Tailor your product - Confucius

Like so many historic figures, 6th-century BC Chinese sage Confucius was largely ignored in his own time.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Even now, his epigrams are more widely quoted in fortune cookies than in executive suites. A government middle manager, Confucius (Kong Fuzi) believed that China's corrupt warring states could be unified by developing a system of relationships built on man's innate goodness. Personal enlightenment was the key to ethical behaviour, virtuous leadership and stability. But he failed to convince the powers-that-were of the merits of his system. One of his disciples, Xun Zi, realised that the concept of universal human goodness was a hard sell in times of strife and repackaged Confucian thought. His take - people are innately bad - might have had his master turning in his grave, but was a big hit in the marketplace. It begat legalism, the authoritarian system that unified China and underpins modern Western government.

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