Grasp the Essence of Motorcycle?

Soichiro Honda, founder of Honda, is immortalized in a photograph hanging in the Automotive Hall of Fame in Michigan.  He is at a motorcycle-racing track crouching down to see as a racer would, with his hands on the ground to feel the vibration and listening intently to the sound of the engine.  He found the essence of the motorcycle using attention to detail and persistence, traits vital in a successful and wise leader.

Tadashi Yanai a successful business leader and author of One Win, Nine Losses says, “do what is 100% right, concentrate on small things, and continue going back to the basics.   Unless you do that, you cannot move to the next stage.  The secret to success is doing the basics day in and day out.”   This level of focus and commitment enables leaders to reach the essence of problem solving and success.  But if this is not a strength of yours already, how can you develop it?

In Harvard Business Review, business scholars and authors Nonaka and Takuchi reveal the six abilities they have found in phronetic leaders.  The second ability they found is to grasp the essence – the universal truths from the particulars and the details.  This expansion requires continual interaction between subjective intuition and objective knowledge.  This can be cultivated by three mind-stretching routines:

1)   Relentlessly ask what the basis of a problem or a situation is.  Toyota employees as “Why?” five times to get to the basis, or root of the problem.  At Honda they ask three different questions – what are the specifications, what is the idea behind this engine, and then what are the essential goals of this engine/what’s it for?

2)   See the trees and the forest at the same time.  Leaders never forget the big picture while managing the details.

3)   Construct and test hypotheses continually – never rely on history or precedent to guide your organization.

How can you build these routines into your day, your staff, and your organization as a whole?  What essence do you want to grasp?

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