The Chinese idiom 集思廣益 (jí sī guǎng yì), literally “collective wisdom reaps wide benefits,” states that gathering opinions while drawing on all useful ideas is of broad benefit to all.
The idiom originated from a story about the strategist and statesman Zhuge Liang in the historical text “Records of the Three Kingdoms,” which covers the history of China’s late Eastern Han Dynasty (A.D. 184–220) and Three Kingdoms Period (A.D. 220–280).
Zhuge Liang (181–234) was instrumental in the rise of military leader Liu Bei, helping Liu establish the Shu Han Kingdom (221–263), one of the three kingdoms of that period.
Following Liu’s death in 223, his son ascended the throne and Zhuge effectively became the kingdom’s chief administrator as he assumed the office of prime minister.
As he continued to work tirelessly and with great loyalty serving the country alongside the new emperor of Shu, Zhuge Liang paid high regard to the advice of his subordinates.
The prime minister’s office became a place known for welcoming discussion.
Zhuge Liang said: “My office allows everyone to come and participate in the discussion of state affairs. This is in order to gather the collective wisdom and opinions of the people.
“By widely listening to advice and adopting useful suggestions, we can achieve better results and greater effectiveness for the court.”
Seeing Zhuge Liang’s genuine sincerity, his subordinates also placed high importance on state affairs. And if they had different opinions from Zhuge, they did not hesitate to openly express their views.
In return, Zhuge highly appreciated and praised those officials who had the courage to raise their ideas and points of view.
Due to Zhuge Liang’s openness to alternative opinions and ongoing dialogue with his subordinates, the Shu Han Kingdom became stronger and more prosperous under his good governance.