Maps/Gear | Palette of Possibilities | Yin-Yang Lens
Yin-Yang Lens


Organizations that excel at developing all aspects of wholeness will have the best chance of thriving in this millennium. To transform our organizations from the clockwork ideal into radically alive, conscious, ever-evolving social organisms, capable of creating a sustainable future for their stakeholders, demands that we develop our yin-ness as well as our yang-ness. To free ourselves from land-bound thinking—to learn to fly—requires that we develop yin-wing strength. We can't just keep flapping our yang-wing and expect to get off the ground, much less sustain flight.

Yang-centric Culture Yin-centric Culture
Competitive Collaborative
Winning Well-being of All
Individualistic Community-oriented
Exclusive Inclusive
Achievement Relationship
Either/Or Both/And
Critical Analysis Appreciative Inquiry
Doing Being
"What" Questions "How" Questions
End-focused Concerned About Means
Thinking/Head Feeling/Heart
Asserting/Convincing Listening/Learning
Performance/Results Compassion/Caring
Conversations for Opportunity and Action for Relationship and Reflection
Spirited Soulful
Planning/Delivery Feedback/Sensing
Logical/Rational Thinking Intuition/Gut-feelings
"Focused Consciousness" "Diffuse Awareness"

Our world of business (and large organizations in general) is primarily yang-centric. Most of the distinctions, metaphors, models, beliefs, "true" (vs. stated) values, strategies, processes, metrics, conversations, etc., that define our organizational cultures are yang-centric. And, since "either/or" thinking is a yang characteristic, the dominance of the yang tends to preclude developing the yin aspect of wholeness. It has been a vicious circle — for a few millennia (Sigh).


The Yin-Yang Lens is especially relevant to leadership development, supervisory training, and organizational change (capacity-building) initiatives of all kinds. Designing these initiatives in a way that intentionally strengthens an organization's yin-wing can generate multiple, if not multiplying benefits. Adopting a yang-centric approach to development and change are like gardening with machine tools—a really bad idea. Development and change initiatives are perfect opportunities to strengthen an organization's yin-wing. Overlooking those opportunities is like working all week and then forgetting to pick up your paycheck.


Given our yang-centric organizational cultures it's crucial that you create a context that supports group exploration of the potential for developing the yin-wing. Stack the deck for success. Dedicate the time and select a space that best nurtures reflective exploration and dialogue. It could be a useful exercise to translate relevant yin-yang qualities into organizational principles.

NOTE: The Yin Yang symbol had its origins in Taoism and enjoys generic usage as a means of depicting what some call the feminine and masculine aspects of wholeness. Because we tend to think gender when using "feminine" and "masculine" as distinctions, I prefer the time-honored yin yang distinction to help us explore wholeness in organizations.

Measuring the Balanced Yin-Yang Strength of Your Organization's Culture

In applying Rainbow "metrics" to the Yin-Yang lens we're assuming a yang-centric imbalance to represent the Yellow and Red Zone characteristics. A Yin-centric imbalance is also possible.

Red Zone (Rating = 1) — Dominance of Yang-centric culture makes it challenging and even risky to promote or even exhibit many of the Yin characteristics. Members embodying Yin (mostly women) characteristics feel they have to force themselves to fit the Yang mold to survive/succeed.

Yellow Zone (Rating = 5) — Culture is clearly skewed toward Yang characteristics, but there's an openness to the emergence of yin characteristics when they don't get in the way of its normal operations. There are cultural pockets where Yin strength is observable and respected.

Blue Zone (Rating = 9) — Both Yin and Yang capacities are highly developed, in balance, and brought into play in ways appropriate to the purpose and development of the organization. Each wing is contributing to strengthening the other. This climate of ever-evolving wholeness ensures organization-wide resilience and a capacity to respond to external and internal challenges in ways that are innovative and growthful.

NOTE: The above Rainbow Lens rating scale for Balanced Yin-Yang Strength in organizations was Beta Tested at a recent South Bay ODN (SBODN) Conference with a sizeable group of HR and OD practitioners on May 13, 2005. Click here to check out those results.