Year of the Horse

Creativity in the Year of the Horse

Kung Hai Fat Choy, Happy Chinese New Year! Tomorrow sees the start of the Year of the Horse, specifically the Wood Horse. What inspiration can we get from the horse to help us flourish and succeed in the coming twelve months and beyond?

Adopt characteristics of the horse to ride on the Year of the Horse

“The horse, the horse! The symbol of surging potency and power of movement, of action”, noted the English novelist and poet D.H. Lawrence. Undoubtedly, horses (and people like me who are born in the Year of the Horse) symbolize certain characteristics, such as freedom and independence; high energy and fast action; movement, travel and adventure, among others. Horses are said to have their own head – they are rebellious if forced to heed to rules that constrain their independence and freedom. Clearly, horse energy is free-spirited and passionately wild, strong-willed and independent. As Gerald Raferty observed: “A horse loves freedom, and the weariest old work horse will roll on the ground or break into a lumbering gallop when he is turned loose into the open.”

“Horses – if God made anything more beautiful, he kept it for himself”, goes an anonymous saying. Obviously, horses are unique creations that exert a sense of aesthetic beauty that the American novelist Alice Walker expressed as follows: “Horses make a landscape look beautiful.” Likewise, the Greek historian and warrior Xenophon noted that “A horse is a thing of beauty…none will tire of looking at him as long as he displays himself in his splendor.”


To prepare your business for the Year of the Wood Horse, why don’t you adopt certain characteristics related to the horse? The highly energetic horse is all about movement and change, speed and action, independent original creativity and innovation. Ask yourself:

  • How can we ride on the horse’s spirit to move into new areas and markets, or to go with the flow of emerging trends and new technologies?
  • How to speed-up our market activities and actions?
  • How to promote more original creativity and innovation in our organization?
  • How to identify those highly individualized, independent and at times even “rebellious” employees in our workforce that represent raw horse energy, and then empower them to provide us with bigger, better and bolder ideas?
  • How to challenge and break the rules to break away from limiting constraints and conventions?
  • And last but not least: How to make our brand and its products more aesthetically pleasing and beautiful to flourish in the Year of the Horse?


Work on your breeds in the Year of the Horse

Ca. 3000-4000 B.C., humans began to domesticize wild horses to use them for travel, transportation and warfare. Over the millennia, men cultivated over 300 different breeds that we know today, each of which was purposefully bred to better fulfill a particular area of usage. The different breeds are typically classified into one of three categories: “Hot bloods” are spirited slender horses that are fast and have stamina. In contrast, “cold bloods” are robust work horses (such as draft horses and some ponies) that are fitting for slow, heavy work. Lastly, developed from crosses between hot bloods and cold bloods, “warmbloods” are breeds for specific riding purposes.


In the Year of the Horse, ride on the interesting concept of creating different purposeful breeds based on three broad categories by finding answers to the following questions:

  • What new breeds may we create in 2014 to purposefully address a specific new area in the market? How may we boost our business in 2014 by riding on the three categories “hot”, “warm” and “cold”? For example, you may segment customers and clients —or business opportunities and deals— into “hot”, “warm” and “cold”; or you may do the same for the products in your product portfolio.
If you’re working in the innovation field, you may also classify all planned new innovation projects or all idea concepts in your innovation pipeline into “cold” (incremental improvements of existing products), “warm” (evolutionary innovations that enhance the value differential or allow you to reach out to new user segments) and “hot” (revolutionary innovations that are true game-changers setting you apart from your traditional competitors)? One interesting question in this connection: How many percent of your innovation initiatives fall into each category (“cold”, “warm” and “hot”)?


Ride on horse’s social behaviors in the Year of the Horse

People born in the year of the horse are said to friendly, social, fun-loving and highly popular people who enjoy the limelight and never miss a party. Likewise, real horses are herd animals that thrive on and require social interactions to perform at their best. Horses live in a social hierarchy with a clear rank system, and it is interesting to note that the herd is often led by a mare (a female horse of four years of age or older).


  • ”Work hard, play hard” is a motto that seems to describe essential aspects of the social energy of a horse. In the Year of the Horse, how may you inspire your employees to walk the extra-mile by adopting the motto of “work hard, play hard”?
  • How can you use the concepts of playfulness and spirited fun to create attraction for your business and its products?
  • Moreover, how can you play on the friendly, deeply social nature of the horse in 2014? How can you intensify your social media presence in witty yet valuable ways? What events and social activities can you start in the year of the horse to demonstrate both your professional competence and social eloquence?


Ride on the horse’s unusual quirks in the Year of the Horse

Horses are prey animals with a pronounced fight-or-flight response: they make use of their speed and a superbly developed sense of balance to escape from predators. In their evolutionary development, horses have enhanced their chances of survival by having developed a few interesting characteristics:
• Horses are able to sleep both lying and standing, which allowed them to more easily flee from predators. Often, a few horses keep guard when the others in the herd lie down to go into the deep REM sleep.
• Foals (a young horse) can stand and run shortly following birth to move with the herd and flee from a predator.
• Horses have the largest eyes of any land mammal and a very wide visionary spectrum of 350°, which allows them to scan nearly the whole landscape for approaching predators.


In the Year of the Horse, learn from the horse on how to enhance your ability to survive and thrive in the fast-changing, predatory business environment of the 21st century. Ask yourself:

  • What new ability can we develop to avoid and flee from danger and competition?
  • How can we more quickly get new employees up and running independently?
  • How to widen our market vision of the wider emerging market space?
  • How to more effectively spot emerging new trends and new technologies ahead of our competitors?
  • How to “change guard” with others to improve our market intelligence and market foresight?


© Dr. Detlef Reis 2014
This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on January 30 2014.