The last word from the East: Wu Xing and organisational change

Barney Loehnis
Ogilvy & Mather

Organisational change happens in slow motion, so every small outcome we produce must lead to a bigger end-game. 'Producing' things facilitates change. The better we get at 'producing', the quicker we build the organisation.

As Steve Jobs said: "The final step of an artist – the single validating act – was getting his or her work into boxes… Once you get the computers into people's homes, you have penetrated their minds. But to do that, to make a difference in the world and a dent in the universe, you had to ship. You had to ship. You had to ship. Real artists ship." So how do we ensure more of our ideas 'get shipped'?

Big marketing organisations are prone to getting caught in the headlights and stunned into inaction. They allow themselves to grind to a halt. To counteract the paralysis, there are five dimensions whose interaction is vital to a good operation and whose flux needs to be constantly kept in check. I call them the five elements – the Wu Xing – that are vital to organisational health and agile production.