Jay Bourgeois is a professor of business administration and a senior fellow at the Darden Center for Global Initiatives.
Jay Bourgeois is a professor of business administration and a senior fellow at the Darden Center for Global Initiatives.

Jay Bourgeois, a professor in the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, encourages students to take a more holistic approach to life and business. He combines Western teaching with Eastern philosophy to help students be aware not only of linear analytics but also of the need to “let go of desire and control” in some business circumstances. In fact, he is convinced that solutions come from flashes of insight, though linear analysis is often helpful at the beginning of the problem-solving process.

It’s a lesson that can work in business, too.

“Inventiveness and other non-measurable intangibles consistently prove to be more valuable than specific products,” he says. “Capabilities are more important than tangible assets.”

Throughout the course, Bourgeois emphasizes the practices of mindfulness and cultivating a “beginner’s mind.” He also drives home three key points to improve executives’ strategic intuition.

1.  Instead of always thinking of taking action, keep in mind the value of inaction in some occasions.

Bourgeois offers this example: A former CEO of Esso Brazil decided to build a big refinery, but as the country was politically unstable at the time, the idea was fraught with problems. So, after making the decision, he stepped away for three weeks. When he revisited the issue, he and his team devoted themselves to making the argument for not building the refinery. While they ultimately did build it, the CEO credited their success with having anticipated all possible problems ahead of time. (The CEO was Bourgeois’ father.)

2.  Lead a jazz band, not an orchestra.
This lesson reflects the culture of Bourgeois’ hometown, New Orleans. While classical music is great in its own right, Bourgeois believes orchestras are the wrong model for intuitive, strategic leadership.

While most people think the conductor is in charge, in fact, the conductor can only uphold (and interpret to a limited extent) a predetermined score. The composer has already set the parameters for the conductor. Bourgeois believes this model is too rigid.

In a jazz band, the soloist is in charge in a different way. The band members adjust their playing to best complement the soloist’s interpretation of the original melody. The members may alternate as soloists, and with each change comes a new interpretation. This is the adaptability and creative teamwork that Bourgeois sees as essential for a successful organization – and the leader at its helm.

3.  You can control your own actions, but not all outcomes. 
Make an informed decision. Lay out detailed, but flexible plans. Inspire followers and issue directions, but realize that even the best-laid plans can go awry.

This doesn’t mean giving up when things go wrong, Bourgeois says. It simply means that you should accept that there are things over which you don't have control. This is one key to staying calm, flexible, unruffled by events, and ultimately adaptable to circumstances. Mastering the process will help you minimize stress, Bourgeois believes.

Editor’s Note: This article was sourced from an article by Christina Black that originally appeared on UVA Today.