rigidity is a typical example of one of them. What is flexible rigidity, and how can one be flexible and at the same time rigid? To answer this question we will take a closer look at the life and career of Soichiro Honda, the founder of Honda Motor Company.
Soichiro was born in 1906. .His mother was an expert weaver while his father was a welder who specialised in bicycle repairs. At an early age Soichiro set out to become the Napoleon of Mechanics. That was his ambition and mission; and not once did that ideal leave his heart. When he was about to leave higher elementary school, Soichiro Honda saw an advertisement for Tokyo Art Shokai, an automobile servicing company, in a magazine. The advertisement itself was not for bicycles but for "Manufacture and Repair of Automobiles, Motorcycles and Gasoline Engines". It was not even a job advertisement, but a casual marketing placement. Soichiro cut the advertisement and went on to apply for a job as apprentice with the company. Surprisingly his application was successful.
Soichiro was recruited as an apprentice by the Art Shokai company. However, to his surprise when he reported for work his boss assigned him to be a babysitter for his youngest child. Surprised but not deterred, Soichiro applied himself diligently to the assignment. Soon he realised the advantages of the assignment and capitalised on them. While company regulations did not allow the apprentices and other employees to move throughout the workshop, and from one station to another, Soichiro was not bound by those regulations. As a result he would strap the baby tightly and move throughout the workshop as long as the baby was deemed to be safe.
This freedom allowed Soichiro to learn all aspects of the business without being hamstrung by the company regulations. Although he could have given up or refused to babysit Soichiro saw the babysitting as a valuable orientation to the workings of the workshop.
Later he excelled as an apprentice for six years after which he partnered with his boss and opened a mechanics shop in his home town. Although the business was successful, Soichito was neither enamored nor ensnared by that success but remained focused on his ambition to become the Napoleon of Mechanics.
Later he experimented with producing pistons for motor cars. Of the order of 50 that he supplied Toyota, only three were deemed to be of the required quality standards. Stung by this rejection, Soichito, enrolled to study mechanics and manufacturing at a local university.
There he developed quite a reputation for missing all classes serve those that had direct relevance to his business and career. Armed with the newly acquired knowledge, he returned to his business and managed to improve both productivity and sales.
However, during the Second World War his factory was razed to the ground by American bombs. As the bombing continued he realised that he could put the metallic remnants from the bombs to good use in his rebuilding exercise.
He started calling the bombs free gifts from our American friend, President Truman. After the war Japan was hit by a severe shortage of fuel, Honda responded by attaching a motor to his bicycle thus creating a motorised bicycle which became very popular.
That was the birth of the motor cycle. He followed this by producing fuel efficient vehicles under the Honda brand. Although the road was bumpy when Honda died in 1991 he was indeed regarded by many as The Napoleon of Mechanics. He had achieved his goals. What then is flexible rigidity?
Flexible rigidity is the ability to combine both flexibility and rigidity in the pursuit of one's goals. Every objective has two defining characteristics; the end and the means for achieving that end. Flexible rigidity means keeping the end constant; but keeping an open mind on the tactics, strategies and means of achieving it. It is the art of being stubborn about the destination but flexible about the path to the destination. Flexible rigidity begins with the setting of goals.
Generally there are three types of people. There are those that practice flexible flexibility. These people are flexible about anything and everything. They are blown by every wind, and to them any destination is good enough. Ultimately they achieve very little. Dead fish are a good example as they go anywhere where the tide takes them. The second group practices rigid rigidity. These are like the rock of Gibraltar. They are neither moved by common sense nor new ideas. Their inflexibility is their downfall. They are inflexible about where they want to go; and also inflexible about how to get there.
When new ideas, new facts, new evidence and new methods emerge they remain stuck and faithful to their fossilised ways. They are incapable of saying, "I changed my mind."Flexible rigidity involves seeing things from the different perspectives available. When everyone was traumatised by the American bombs during the war, Honda chose to see the bombs as a gift. It takes flexibility to reframe a negative situation. To the rigid person there is only one way of looking at things and only one interpretation of events; things are seen as either black or white with no attention paid to the different shades of grey that may lie between the extremes.
All people have ambitions, and all people are entitled to pursue their ambitions. Rigidity is an enemy of achievement and so is uncontrolled flexibility. Winners focus on their goals but vary their strategies depending on the terrain.