Business BushidoJune 7, 2021
Modern Bushido Should Be The Soul Of Business Etiquette.
“What is important is to try to develop insights and wisdom rather than mere knowledge, respect someone’s character rather than his learning, and nurture men of character rather than mere talents.” — Nitobe Inazō 新渡戸 稲造
I highly recommend the 2003 movie, The Last Samurai, featuring Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe, as well as a beautiful soundtrack by movie music legend Hans Zimmer.
The movie explores the conflict internal to Meiji period Japan as there is a desire to abandon “the old ways” and pursue Western, more industrialized societal norms.
It’s a film that’s aged well, and it has as many lessons about business, and life, as it does about Samurai and martial arts. If you’ve already seen it, watch it again and focus on the dialogue and the masterful acting of Ken Watanabe and his character, Katsumoto. He is the living, breathing embodiment of what is, in context, the dying code of Bushido, as a “new” Japan seeks western influence, clothing, and military hardware.
There are extremes within Samurai code, such as seppuku, but the balance of the chivalrous and humble behavior offers life and business lessons.
President Teddy Roosevelt, President John F. Kennedy, and Robert Baden-Powell all read Bushido: The Soul of Japan, a treatise about the way of the samurai. Nitobe Inazō (新渡戸 稲造 September 1, 1862 — October 15, 1933) was a Japanese economist, author, educator, diplomat, politician. Nitobe wrote this in English at the very end of the 19th century, in part based on Hagakure by Tsunetomo Yamamoto.
Bushido literally means “The Way of the Warrior,” and was considered a chivalrous code of sorts to embody behavior and expectations of the Samurai, warriors trained to protect the Shogun and other Japanese leadership.
Initially seven highly admired virtues were considered bushido, rectitude, courage, benevolence, politeness, sincerity, honor, loyalty, and self-control.
Nitobe studied Buddhism, Shintoism, Confucianism, and of course the entire historical context passed through centuries from Japanese Samurai, and sages, including along the way a review of western civilization and religious writings from a variety of time periods and societies.
“If there is anything to do, there is certainly a best way to do it, and the best way is both the most economical and the most graceful.” — Nitobe Inazō 新渡戸 稲造
Stephen Covey’s excellent Bushido Business: The Fine Art of the Modern Professional is a great place to start to reconnect with the timeless principles of honor and courtesy in business today. At a time when it’s hard to get a returned phone call, parties to a contract choose to ignore terms, companies take forever to pay, it might be worth revisiting the principles of conducting business in accordance with a code of conduct.
Progressive companies have instituted codes of conduct alongside vision and mission statements, but leadership must establish and reinforce the culture so that the company will be one that customers want to do business with, vendors want to sell to, managers want to manage, and employees want to work for.
Organizations should train people in organizational relations/culture cultivation programs to ensure that new managers (and some organizations in whole) don’t lack an understanding of the nuances of culture and miss cues on interpersonal communication and professional courtesy.
Fast is great, but not at the expense of professionalism. In addition to reading Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, new professionals should add to their business library, both Bushido: The Soul of Japan, and Bushido Business, The Fine Art of the Modern Professional.
Oh, and watch Katsumoto in The Last Samurai.