Yes we Kan: Agile Culture and Innovation Lessons from Mongolian Warriors
For centuries his name was synonymous with violence, savagery, bloodlust and destruction. He was called “Mighty Assassin”, “Scourge of God”, “Perfect Warrior”, “Lord of Thrones and Crowns”. His empire, by far the largest in area in history, it is said, left no great inventions, works of art, literature, or religions. And his unity lasted until shortly after his death, on August 18, 1227.
But something is changing around the figure of Genghis Khan, the great Mongol warrior. In recent years, a dozen non-fiction books have given a new focus and context to his legacy, based on new discoveries and scientific advances that allow a better understanding of what happened eight centuries ago. Genghis Khan even became a star of non-fiction literature on change and innovation, with best-selling authors such as Kevin Kelly or Ryan Holiday who They stand out from their learning capacity and flexibility to their lessons for the new digital nomadism.
in language of startup In modern modern times, it inaugurated an “agile culture”, with its swift cavalry and lethal surprise attacks, which made the armor of the heavy medieval armies obsolete, with more numerous incumbents and stronger a priori on paper, which ended up succumbing.
“Although Genghis Khan was not born a genius and had a poor and cruel childhood, he lived in a permanent cycle of pragmatic learning, experimental adaptation and constantly revised plans, which were articulated from his unique discipline, focus and purpose. writes anthropology professor and Mongol empire expert Jack Weatherford, author of Genghis Khan and the arming of the modern world.
In this cocktail of revisionism to the rescue of the Great Khan there are from frontier genetic advances (according to an international team of geneticists, one in twelve men in Asia, which is equivalent to one in 200 in the world, carry a form of chromosome “Y” which originated in Mongolia at that time) to new decryption technologies, which led to a modern and valid translation of a manuscript, The Secret History of the Mongols, believed lost and recovered in Beijing in the 1950s. of the 30. It is written in Chinese, but replicating the phonetics of the Mongolian dialect of the 1200s, which took scholars decades to decipher.
Thus, some surprising conclusions were reached. In 25 years, the Mongols conquered more land and people than the Romans had in four centuries. The stature of Genghis Khan as a warrior was above Alexander the Great, the Caesars or Napoleon. The territory they came to dominate ranged from the Pacific to the Mediterranean, in the current equivalent of 30 countries where 3 billion people live.
And while he left no great monuments, there was one type of architectural structure that Genghis Khan built more than anyone: bridges, tens of thousands. “His empire united and amalgamated cultures that until then had no knowledge of one another,” notes Weatherford, an academic who divides his time between the United States and Mongolia. For many historians, this opening of the commercial routes was what ended up facilitating the renaissance in Europe, with knowledge, products, services and customs that arrived from very remote places.
In the field of new disclosure on innovation and change, Genghis Khan and Mongolia have their fans. Kevin Kelly, the former editor of wiredspent months in this country and wrote a long essay entitled What Mongolian nomads teach us about the digital future. Kelly left the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, to venture into the steppes and see how the inhabitants of these challenging areas move all their belongings twice a year, carrying only the essentials. The rest is provided by nature, and for Kelly the same will happen with our digital environment in the places we travel.
“From new discoveries we also know that Genghis Khan had a brutal side, but also another one of greater tolerance, less known: he allowed religious freedom in the territories he conquered and was the founder of the custom of giving diplomatic immunity to envoys and ambassadors from other regions.”, remarks Elio Rodríguez Marquina, a professional in Economic Sciences from Tucuman, who closely follows this agenda. There are several economists from the region who have traveled to Mongolia and are scholars of the history and culture of that country; among others, Eric Parrado, the chief economist of the IDB and María Laura Alzua, economist of Cedlas de la Plata.
This lesser-known tolerant side meant that, for some political scientists who defended his figure, Mongolia democratized “at the speed of light” once Soviet rule ended in 1990: that same year there were free elections and the following the new Constitution.
In his best seller The ego is your enemyRyan Holiday devotes an entire chapter to highlighting how the Great Khan’s openness to learning was a key to his military success. It is also a paradigmatic case of senior revolution: the leader dedicated himself to learning all his life from him. In the places he conquered he first asked to meet the wise men and the most knowledgeable people, whom he never executed. He died at the age of 72 waging war against generals half his age, whom he defeated thanks to his experience and flexibility. “He never fought the same battle twice,” says one of his biographers.
“He was a perpetual student, whose incredible victories were the result of his ability to absorb the best technologies, practices and innovations from every culture he came into contact with,” Holiday remarks. “He was the greatest conqueror in history because he was open to learning more than any other conqueror who ever lived.” the author continues.
“He used Chinese engineers to build new machines to tear down walls, and German miners to get supplies for his army. Arriving in a new realm he summoned his scribes, astronomers, physicians, and thinkers. He facilitated the arrival of lemons in China and noodles in Europe, he globalized Persian rugs, French blacksmithing and Islam. He lowered taxes and eliminated them for doctors and teachers, ”says the author of The ego…
Contrary to popular belief, greater knowledge is a career that often follows the path of humility. Physicist John Wheeler, one of the hydrogen bomb theorists, once observed that “as the island of our knowledge grows, so does its outline separating us from the sea of our ignorance.” The wisdom of Socrates: “I only know that I know nothing.”