Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Productivity and Bruce Lee

Last night I watched the final episode of the tv series, The Legend of Bruce Lee, a rather detailed biopic of the late kungfu superstar. His character and philosophy of life reminded me somewhat of the definition of productivity that I told you about (here) some time ago; namely:

Productivity is, above all, an attitude of mind. It seeks to continually improve what already exists. It is based on a conviction that one can do things better today than yesterday and better tomorrow than today.

(From the report of the Rome Conference - European Productivity Agency, 1958).

If I asked you for one word to describe Bruce Lee’s fighting style, the words ‘fast’ or ‘speed’ will probably come to mind. But it wasn’t just the speed of his movements that made him such an outstanding martial artist. Apparently he went to great lengths to study the movements of the various fighting styles including his own original Wing Chun style. He meticulously refined these movements, cutting away the wasteful “motions”, as what we would call them in Industrial Engineering jargon. He even tried to combine a block simultaneously with a counter-attack.

People thought he was incredibly arrogant when he posted a sign outside his martial arts school saying that he would accept a challenge from anyone, anytime, any place. Actually his primary motive was to ‘upgrade’ and learn from his opponents. And after each encounter he would befriend his opponent and was totally open to share the secrets of his own craft.

Thus we see that this man was:

a) Never satisfied with the status quo.
b) Always questioning existing methods of doing things.
c) Always looking for better ways of doing things.
d) Open to new ideas no matter where they came from.
e) Constantly coming up with new ideas and innovations.

Such an attitude is central to the meaning of productivity and we would do well to learn from him. But one aspect of his character which we want to avoid is his stubbornness. He refused to accept advice from his loved ones to seek medical attention even when it became obvious that he had a serious health problem. The rest as they say, is history.