Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Wax on, Wax off

So, I’m a martial arts tragic. No, not the movies (although they can be stupidly awesome!) I’m training in a mixed martial art called Shindubo – bit of tae kwon do, hint of judo, a dash of kickboxing, massive amounts of fun. Maybe, one day, I’ll be a Black Belt but right now I’m Green.

Among the many, many great things about my training is the little life lessons you pick up along the way and the little ‘Zenisms’ that our instructors drop into the class every now and then (more on those later!)

The biggest lesson for me so far, that made me completely re-think how organisations should operate, is the Shinbudo practice of ‘service’.

This is how it works.

When you start off in your very first class, you’re given a white ‘gi’ – those loose martial arts  jacket and pants, tied with a white belt.

And as a White Belt, you know nothing. Really, clueless. Not even a danger to yourself (trust me, that comes later!).

Gradually, each week, a senior Belt (someone who’s earned Blue or Brown or Red or Black) will spend time with you to teach you another aspect of your technique. It might have been years since they had to learn that basic technique but here’s the thing: years ago, another senior belt took time away from their practice to teach them. And so, they pass that training on, under the principle of ‘giving service’.

It’s seen as an honour to be able to ‘give service’ and it’s certainly an honour to receive it. 

Plus - and here is the kicker - you aren't eligible to be graded to a higher belt unless you can demonstrate that you have given service. The more senior you are, the move service you have to give.


Here’s the question: why aren’t our organisations built that way? Where senior people are respected for what they know and have accomplished? Where there’s an expectation, built in to every single day, that senior people will steward juniors? Where juniors do the same to those coming immediately behind them?

Think of the benefits of capturing and storing intellectual property. For closing succession gaps. For attracting candidates who want to speed up their learning.

Why don’t we do this? Please tell me SOMEONE is doing this really well? Or maybe you’re trying to embed this practice inside your organisation? Is it working? Is there resistance? Do I have to send the Black Belts around?!


gemma said...

Yes we need the black belts in our organisation! Interesting post. Keep them coming.

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