The Shibumi Strategy

A Powerful Way to Create Meaningful Change

Matthew E. May

Jossey-Bass, November 2010

The Shibumi Strategy is a little book about a big breakthrough. It tells the story of Andy Harmon, a hardworking family man who finds himself in crisis when his company closes. Through his struggle, and guidance from unlikely sources, he learns subtle lessons in the form of “personal Zen” principles, coming to understand that it is often the unexpected setbacks that harbor the power to transform. When approached as an opportunity, these unforeseen trials can often result in a life-changing breakthrough. For Andy, it comes in the form of shibumi–a Japanese word and Zen ideal without direct translation in English but connoting effortless effectiveness, elegant simplicity, and the height of personal excellence.

Engaging and enlightening, The Shibumi Strategy provides a pathway for a five-phase cycle, encompassing lessons on commitment, preparation, struggle, breakthrough, and transformation. Also included are short insights, practical takeaways, and exercises for incorporating this philosophy in everyday life.

Designed to strike a universal chord, Andy’s journey toward shibumi enables individuals to adopt their own interpretations of the concept and create meaningful changes in their lives. For those navigating difficult transitions, struggling to overcome internal setbacks, seeking to regain balance, or simply taking new directions, The Shibumi Strategy offers a fresh perspective on the challenges we all face at some point in work and life.

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About the Author

Matthew E. May is an internationally recognized expert on change, innovation and design strategy. He has been featured by The Wall Street Journal, CNN and National Public Radio. He is a columnist for the American Express Small Business OPEN Forum Idea Hub, where he writes in the popular “The World” section. May is the author most recently of In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing (2009), which was a 2009 Inc. magazine bestseller and was named to the BusinessWeek 2009 Best Business Books in the Design/Innovation category. His preceding book, The Elegant Solution: Toyota’s Formula for Mastering Innovation (2006), won the Shingo Research Prize for Excellence.