Last weekend, we celebrated once again Chinese New Year. On January 25, we started the Year of the Rat, or to be more precise: The Metal Rat. The rat is the first of the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac. As such, we not only began a new decade a few weeks ago, but the Year of the Rat also begins a new cycle of the animal signs in the Chinese Zodiac. Today, let’s explore what creative inspirations we may derive from the rat to succeed and create prosperity and goodwill in the year ahead.
1. Plan for victory in the year ahead
According to Chinese legend, the order of the animals in the twelve-year cycle was determined by a race between animal candidates. The Jade Emperor (the ruler of Heaven, Earth, and Hell) declared the sequence in the cycle would be decided by the order in which the animals arrived to a party at his palace. How could the small rat win the race against much larger and faster animals?
One myth goes that before the race, the cat asked the rat for a wake-up call to get to the starting line on time. Anxious of the competition, the rat did not wake the cat, which then overslept and missed the race. Another legend suggests that the rat also tricked the ox into giving it a ride by playing a song on a flute. Then, just as those two approached the finish line, the rat jumped off the ox’s back and landed ahead of the ox, becoming first and winning the race.
In the Year of the Rat, imagine creative and clever ways that allow you to win more business against much bigger and stronger competition. How could you win deals by enticing customers with “a special tune”? How might you get a “free ride to the party”? Who could you partner with to get ahead of others?
2. Play to the zodiacal character traits of the rat
Chinese astrologists assign the traits and behaviors observed in each animal of the Chinese Zodiac to describe personality characteristics of people born in the corresponding year. So how are people born in the Year of the Rat said to be?
People born in the Year of the Rat are instinctive, cautious, acute and alert in nature. They are intelligent, creative and quick-witted. They are flexible and adaptable, energetic and optimistic, outgoing and cheerful, which makes them much liked by others. They are also resourceful and thrifty, so people born in a Rat year are thought to be wealthy and prosperous. On the other hand, their love for hoarding can sometimes make them waste money on unnecessary things. As to their weaknesses, people born in the Year of the Rat are said to be timid, stubborn, querulous, greedy, devious, too eager for power and love to gossip.
In the Year of the Rat, consider emulating the some of the positive ways and characteristics of a person born in the rat-year. Consider being thrifty and avoiding wasting money for non-essentials in 2020. If you invest in the stock market, cautiously follow your instincts and stay alert in highly volatile financial markets. On the other hand, stay flexible to the changing market environment as many industries will have to adapt to digital transformation and more regulatory constraints and trade barriers.
3. Be more social in the Year of the Rat
Rats often appear in a group called a “mischief”. Most types of rats live together in social communities. Rats sleep together, play with each other and even groom each other. On the other hand, being territorial animals, they can also turn aggressive toward unfamiliar rats entering their territory.
In the Year of the Rat, how can you care better for your customers and team members? How can you aggressively defend “your territory” (your core markets and core customers) against unfamiliar new entrants?
4. Play and laugh more in the year ahead
Interestingly, the Estonian psychobiologist Jaak Panksepp discovered that when experiencing a type of “social joy” during their playful activities, rats emit a high-pitched chirping noise that is a basic form of laughter.
In the Year of the Rat, regularly laugh and play — and consider pondering the following questions: In what ways might we make our value offerings more playful? How to present them in more playful ways? In what ways might we gamify our services? How can we add more “social joy” to what we’re doing? How can we laugh more at work? How can we make our clients laugh out loud in joy?
5. Produce more outputs
Rats are prolific procreators. A female rat can reproduce roughly every three weeks, then give birth to 6-10 pups. When they’re 3-4 months old, these pups become sexually mature and can begin bringing about their own offspring. So little wonder that you encounter them in every major city of the world.
In the Year of the Rat, ask: How could we produce more outputs? How might we speed up production?
6. Emulate the multi-functionality of rats' tails
One of the most eye-popping —and most interesting— characteristics of a rat is its long, hairless tail. Did you know that a rat’s tail serves multiple functions?
- They use their tail for kinesthetic orientation in space.
- Rats can control their body temperature by expanding and contracting the blood vessels in their tails. So, rats don’t sweat like humans, nor do they pant like dogs to relieve the heat.
- Finally, rats have a unique defense mechanism known as “degloving.” Once a predator snatches into a rat’s tail, the outer layer of the integument automatically detaches from the rest of the tail to allow the rat to escape.
In what ways might we design other useful functionality into a key feature of our product? How could we proactively prevent of, or creatively escape from, a predatory attack on our business?
7. Grow your teeth in the Year of the Rat
Another key visual characteristic of a rat is its long front teeth. Did you know that a rat’s teeth never stop growing? In fact, their teeth can grow up to 5 inches per year. Because they have wear their teeth down, we can regularly spot a rat that is chewing on things. As the Anglo-Irish philosopher Edmund Burke put it: “By gnawing through a dike, even a rat may drown a nation.”
How can we “show our teeth” in business? How can we massively grow our business in the next year?
8. Conquer unknown territories
Nowadays, with the exception of Antarctica, rats can be found wherever humans settle. But this was not always the case. Did you know that humans have indirectly caused the extinction of many species by accidentally introducing rats to new areas?
Whenever ships set sail to conquer new continents or islands, rats were aboard. When arriving in a new territory, rats quickly reproduced and took advantage of the new food supply unfamiliar with their predatory behavior. Rats are omnivorous and feed on a wide range of plant and animal foods, including the eggs of birds and reptiles. So, some experts consider rats to be responsible for between 40-60% of all seabird and reptile extinctions. As the American psychologist Jeannette Desor noted, “You can drop humans anywhere and they’ll thrive—only the rat does as well,”
Evolution embraces the principles of survival of the fittest and of creative destruction. Ask yourself: What aspects of our business do we need to creatively destroy to make space for a fitter new idea? How can we quickly conquer new markets by using any opportunity to feed our appetite for new revenues and growth?
9. Don’t be a pest to others
Let’s admit it: Rats aren’t hugely popular with most humans. One of the reasons is that rats carry pathogens and thus spread over 35 diseases that can affect humans. Rats are said to be responsible for outbreaks of bubonic plague, Lassa fever, leptospirosis, the hantavirus, and monkey pox, among others. So, little wonder that many humans abhor rats and consider them a deadly pest.
In the Year of the Rat, don’t become a pest to others. Don’t spread fake news, rumors, gossip and political spin. Don’t spam others with unwanted emails, messages and posts. And limit the cc- and bcc-addressees in your emails to an absolute minimum.
Conclusion: Kung Hai Fat Choy, Happy Chinese New Year 2020!
Are you ready to get creative in the Year of the Rat? To think, create and play hard? Then enroll your team, business unit company or team in of our creative Thinkergy training courses, or consider doing an X-IDEA innovation project to create new value offerings with us.
© Dr. Detlef Reis 2020. The article is published in the Thinkergy Blog on January 30, 2020. It will be re-printed in the Bangkok Post on January 31, 2020.