperor’s two favorite concubines serving as group leaders. This is the thinking way of Sun Wu. Before drilling, he announced a discipline. Hearing it, instead of following his requests, the concubines all began to laugh. When told to turn left or right, they all refused to obey him. Sun Wu accounted the discipline for the second time and told them to follow his order, or he would have them killed. But those maids all thought: I am the favorite concubine of the emperor and not afraid of you at all. You are nothing. They still refused to listen to him. Sun Wu then announced the military order for the third time: anyone who refused to follow orders would be punished according to the military law. In drilling, the maids still disobeyed him, so Sun Wu ordered to have the emperor’s two most beloved concubines killed. After that, he chose two maids as group leaders and lined up the groups. When he ordered them to turn left, right, and face about, the maids obediently followed his orders.

This is a logical way of thinking, finding problems from the top to the bottom. When policies of the top are correct, but the bottom refuses to follow, you need to punish them and the problem will be solved. If Sun Wu had chosen not to punish them, and the drilling could not go on, then he, instead of maids, should be responsible. A work unit, objectively speaking, has a certain number of employees, who should be easier to manage than maids. Then it should be leaders rather than employees who should be responsible for bad organization and management, and it is also leaders who are to blame for the situation when orders are disobeyed orders and prohibitions are defied. Only in this way, can the overall and partial thinking and thinking ways be integrated and perfected. If the correct viewpoints are negated by wrong ones, the results would still be wrong, and finally, nothing would be done, and it would fall into a mess. Napoleon once said that a flock of sheep led by a lion can beat a group of lions led by a sheep. A smart leader can train his employees from sheep to little lions and make them dare to charge and struggle without fear of death. If the working methods and thinking ways of leaders are correct, such a group could be created. It could make cadres with low levels and qualities have those of high-level cadies; train those undisciplined and uncontrolled cadres into a united and capable group, which requires logical thinking to solve the problem.

Dialectical materialist thinking

The dialectical materialist thinking way, the opposite of the metaphysical thinking way, is to observe things from the point of their interconnectedness as well as their motion, change, and development – to solve problems with dialectical methods. Unlike the logical thinking way to conduct reasoning step by step, the dialectical thinking way, under the principle of the dichotomous approach, adheres to the principle that the principal contradiction determines the nature of things, the unity of opposites, and mutual transformation of contradictions. The principal contradiction can be transformed into a secondary contradiction, and a secondary contradiction, under certain conditions, can be transformed into the principal contradiction and only in this way can it be possible to speculate correctly. This thinking way is to analyze in a dynamic cause and effect of things in their unity of opposites, or it would be a wild argument with both parties claiming to be in the right. Bad things are said to be good ones and good things may be said to be bad ones.

Good things become bad

For example, a person or a team has made great achievements, which is a good thing, the mainstream, the principal contradiction, and the thing used to determine the nature. But if, with these achievements, one gets arrogant and complacent, it will probably lead to backwardness. The principal side of a contradiction would transform towards another side. The aim of the dialectical way of thinking is to provide a thinking way to stop the change from advancement to backwardness, to keep the principal aspect of a contradiction from changing to the secondary aspect of a contradiction. Understanding the dialectical way of thinking, you will be modest and prudent, both confirming your achievements correctly and at the same time knowing your deficiencies. Check yourself, correct the deficiencies and at the same time set the next task to gain better achievements, and moving forward to the new tasks one could avoid being arrogant. Thus, guided by this thinking way, one would be less blind and arrogant. There are also people who are more capable. Compared with others, we still have a long way to go. We can control our blindness and arrogance with this way of thinking.

Bad things become good

With the dialectical way of thinking we can change bad things into good ones. For example, a Panasonic TV user in Tai’an City expressed his complaints in the press after the explosion of his TV. This was bad for Panasonic since this meant the quality of its products was poor and this would bring negative attention to the company. But facing the unfavorable situation, Matsushita didn’t act blindly or rashly. Instead, it sent staff to the user’s home to make him understand that the explosion was because of misuse rather than TV quality. When the article appeared in the newspaper, consumers thought that the quality of Panasonic TVs was really good, and a bad thing turned to be good. This is the dialectical way of thinking. In short, the final purpose of using dialectical thinking to resolve a wide range of conflicts is to elicit good results, elicit good things from the bad, turn the good to the better and prevent it from changing to the bad.

Study the weapons of mastering dialectical way of thinking: one is to understand, transform and harness the nature and benefit mankind; the second is to understand and solve various contradictions in our three complicated consumption practices and attain our desired goals; the third, arming ourselves with dialectical way of thinking would make us smart, make less or no mistakes, and remain invincible forever.

Reverse thinking

The reverse thinking way, which is opposite to the logical thinking way and other general thinking ways, is a way to achieve the purpose of solving problems correctly.

For example, the story of horse racing by Tianji is a typical example of reverse thinking. It is a way of acting in a diametrically opposite way. According to the general, logical way of thinking, people would have their best horse compete with others’ best and let the inferior horse compete with the same kind. But Sun Bin acted in a diametrically opposite way. He made his worst horse compete with the best of his opponent, the best of his with the second best of his opponent and the second best with the worst and at last he won. In the military, it is the normal logical way of thinking that if you attack me, I would defend. But Mao Zedong chose to lure the enemy in deep and make a backward thrust, attacking the enemies by surprise.

This is reverse thinking. Another method is to keep the enemy in check with a small force. There is an army, but not all of the army would be sent to fight with the enemy, but a small force is used to divert the enemy’s main force and at the same time separate the enemy armies from each other. It is also reverse thinking to shift your battle situation by concentrating a superior force to destroy the small and weak part of your enemy. In our work, there is also situation like this. For example, when what needs to be dealt with is too much. You cannot dwell on this since there is too much work to be done. You cannot put your major attention to the details. Just put a little effort on these trivial tasks. The main focus of a manager should be on the general situation, the principle task. Wasting time on trivial matters would affect the overall work. In many cases, the reverse thinking way should be used to deal with such problems.

Reverse thinking is a very important way of working. For instance, the reverse thinking way is bound to be used in arguing for a scientific research project, in working out work plans and measures as well as in illustrating a point of view from a positive perspective. If it cannot be turned down, it is basically correct; if the program cannot be reversed, it is problematic, or incomplete, hereby we must improve or make a new program. When discussing in a meeting, we must pay attention to negative comments, which sometimes are proved to be true and thus are valuable. However, many times, negative comments are wrong. Leaders should centralize correct views through democratic centralism.

For a particular problem, consideration must be given to choosing a right way to solve it. Holistic thinking, logical thinking, dialectical materialist thinking or transposition thinking? Should it be done by a mixture of these kinds of thinking? We should seek the correct ways to finish tasks within our respective areas.

Transposition thinking

The transposition thinking method is the way that the thinker uses to consider a problem from the position of the people who is supposed to be the third party. We should think both from the perspective of leader and from those who are led, and the one who is led should think about how to do things and solve problems from the perspective of the leaders. And further transposition should be made by the leader or the one led for the sake of the third party to analyze and review the correctness of the thing. The transposition thinking way is that the brain studies the targeted thing by using the study methods of summarizing, induction, and the abstraction of tri-transposition. In this way, we can grasp the essence of things and conduct a rational and proper solution.

Confucius once said: ‘Do not do to others what you do not wish others to do to you.’ That is to say do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire. As a leader, if you consider something to be incorrect, then do not make your subordinate do it. This is transposition thinking: Understanding problems from the other’s perspective, then things would be done well.

Another transformation, from the perspective of the third party, is to see whether the policies made are correct or not. As a saying goes: lookers-on see most of the game, which tells us the importance of transposition. Nobody is allowed to stick to his old way of doing things and doing things subjectively just because he is beyond the reach of the leaders. In this way, you cannot get the desired effect. Looking at yourself, you can never see clearly. With transposition thinking to observe problems, you will become more objective. Always from the perspective of leaders, you cannot analyze the problems comprehensively; while always standing at the position of the led, you may always blame leaders. If you were the leader, what would you do? In the past, there was a saying: if you are not in charge of the household, you would never know how expensive the daily necessities are, which means if you are not in that position, you would never know the complication and interrelations of everything. China needs to support 1.3 billion people. Can you solve the problem? Can you make them lead a life like Americans overnight? Definitely you cannot since conditions are not the same at all! Not standing in the position, you have a lot of disputes, while standing there, how will you deal with it? Only by experiencing this personally can you understand the true face and difficulty of the problem.

In an enterprise, leaders, when doing everything, must take into account the reality of their subordinates, must place themselves in the position of the led, consider what they would do if they were the led and then make plans for courses of action, especially in the aspects of the distribution policy, ideological work, and management regulations and policies. As the led, one should think if I were the leader, what is the correct thing to be done? Only in this way, can we see clearly the right and wrong, the correct and incorrect and highly unify our thinking and hold together to form an ever-victorious and invincible team.

Creative thinking

In order to carry out work in a creative way, it is necessary to master the creative thinking method. Try to develop one’s savvy, inspiration and understanding; try to be a purposeful, careful and attentive man; follow the principle of being practical and realistic and then one would have creative thinking ways, savvy and inspiration. Creative thinking way is not confined to original knowledge, but is ready to think independently and is good at doubting and proposing questions. It is critical to be skillful at asking questions and commanding the thinking approach to work creatively. Many ideas are made in work. But many people would doubt whether these ideas will work and whether they conform to the local reality. With independent thinking, if we find former concepts are not correct, we need to bring up our new ones. This thinking way is characterized by positively seeking difference, that is, to be inclined to think out approaches different from others; keen observation, great novelty, and initiative. The creative thinking must be active to doubt about the routine management practices, put forward new ideas and opinions as well as suggestions for improving impractical methods; in this way, a person can be of great initiative. In addition, this thinking way has the advantage of putting forward new ideas and hypotheses.

Through vast experience you gain in practice, through observations of various complex factors in dynamic changes, and based on rich scientific knowledge and association, the rational thinking you get is creative thinking. The first characteristic of this thinking is strong doubt. If you doubt one way, then you should try to solve the problem in another way. Your leader may tell you what to do, but if you doubt it will work, you should consider replacing it by another way. Creative thinking comes from doubt, and after that imagination begins.

For instance, seeing a cup, we might notice one of its disadvantages: failure to preserve heat. Then, imagination begins to function. Seeing a thermos bottle with good heat preservation, we think whether its liner could be reduced and put into a cup. This is creative thinking, so the vacuum thermos cup is produced. Imagination is the manifestation of the creative thinking way. In the process of imagination, one may be hit by inspiration, when we integrate all complex things and a new thing appears in one’s mind; this is the function of inspiration and thinking recognition. Aircraft have evolved from flying birds and gradually became more mature. Inspiration and thinking recognition are another manifestation of creative thinking. Creative thinking, as rational thinking, whose correctness must be determined by deductive thinking. For example, imagine the production of the aircraft. Whether the imagined craft could work or not needs to be crystallized by deductive thinking and at last tested in practice to show whether the design is right or not.

In researching and using creative thinking ways, we should dare to innovate in research to break the old-established concepts, have the courage to imagine and conduct scientific experiments, and then we can invent and create something. In our work, we mustn’t simply copy ‘books’ and follow regulations. Instead, we must carry out investigation and study, combine ‘books’, documents, and regulations with the reality of the local time and place, and explore working methods that fit the reality. We should carry out the work with creative methods, and only in this way can we have prominent achievements. Sanzhu Company is a national company with wide regional differences. It has no choice but to rely on good thinking ways to perform excellently. All achievements of new experience and inventions are those of creative thinking and of the recognition of savvy and inspiration thinking.

‘From prominence to balance, from balance to prominence’

The thinking way of ‘from prominence to balance, from balance to prominence’ is a general law in the process of things’ motion and development, and is used to guide work on the basis of thinking cognition. For example, the growth of an independent tree is prominence and development; stretching out twigs and leaves in the process of making prominence is the so called balance; continuous growing is prominence and the branches and leaves in growth is balance; this process repeats and when the tree stops growing, the final balance is to guarantee its safety. At that time, except for special situations, the tree generally begins to decline and gradually dies.

Trees growing in dense forests keep their balance by interdependence, so they are short and thick and don’t have as many branches as a single tree. Because of the density of the forest, trees in a forest compete for sunshine, air, and growing room, thus those which stand out quickly and grow faster, yet at the same time, they balance each other to ensure their stable and secure growth. In the process of standing out and competing for growing, trees that fail to achieve that would be washed out.

In business management and development, management is balance and development is prominence. Just like a half bucket of water, if you manage it well and do not let it leak a drop, it is still just half-full and would be reduced by evaporation. Only by adding water to it, would there be more water, and adding water is standing out. If the bucket is filled with water, then the peak of balance is reached. At this time, you need to transform the bucket to increase its capacity and then develop a new balance.

In the development of group work, many people would work at the same time on the same job. Because of the differences in their understanding of the work, the skill mastery, savvy, and inspirations, the achievement of work would be different. Among these people, some would stand out with prominent achievements and create work experience, which is called prominence. The group leaders guiding this job would organize all the staff to learn from the man with great achievements and experience, which is called balance. This is the thinking way of prominence and balance used by leaders to guide work.

When the whole group begins to learn the advanced experience and achieve the advanced level of an advanced person, another new advanced experience of the advanced characters will appear, which can be regarded as new prominence. Leaders then regulate for new balance, to organize the mass to learn the new experience and try to catch up with or even exceed the model; the process repeats but with advancement and development.

Nowadays, a lot of work lacks flexibility of methods, which need to be stimulated by creative thinking. The working method of the past is cramming; the management is high centralization; accounting, marketing orders, and plans are also centralized. But now we’ve shifted and changed. The top only distributes the guiding ideology, based on which the lower levels should work creatively rather than do what they are told to do. The central idea only covers two efficiencies, and then it is up to one’s capability to find out how to improve these two efficiencies. It is just like the eight immortals crossing the sea; each one shows his or her special prowess.

All in all, we should use these seven ways of thinking comprehensively and in a mixed way, using different methods under different situations. If one can free oneself and not work with a simple, rigid, imperative, fully copied, and completely obedient method, one would become a fairly flexible and constructive leader. Facing these problems, one would weigh various conditions, use comprehensively all kinds of thinking ways and create a lively and vibrant working scene. These seven thinking ways are a golden key with which one can unlock numerous doors. Use your brains, pick up this golden key of thought, and make yourself smarter through application, training, testing, repetition, progress, and sublimation to push forward the flourishing of your career and achieve better two efficiencies. It is also the realistic significance of these seven thinking ways.

Section 3 Apply materialistic dialectics to discuss consumption law

Philosophy is knowledge about world views. Marxist philosophy is the product of the scientific development of the past, the results of human theoretical thinking, which is a solid scientific system summed up in consumption practice and then proved by it. Therefore, in our exploring the law of consumption, we should learn more philosophy. Marxist philosophy is a unity of materialism and dialectics, and materialist dialectics is a kind of science about universal connection and development. The motion process of all things exists and develops in a dialectical way. Therefore, only by adhering to materialist dialectics can it be possible to recognize the true features of three important consumptions.

Analysis of ‘change’ and ‘unchange’

Materialist dialectics holds that all things are changing and developing, and change is absolute, while the unchanged is relative, and there is no absolutely unchanging thing.

Of course, all changes, no matter what kind, happen under certain conditions. The internal cause is the basis while the external cause is the condition of change. The growth of knowledge depends on constant learning. If we only count on knowledge we’ve learned before and don’t keep studying, then our relative knowledge becomes diminished. People change under certain situations. For example, the dignified war hero Liu Qingshan went to Tianjin after liberation. With the change of environment, he changed from a hero to a sinner. Some people may not have had much merit before, yet with their study and hard work in a new environment, they became people with great achievements in our socialist construction, like Wang Jinxi, the man who made great contributions in the oilfield.

Therefore, we must discipline ourselves in work, manage based on regulations instead of trust. Before you trust a person, don’t appoint him; after you appoint him, don’t suspect him. This is our human resources policy, which, however, can be used to replace the management system. Thus, we must improve the management system and strengthen institutional management. Some comrades still fail to see why we should do so. Actually, strengthening the management system is a requirement of the sound development of enterprises, and everybody is supposed to understand its significance, removing the ideas that an auditor’s inspection means there is no confidence in you. It is a misunderstanding to consider the audits of auditors to be a kind of distrust. Hence it is imperative to know that all things are changing and developing.

Relations between principal and secondary contradictions

There are usually many contradictions in one thing, among which one is primary, and others are secondary. The primary and secondary contradictions in the position of dominance determine the nature of the thing. Therefore, I repeatedly contend that leaders must concentrate on the principal contradiction; otherwise it is hard to make any achievement. For example, as a branch manager, what will you focus on since there is so much routine work even in small organizations with all their elements? Obviously it is sales that must be concentrated on, for it is the principal contradiction. As long as the sales volume is increased, other work can be led to good performance. If we try to grasp everything and deliver our energy, nothing will be done well. Thus, it is suggested to learn to grasp the principal contradiction skillfully.

Of course, the principal contradiction and secondary contradiction can be transformed into the other under certain conditions. For example, as a branch, sales are the principal contradiction, and others such as the staff’s life and welfare are secondary. However, if the staff often work overtime to open up the market and finally the sales volume increases at the cost of the staff breaking down owing to fatigue, caring for staff’s life becomes the principal contradiction. Under such circumstances, the manager should put the sales issue aside to care about sick staff and let them feel the warmth of the collective. In this way, when sick employees recover, they will work harder, leading to better performance in sales. This is a virtuous circle. On the contrary, if the manager ignores the transformation of the secondary contradiction and just stresses sales with no care for the staff’s life, the staff’s enthusiasm will be undermined, which in return affects the sales performance.

Another example, in a company, sales are also very important. But since last April, our client began to stop buying from us. Although with some effort we won at last and kept on selling our products, a potential crisis emerged, and whether we have competitive products and can continue to grow steadily, such a fundamental strategic problem has become the principal contradiction. Therefore, in these circumstances, I decided to establish a research institute immediately and develop our own products, in which I put most of the manpower and resources and generally left sales in the lurch. In this way, although our income was reduced by three to four million in 1993, we managed to solve our principle contradiction. When a manufacturer of some product cut off their supply, the new generation of viable preparation Sanzhu Oral Liquid initiated in China and developed in-house was produced. It has ensured our steady development. Thus, in grasping the principle contradiction, we shouldn’t neglect the mutual transformation of the principle and the secondary contradictions.

Universality and specialty of contradiction

There are contradictions everywhere and anytime and contradictions of different things have particular features of their own. For example, everybody wants to survive as healthily and long as possible, and every time when they get sick, they want to be cured. This is a universal problem. However, there is an exception – some people want to commit suicide. In special circumstances, they refuse to live; this is a special problem.

Another example is that the living standard in China now is low, and awareness of health protection of the Chinese is relatively poor. They focus their attention on curing the illness rather than on health protection and illness prevention. The illness–treatment phenomenon is a universal problem. As a result, when selling Sanzhu Oral Liquid, we publicized it with a fixed position of treatment. However, it is a different case in some cities such as Shanghai, Dalian, Beijing, and other economically developed cities, with relatively high levels of culture and strong health awareness. Thus, in these areas, it is advisable to place more stress on the function of health protection of Sanzhu Oral Liquid in advertising. Understanding this truth, it will be easier to work effectively. This is the contradiction between the universality and particularity of problems. Understanding this truth would be quite helpful to make your work easier. The ‘ten principles of marketing’ we have formulated just sets down a norm in the company, hence it is the universality of contradictions rather than specific programs; it is definitely unacceptable to apply it mechanically.

Everything, including nature, is complicated and changeable; all exist objectively and regularly and can be understood and yet are hard to understand. There is a gradual process to understand all this. During our understanding, transforming, and utilizing of nature, these three important consumptions are both finite and infinite understanding. So only by mastering the laws of contradiction, dialectical materialism, and these seven ways of thinking (or ‘golden keys’) can we better understand and transform nature, solve all contradictions that emerge in our work and affairs during the three important consumption practice, and then achieve our periodical objectives.

In short, we should probe the law of three important consumptions with materialist dialectics. In this way, we can work actively and achieve success.