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Bushidō Management

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I’m a big fan of martial arts – whether that's practising them or watching a movie. They have also had a massive influence on my day job as a Marketer, Mentor, and Lecturer. In this article I am going to give you a brief insight into why - and maybe how Bushidō (the way of the samurai) could help you too in the workplace.

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Bushidō Management

  1. 1. AESTROAESTRO 092 // SPECIAL EDITION // THE-MARKETEERS.COM I’m a big fan of martial arts – whether that’s practising them or watching a movie. They have also had a massive influence on my day job as a Marketer, Mentor, and Lecturer. In this article I am going to give you a brief insight into why - and maybe how Bushido (the way of the samurai) could help you too in the workplace. BUSHIDO MANAGEMENT A turning point in the Japanese martial arts backstory In the early 1940’s, martial arts in university and school physical educational programmes galvanised Japanese society behind the Japanese military, and were used to implement direct military applications. However in 1945, following the US American occupation of Japan, a change in the Japanese constitution was enforced, making it a pacifist nation. Subsequently, a dim view was taken byWestern nations in the global community towards the place in society for martial training and practices arming civilians. JONATHAN(BILAL)A.J.WILSON
 ACADEMICPROGRAMMEDIRECTOR, POSTGRADUATESUITEINMARKETING UNIVERSITYOFGREENWICH,LONDONUK EDITOR:JOURNALOFISLAMICMARKETING
  2. 2. After a period of prohibition, Japan was able to adapt the training and practice of MartialWarfare successfully towards an acceptance by the US of it being something which became a national treasure. Here, the mission now shifted towards preserving culture, espousing ideals of pacifism and sporting excellence, and as an offering to non-Japanese individuals – namely, as Martial Arts. Comparisons can be made with the transformation from European practices of the art chivalry in the Middle Ages, into a sanitised romantic ideal of masculine codes of conduct. Its Japanese counterpart, Bushido (the way of the samurai) however, maintains a stronger presence in the psyche of not only Japan, but also the rest of the world.Within bushido exists a curriculum, which houses almost all the martial arts. Collectively, the attributes of martial arts were used to help rebuild trust and confidence in the Japanese Nation-brand, as a platform to improve international relations and market Japanese tourism and hospitality, culture, arts, and trade and commerce. For these reasons, the phenomenon of martial arts, continues to capture the imagination of a global audience: sports and health, entertainment and the arts, fashion, philosophy, business, and management doctrines all draw from the most effectual and iconic attributes that the arts have to offer. The journey into business and management Within business and management, institutions such as the Harvard Business School, amongst others, are seen, both conceptually and laterally, interpreting and applying many martial arts constructs in the business world. Notably, the circa 2,000 year old Chinese text, SunTzu’sThe Art ofWar (which is also held in high esteem in Japan), can be found widely with duplicate copies in the business, philosophy and martial arts sections ofWestern book stores – with some versions carrying supporting commentaries and applications, specific to business. In tandem, Japanese management practices are often still presented as being diametrically opposed in many ways to US approaches, on the other end of a polar scale of Eastern andWestern value systems. The Fight Club white-collar phenomenon Whilst management is largely a white- collar sedentary profession, it would appear that a significant proportion of managers attempt to maintain some form of holistic balance, by engaging in sporting activity – as participants, or spectators. They provide a fertile ground for reflective learning, as managers opt to engage in such activities, which tacitly influence their lenses and decision-making.We only have to look at the vast corporate sums spent on sponsorship, corporate hospitality, gym memberships, and sports column inches in business press to see how businesses and executives seek to align themselves with the idea of a corporate struggle being akin to that taking place on battlefields, in amphitheatres, rings, and stadiums. Also, the film Fight Club, has inspired the growth of white collar clubs, such as ‘The Real Fight Club’ in the UK; which seem to be reflective of both a desire of people to want to emulate their screen and ring icons, a craving for authenticity and pushing one’s body to the extreme.This is perhaps also evident in the number of reality television programmes such as Jackass TV, Last Man Standing and Bear Grylls - where the lines of athletic ability, pleasure and pain are blurred in an arena of entertainment. Within these, martial arts can be seen to have influenced mainstream entertainment and perceptions surrounding mental and physical excellence. In ‘civilised’ society the appetite to test the sensibilities of human existence remain - where most lives are governed by non- confrontational, sterilised and non-violent interactions.As an extension of this thinking, managers are considered to reflect upon the idea that mind, body and spirit should work together, in order to execute balanced management. No more so is this explicitly communicated than in Japan. Martial arts, and as an acceptable ‘modern’ and internationally recognised substitute, golf are seen to symbolise human excellence, and act as vehicles for personal development and networking. Martial Ethics and code of conduct Rules and codes of conduct are clearly laid out in martial arts. Considerable time is taken also to ground activities in a philosophical context.The rationale appears to be that the distinction between violence and martial arts lies in observing a blend of: honour, codes, ethics and motives.The root meaning of the word Samurai means ‘one who serves’ in Japanese.Therefore, all thoughts and actions are linked back to a collective obligation of duty, within a paradigm that relates to a higher good. For some samurai, this did not just mean serving a lord, shogun (supreme military commander), or emperor, but could also mean a religion, such as Shintoism, Buddhism, or Christianity. From these, it can be seen that the transition towards applying these concepts in the modern world, to areas such as sports, business and management, becomes an easy passage. Japanese cite the significance of the storyTaiko. In this story, the historical documentation of the exploits of Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, Ieyasu are shaped into a piece of historical fiction, charting how these three samurai individuals of different backgrounds, characters and personalities were able to unify Japan in the 16th century.This transition has stripped many of the traditional aesthetics, such as samurai hair styles, the carrying of two swords, a caste system, and a formal pledge of allegiance to a samurai clan - however practitioners still see themselves as preserving an emotional and esoteric bond to the same values.The core difference now however, is that studying martial arts in order to promote pacifism, is the key THE-MARKETEERS.COM // SPECIAL EDITION // 093
  3. 3. objective of practitioners. Mythology, Heritage and Storytelling As with theTaiko story, many other tales exist which steep martial arts in religion, philosophy and mysticism.These are seen to enrich the character of the practitioner and satiate what are seen to be the emotional and mental drivers behind human existence. The exemplar of these characteristics in Japan is Miyamoto Musashi. Musashi is remembered for many things: an unusual two sword style of fighting; the decision in his young adulthood to enter duals armed with only a wooded sword; philosophical prose, art and sculpture; to name a few. Japanese culture has also sought to preserve and cement these perspectives using: wood- block prints, film, dramas, manga, anime and advertising copy. Broader literature indicates that many samurai as part of their curriculum traditionally also studied, philosophy, geography and mathematics – designed to equip them with the necessary skills on the battlefield.These coupled with the mentorship within martial arts codes, assisted the transition towards senior decision making positions and roles of authority. Interestingly, brush calligraphy was also studied, as it shares an esoteric link with mastering the rhythm and skills needed with wielding a weapon. One metaphor offered is that ink, like blood, once spread, is hard to remove – so one should think wisely before acting. Depending on the aims and objectives of the club and the participants, some modern day clubs have sought to preserve more of these wider elements of the curriculum than others. Of the ones that do, results suggest that participants are likely to remain engaged for longer and see a greater inherent benefit in transferable skills in every day life. In this way, comparisons can be seen with organisations, which offer team building exercises, diverse curriculums and courses – housing them within strong and compelling mission statements and corporate heritage. Reports on Google’s ‘wacky office’, attracting top international graduate recruits, using unconventional recruitment questions, a batman slide, free food, chill-out aquarium and a games room, amongst other things.Whilst they have little in common with samurai culture and values, they share the concept that: storytelling, linked with a rich environment and experiences, help to support their mission, attract the best talent and deliver a unique competitive advantage. Strategic aims and objectives As mentioned earlier, Harvard Business School, amongst others, are seen to conceptually and laterally, interpret then apply many martial arts constructs in the business world – such as SunTzu’sThe Art ofWar. Internet searches indicate that a considerable number of websites offer translations, interpretations and courses, aimed at business and policy makers. Martial arts clubs appear to promote the importance of having an individual strategy, based upon informed judgements, experiences and environmental analyses - which through collective obligations, culminate in personal and collective gains.To this end, strategies are formulated through: (1) mentorship (2) physical and mental training, and (3) socialisation (4) Reflection. By using four variables, martial arts clubs are also able to accommodate individuals of mixed abilities and disabilities. I argue therefore, that physical and at times violent activity, if controlled and managed, can be conducive to organisational strategic aims and objectives in the business world – as they encourage motor neurone coordination; speed of thought; ability to cope with stress and pressure; and increased levels of trust.The martial arts practitioners that I interviewed, ranging from blue to white collar, confirmed my observations. Many commented on the fact that they felt more awake and alert, finding it difficult to sleep at night after training - despite at times having felt too tired to train beforehand. Corporate Branding and Affiliation Martial arts clubs pride themselves on their brand, affiliations, lineage and the key stakeholders within their organisations. There are three arguments offered for this: (1) Kudos takes a considerable amount of time, through demonstration of excellence and peer acceptance, (2)These are the means by which new students judge clubs and offer patronage.Therefore, they reduce dissonance and increased perceived brand value, and (3) Japanese and samurai culture encourages overt branding, through clanship and crests. Formal traditional Japanese clothing can be seen to carry a family crest in five positions on a kimono. AESTROAESTRO 094 // SPECIAL EDITION // THE-MARKETEERS.COM DEDICATION DETERMINATION DISCIPLINE FIGURE 1 Core attributes of a martial artist
  4. 4. THE-MARKETEERS.COM // SPECIAL EDITION // 095 Therefore, comparable to other ancient clan structures, such as in Scotland, which has crests and specific tartans linked to family names; cultures such as Japan and Scotland offer great branding potential to other branded commodities.These can be observed particularly with Japanese car manufacturers and Scottish foods and drinks - offering reciprocal benefits of authenticity, cultural artefact status and brand recognition. Leadership and management Leadership in all martial arts tends towards a top-down autocracy, which maintains power distances.There are clearly defined roles, which even extend to where martial artists should sit, according to rank, in traditional clubs.Acceptance appears to occur through a distribution of controlled soft-power based on meritocracy, which act as incentives. Especially within Japan, it appears that an added preference is given to age, years of service to the club and years of experience, over grade. Parallels can be drawn between this and wider perceptions and practices held between Eastern and Western cultures.This is why in some cases, clubs in Europe and North America tend towards favouring actual grades – as they are seen as being more in-keeping with low-context cultural traits and alternative perceptions of a meritocracy. Organisational Behaviour and Culture Within the traditional martial arts, the first things that are taught to a beginner are etiquette, rituals and their meanings: Where to bow, sit, and right down to even how a wooden sword should be placed on the ground and which way it should face. Throughout training, overt and prolonged observation is encouraged. Those being observed are encouraged not to feel self-conscious and not to think too deeply about the reasons why. This is perhaps different to traditional business and management approaches, which would perceive such free and prolonged observations by junior members as being a demonstration of incompetence, non- engagement or feeling lost. Furthermore, in the case of seniors observing juniors, this is not necessarily the case that those juniors are doing something wrong. Repetition linked to observation and personal reflection, are seen as being the bedrock of successful understanding and execution.Anecdotally, one senior instructor described his role as being a sculptor attempting to turn a cube into a sphere:The rationale being at first large corners had to be removed, and then after time what was left was the need for him to polish and add lustre to the newly formed shape (or pupil).This indicates that teachers allow students to make mistakes during their training process, whilst they are acquiring the motor and mental skills to be able to accommodate new techniques. Interestingly, a trait of the traditional martial arts teacher is that they disclose that they are also still on the same path of ‘polishing’. The application within business and management points to a debate which can draw parallels of excellence examining motivating factors - which in some ways are akin to McGregor’s constructs: theory-X DOJO (CLUB) SENSEI (TEACHER) KOHAI (JUNIOR/ PROTEGE) PEERS SEMPAI (SENIOR/ MENTOR) FIGURE 2 Five pillars of etiquette and respect required by practitioners
  5. 5. AESTROAESTRO 096 // SPECIAL EDITION // THE-MARKETEERS.COM (work is disliked and individuals must be coerced) and theory-Y (work is natural and a source of satisfaction) (McGregor 1960). Maslow (1970) and Ouchi (1981) expand discussions towards also considering a third position, namely theory-Z (motivation results from a sense of loyalty and long-term approach to job creation). It is observed that martial artists are likely to demonstrate all three positions: X,Y and Z.And so, I argue that the significant factor in motivation, is engineering loyalty to bushido through soft-power coercion, and/or collaboration. In doing so, loyalty to a ‘professional’ code is of more significance, than to an organisation. Therefore, collectively martial artists strive for excellence within the wider fraternity. Human Resources and Operations management There remain differences between traditional and modern martial arts; with the manner in which participant members are recruited, motivated, retained and marketed to. Modern martial arts have a tendency towards formalised: contracts, penalising payments and marketing – where students have to sign up to direct debits; and are given timetables and forecasts for grading.Therefore, like modern gyms, regular payments are seen as a theory-X method of motivating participants to train. Where, participants will feel a financial loss if they don’t attend training, which should encourage them to turn up.Also, more modern club leaders appear to see this as a job and a source of income - so have a tendency towards being motivated also by recruiting, in order to generate revenue. Traditional martial arts favour an informal relationship ‘open door’ approach, which shifts the burden of responsibility and information gathering onto the participant. Many sensei have other sources of income, which they see as being a necessary component in purifying their commitment to martial arts. Here it could be argued then that traditional arts share a correlation with not-for-profit organisations. Donations are welcomed and club fees are calculated according to the means of the students. Some dojos have supported students’ training and trips to Japan, solely through donations. Furthermore, due to this structure, sensei appear to be older and more amenable to donating resources – be they time, or equipment. Grading exams are rarely failed, as students are not allowed to sit them, unless they are already deemed to be of that standard.Therefore, grades are more peer recognition and a formalisation of what students have been achieving for several months.This is not to say that they are easier, as students still have to sit an exam in front of an audience of senior instructors (which may also include a written paper), which appears to bring comparable levels of nerves and stress. However, one notable difference is that here, suspicions of grades being about an opportunity for the club to make money are removed. In addition, some participants chose to skip the junior grades, waiting to opt for their first exam being a Dan grade (black belt).Anecdotally, some traditional sensei, cited that junior kyu grades (coloured belts before black – Dan grades) are for children as an incentive. Therefore, adults should be considered to focus on the arts, rather than the belts. My findings also indicate that traditional martial arts clubs have smaller numbers, but many of their students are more committed, stay for longer and achieve higher grades. Conclusion Physical activity is good for the mind, body, and soul. Even better when you get to let off some steam in a safe environment. We also tend to stick at doing something for longer when there is a higher purpose, sense of community, trust, and it’s part of a tradition steeped in cultural heritage. A form of corporate branding, identity, mission, and reputation management lay the foundations for people to keep the mythology and storytelling alive of an organisation. We need rules, rituals, and rewards, and in fact we enjoy the theatre of competing in costume, whether that’s samurai dress, or even a business suit – at long as it is at an appropriate level. Furthermore, we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of repetition and practising the art of watching others and then reflecting – all in
  6. 6. THE-MARKETEERS.COM // SPECIAL EDITION // 097 Reading list • Abe, I.Yasuharu, K. and Nakajima, K. (2000),“Sport and Physical Education under Fascistization in Japan,” Inyo, [internet] http://ejmas.com/jalt/jaltart_ abe_0600.htm [Accessed 31st Jan 2011]. • Benedict, R. (1950),The Chrysanthemum and the Sword – Patterns of Japanese Culture, (1st pub. 1946), NeyYork, NY: Mariner Books. • Cleary,T. (1991),The Japanese Art of War – Understanding the Culture of Strategy, Shambala Publications Inc.: Boston, MA. • Cleary,T. (1999), Code of the Samurai – a modern translation of the Bushido Shoshinshu of Taira Shigesuke, North Clarendon,VT:Tuttle Publishing. • Davies, R.J. and Ikeno, O. (2002), The Japanese Mind – Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture, North Clarendon,VT:Tuttle Publishing. • Hendry, J. (2003), London: Understanding Japanese Society, 3rd Edition, Routledge Curzon. • Hofstede, G. and Bond, M. (1988), “The Confucian connection: from cultural roots to economic growth”, Organisational Dynamics,Vol. 16 no. 4, pp. 4-21. • Jorgensen, D. (1989), Participant Observation, Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.Junkers, B.H. (1960), Fieldwork:An Introduction to the Social Sciences, Chicago University, IL. • Kaufman, S. F. (1994),The Martial Artist’s Book of Five Rings – The Definitive Interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi’s Classic Book of Strategy, Boston, MA: Tuttle Company Inc • Kiyota, M. (2002),The Shambala Guide to Kendo, Boston, MA: Shambala Publications Inc. • Leggett,T. (2003), Samurai Zen – The Warrior Koans, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. • Ochiai, H. (2001),A Way toVictory – The Annotated Book of Five Rings: Miyamoto Mushashi’s Classic Guide to Strategy, Woodstock, NY:The Overlook Press. • Oliver, J. and Eales, K. (2008),“Research ethics: Re-evaluating the consequentialist perspective of using covert participant observation in management research”, Qualitative Market Research:An International Journal,Vol. 11 Iss: 3, pp.344 – 357. • Ouchi,W. G. (1981),Theory Z, NewYork: Avon Books. • Maslow,A. H. (1970), Motivation and Personality, NewYork: Harper & Row, p.28. • McGregor, D. (1960),The Human Side of the Enterprise, McGraw-Hill: NewYork. • Mintzberg, H., and Gosling, J. (2002), “Educating managers beyond borders”. Academy of Management Learning and Education,Vol. 1, No. 1: 64–76. • Morris, I. I. (1960), Nationalism and the Right Wing in Japan:A Study of Post-War Trends, London: Oxford University Press. • Munenori,Y. (2003),The Life-Giving Sword – Secret Teachings from the House of the Shogun, trans.William Scott Wilson, NY, NY: Kodansha International. • Nitobe, I. (1900), Bushido – The Soul of Japan, trans.Tokuhei Suchi, Philadelphia: The Leeds & Biddle Co. • Nonaka, I. (1991),“The knowledge creating company”, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2007, Managing for the long term. • Soho,T. (1987), The Unfettered Mind – Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master, trans.William Scott Wilson, NY, NY: Kodansha International. • Svinth, J. (2002), “Documentation Regarding the Budi Ban in Japan, 1945-1950”, Journal of Combative Sport, Dec. 2002, [internet] http://ejmas.com/jcs/ jcsart_svinth_1202.htm [Accessed 31st Jan 2011]. • Tokitsu, K. (1947), Miyamoto Musashi: his Life and Writings, 2004 translation by Shambala Publications, Boston, MA: Shambala Publications Inc. • Tsunetomo,Y. (2000), Hagukure – The Book of the Samurai, trans.William Scott Wilson, London: Kodansha Europe. • Vinten, G. (1994),“Participant Observation:A Model for Organizational Investigation?”, Journal of Managerial Psychology,Vol. 9 No., pp. 30-38. • Wakefield, J. (2008),“Google your way to a wacky office”, BBC News Website, Technology section, http://news.bbc. co.uk/1/hi/7290322.stm [Accessed 1st Feb 2011]. • Wilson,W. S. (1982), Ideals of The Samurai – Writings of Japanese Warriors, trans.William Scott Wilson, Ed. Gregory N. Lee, Santa Clarita, CA: Ohara Publications Inc. • Wilson,W. S. (2004),The Lone Samurai – The Life of Miyamoto Musashi, NY, NY: Kodansha International. • Yoshikawa, E. (2000),Taiko – An Epic Novel of War and Glory in Feudal Japan, NY, NY: Kodansha International. a safe environment where people don’t feel as if they are being judged and criticised unnecessarily without good intention. Community means that people have roles and responsibilities and there is room to progress.All of this is hard work for everyone; but when it works, an atmosphere is created which energises people - and they become self-motivated, and there own greatest critics. Finally, if we reflect on our current work environments: would we perform better in teams if we spent time together on communal physical activities; creative arts like calligraphy and poetry; and studying science, geography, history, and fast and slow culture? That all may seem a little crazy, but I’m sure that a curriculum of a couple of hours a week spent on a selection of these activities would have measurable effects which could deliver competitive advantages.After all, isn’t this what we used to do at school, and think how crucial these were in developing us?

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