The Joy of Rajio Taisou

Over the last 40 years, a number of Japanese manufacturers have established factories in the UK.  They brought “just in time” and Kanban methods to their factories here …and also their habit of having staff take part in daily communal exercises.  In Japan, they call it “Rajio Taisou” – “rajio” which means radio and “taisou” which means physical exercise.

Studies have suggested that this daily exercise  leads to better employee health (i.e. less illness and reduced longer-term conditions like heart disease etc) leading to less absenteeism; and also to fewer accidents in the workplace – perhaps the exercise increases strength and co-ordination.  Employees say that the exercise fosters a stronger sense of community within the workforce.

Yet I am interested in the impact of Rajio Taisou upon mental wellbeing.  It would seem that such an exercise regimen provides a useful “cue” – to enable people to “get ready to work” – but I think it is deeper than that.

In a previous blog I looked at the way we can often take our mood (anger, aggression, upset, depression or anxiety) from one area of our lives into the next. Rajio Taisou often uses slow “co-ordination exercises” that require concentration – providing an opportunity to “decompress” and free the mind from chatter, rumination and anxiety.  This may well have the effect of setting aside the emotions that the staff bring into work with them… allowing them to then focus and engage in their work without such “internal distractions”.  In fact the evidence does show that concentration is improved and mistakes are reduced.  And it may lead to an “endomorphine rush” or even an absorption, or “flow experience”, that could both create a feeling of happiness.

Finally,  studies show that we often take habits from one part of our lives to another.  Starbucks was at one point the USA’s largest educator as it sought to tech its staff “self-reliance” (i.e. personal organisation and wellbeing so that staff increased their self-confidence and ability to engage with customers).  It seems that by becoming better organised in their domestic arrangements then they would bring these habits into their sport, their work, their diet and their interpersonal relationships.  It could be that Rajio Taisou achieves a similar effect of  introducing organisation into the start of their day.

The Starbucks case study is a fascinating story – as is the case whereby industrial giant Alcoa was transformed by a programme that had the whole company focus on safety… but curiously this had the effect of boosting productivity and empowering staff to increase innovation… such that the business results were very impressive.

As you might expect I am very interested  to identify a company that might become the “mindful company” – so that by focusing on supporting staff to improve their mindfulness the results would go beyond the immediate gains of reducing absenteeism, staff turnover and mistakes – but could also empower staff and increase openness and psychological safely to drive  innovation and change.  I am thinking that any kind of consumer facing or care or educational organisation might be right for such a programme. Please contact me if you might be curious.

Don’t let your recent past mess up your present …or your future

A contact suggested that I check-out  Adam Fraser on YouTube.   Basically Fraser’s ideas seem to centre around the way we take our emotional states from one part of our lives to the next – and how helpful it is if we can avoid doing so.  So arriving at work after  a row at home might impact on our day – and similarly, arriving home while still pumped up over work issues might not be great for our evening!

I read  “The Up-Side of Irrationality” by Dan Airley.  Amongst the many fascinating insights into how we behave irrational, Airley described an experiment where they looked at the persistence of mood (“priming”) from one task to the next …and how it can cause us to adopt an “unhelpfully” position or actions.  In one experiment he “primed” some subjects to be “mean-spirited” and then asked them to make some unrelated  decisions… unsurprisingly perhaps, the mean-spirited took that attitude into their subsequent decision making.  What was more amazing was that when they went back to the task weeks later the subjects  still took the same types of decisions  in comparison with a control group – so this suggests that the effects of such “mood priming” can persist for months once established!

So if you have a car accident on the way to work – and then deal with the needs of some new client then you might let the one thing impact on the other –  and you may be little too harsh.  Yet Airley shows us that you may continue to “punish” the client that way… even when the traffic accident is a dim and distant memory… and your sleek bodywork has been fixed.

So what to do? – Well the US military has shown that practicing mindfulness means that soldiers need less decompression after stressful or high pressure experiences;   and are less likely to suffer PTSD.  And mindfulness can allow people to find “acceptance” for situations or for the actions of others. [NB: by “acceptance” I mean “accepting that these things have happened” rather than accepting that they were “fair and just” etc.]

So it seems  we need a kind of “emotional airlock” after torrid events… or when moving from one experience to another .  A brief grounding meditation – may take only seconds – buy might limit this emotional contagion.

In my next blog post I will look at how “Rajio Taisou” – Japanese daily “radio exercise”  practiced in factories –  might be doing just that.