The past decade or so culture has been a big buzz word in corporate USA. Tech companies have long hung their hat on the premise their culture is what attracts and keeps top talent and their work environments drive innovation. Even here at MAMA we pride ourselves on the culture we have built and sustained as a separator from everyone else. Yet here we are during a pandemic with a growing call to maintain working from home spawned by claims of increased productivity. Bringing into question the workplace culture.
We discuss culture a lot at UNO, especially in the Department of Management. So when employees vocalize they are more productive at home vice the workplace ears naturally perk up. A harsh reality check may be evident. Companies are faced with the truth that their exhaustive efforts to create a happy happy culture did not really get people to work harder or be more productive. It may have done just the opposite. All the ping pong tables, coffee bars, and rock-climbing walls (yes, Facebook’s HQ has one!) may have created a distraction filled, underperforming environment. The great campaign to eliminate cubicle hell may have swung so far that the office became a bastion of unproductive social loafing.
By definition, culture is “the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.” For the business environment it is a commonality among employees in which they share set of collective beliefs, values, and attitudes, a sense of belonging. The martial arts culture is traditionally one of discipline and selflessness. A commonality of scholarly warriors pursuing the perfection of the total self while maintaining the utmost respect of the people and environment around them. Kyudo master Hideharu Onuma was asked by some students how they should practice after they returned to the United States, and he could no longer instruct them. He replied, “Your practice should always center around these six elements: truth, goodness, beauty, balance, humility, and perseverance.”
At MAMA, we work hard to offer a safe environment that allows people to create better versions of themselves through the practice of the martial arts. When we stray from it we start to lose what drives our culture. It does not matter what bells and whistles we attach to the facility or gimmicks we incorporate into the classes. If our coaches lose focus on quality instruction and helping the students, we fracture our culture. If we allow our students to stop respecting one another in favor of selfish gain, we fracture our culture. As my dad used to say, “Lipstick on a pig is still a pig.” No matter how much we gussy up the place if we lose sight of our “why” students walk away unfulfilled and eventually disgruntled. How do I know? We’ve been there. We have lost sight and our way in the past. It was not pleasant; truth told it almost cost the business. It wasn’t easy to get back on the right path either.
Culture takes time and effort. Even longer if focus is on all the wrong things. Our culture over time has become a group of people using the martial arts as a common ground while supporting and respecting one another in our individual efforts toward self-actualization. The word dojo literally translates in meaning to “place of the Way.” People finding their way. The reasons each student begins their martial arts journey are as wide and varied as there are people. Yet, when you look into a class you see commonality and unity.