Greetings. The Mayans have been in the news a lot lately. According to several reports, they predicted that the end of the earth would occur on December 21, 2012. That's only three years away (if you're looking for something else to worry about). Though you might not have to wait so long, since other commentators have now suggested that Oprah's recent decision to end her long-running TV show in 2011 could plunge the world into darkness a year earlier. But seriously, this "blip" in the news provides a perfect introduction for stretching our thinking about genius and innovation. Because other cultures and civilizations have always raised the bar in our understanding of the world around us and our possibilities as humans. And the Mayans are no exception. So let's not let their very recent "rediscovery" go unnoticed.
By way of background, the Mayan civilization began in what is now the southern half of Mexico and the northern half of Central America in roughly 2,500 B.C. and had its greatest period of growth and development between the years 250 and 900 A.D. During that time the Mayans built great cities and excelled in astronomy and mathematical systems, art and architecture–most notably the Mayan "stepped" pyramids, written language, and urban design. They even made important innovations in our notions of decentralized government and local autonomy, and were pioneers in the design of rubber-soled running shoes more than a thousand years before Nike and Adidas became famous brands. And there are still roughly 7 million people of Mayan descent alive today, continuing many of the practices of their ancestors.
But of greatest interest to many is their invention of the calendar, which combined a 365-day agricultural calendar with a 260-day sacred calendar. The actual 365-day Mayan calendar included 18 twenty-day months that we're followed by a five-day period that was considered to be unlucky. Quite an interesting twist from our worldview in which any day can turn out to be a bit unlucky. They also realized that there were an additional .242 days in a calendar year, but apparently decided not to create "leap years." At it is important to point out that the Mayans might not have actually been predicting the end of the earth in 2012, but rather the transition to a "new age."
I hope that in the weeks and months ahead you'll spend a bit more time getting to know the Mayans or any other civilization that sparks your curiosity. And, in the process, discover new or old ideas and ways of looking at the world that stretch your thinking about the real keys to business success.
We often win in business by reinventing the calendar in ways that create greater value for the customers we serve. And by combining the wisdom of others with the things we know so well.
Cheers and have a curious and successful week ahead!