Bangkok post> Jobs > Career guide

Creativity in the Year of the Horse

  • Published: Jan 30, 2014 03:33
  • Writer: Detlef Reis | 2,629 viewed

Kung Hei Fat Choy, Happy Chinese New Year! Tomorrow is the start of the Year of the Horse, specifically the Wood Horse. What inspiration can we draw from the horse to help us flourish and succeed in the coming 12 months and beyond?

Adopt the characteristics and ride: "The horse, the horse! The symbol of surging potency and power of movement, of action," wrote the English novelist and poet D.H. Lawrence. Undoubtedly, horses (and people like me who are born in the Year of the Horse) symbolise certain characteristics, such as freedom and independence; high energy and fast action; movement, travel and adventure, among others.

Horses are said to have their own head they are rebellious if forced to heed to rules that constrain their independence and freedom. Clearly, horse energy is free-spirited and passionately wild, strong-willed and independent. As Gerald Raferty observed: "A horse loves freedom, and the weariest old workhorse will roll on the ground or break into a lumbering gallop when he is turned loose into the open."

"Horses-if God made anything more beautiful, he kept it for himself," goes an anonymous saying. Horses are unique creations that exert a sense of aesthetic beauty that moved American novelist Alice Walker to say: "Horses make a landscape look beautiful." Likewise, the Greek historian and warrior Xenophon noted that "A horse is a thing of beauty. None will tire of looking at him as long as he displays himself in his splendour."

Inspiration: To prepare your business for the Year of the Wood Horse, why don't you adopt certain characteristics related to the horse? The highly energetic horse is all about movement and change, speed and action, independent original creativity and innovation.

Ask yourself: How can we ride on the horse's spirit to move into new areas and markets, or to go with the flow of emerging trends and new technologies? How can we speed up our market activities and actions? How can we promote more original creativity and innovation in our organisation? How can we identify those highly individualised, independent and at times even "rebellious" employees in our workforce who represent raw horse energy, and then empower them to provide us with bigger, better and bolder ideas?

How do we challenge and break the rules to break away from limiting constraints and conventions? And last but not least: How do we make our brand and its products more aesthetically pleasing and beautiful to flourish in the Year of the Horse?

Work on your breeds: Between 3000 and 4000 BC, humans began to domesticate wild horses for travel, transport and warfare. Over the millennia, men cultivated more than 300 different breeds that we know today, each of which was purposefully bred to better fulfill a particular role.

The different breeds are typically classified into one of three categories: "Hot bloods" are spirited, slender horses that are fast and have stamina. "Cold bloods" are robust workhorses (such as draught horses and some ponies) that are fit for slow, heavy work. Lastly, developed from crosses between hot bloods and cold bloods, "warmbloods" are breeds for specific riding purposes.

Inspiration: In the Year of the Horse, ride on the interesting concept of creating different breeds based on three broad categories by finding answers to the following questions: What new breeds may we create in 2014 to address a specific new area in the market? How may we boost our business in 2014 by riding on the three categories "hot", "warm" and "cold"? For example, you may segment customers and clients or business opportunities and deals into "hot", "warm" and "cold"; or you may do the same for your products.

If you're working in the innovation field, you may also classify all planned new projects or concepts in your innovation pipeline into "cold" (incremental improvements of existing products), "warm" (evolutionary innovations that enhance the value differential or allow you to reach new user segments) and "hot" (revolutionary innovations that are true game-changers setting you apart from your competitors). One interesting question in this connection: What ratio of your innovation initiatives falls into each category ("cold", "warm" and "hot")?

Ride the horse's social behaviours: People born in the Year of the Horse are said to be friendly, social, fun-loving and highly popular people who enjoy the limelight and never miss a party. Likewise, real horses are herd animals that thrive on and require social interactions to perform at their best. Horses live in a social hierarchy with a clear rank system, and it is interesting to note that the herd is often led by a mare (a female four years of age or older).

Inspiration: "Work hard, play hard" seems to describe essential aspects of the social energy of a horse. In the Year of the Horse, how may you inspire your employees to walk the extra mile by adopting the motto of "work hard, play hard"? How can you use the concepts of playfulness and spirited fun to create attraction for your business and its products?

Moreover, how can you play on the friendly, deeply social nature of the horse in 2014? How can you intensify your social media presence in witty yet valuable ways? What events and social activities can you start to demonstrate both your professional skill and social eloquence?

Ride the horse's unusual quirks: Horses are prey animals with a pronounced fight-or-flight response: they use their speed and a superbly developed sense of balance to escape from predators. In their evolutionary development, horses have enhanced their chances of survival by developing a few interesting characteristics:

Horses can sleep both lying and standing, which allows them to more easily flee from predators. Often, a few horses keep guard when the others in the herd sleep.

Foals (young horses) can stand and run shortly following birth to move with the herd and flee from a predator.

Horses have the largest eyes of any land mammal and a very wide visionary spectrum of 350 degrees, which allows them to scan nearly the whole landscape for approaching predators.

Inspiration: Learn from the horse about how to enhance your ability to survive and thrive in a fast-changing, predatory business environment. Ask yourself: What new ability can we develop to avoid and flee from danger and competition? How can we more quickly get new employees up and running independently? How can we widen our market vision of the wider emerging market space? How can we more effectively spot emerging new trends and new technologies ahead of our competitors?

Dr Detlef Reis is the founding director and chief ideator of Thinkergy Limited (, the ideation and innovation company in Asia. He is also a lecturer in business creativity and innovation leadership at the College of Management, Mahidol University ( He can be reached at