Dr. Maulana Karenga initiated Kwanzaa, the observance of ancient African virtues the same year Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. A half-century later, millions of people worldwide spend seven days in December affirming unity, self-determination, collective work, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
Yes, it’s hard to be an initiator, but just look at all the holidays, organizations, rituals, businesses, et cetera, that would not exist if someone had not taken that first step. Gather colleagues to specify certain workplace (or other-place) values. Determine how those values could be recognized by a group that shares those values. Give the ritual a name, pick a time for its observance, and begin spreading the word.
If you are still hesitating, consider the words of author Leo Rosten: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. The purpose of life is to matter, to be productive, to have it make some difference that you lived at all.”
INCORPORATE MOTHER NATURE INTO A “RICHUAL”
There’s another way you can create a ritual and turn it into a “ritual” that enriches everyday activities. Consider Dr. Jonas Salk, who–when asked how he came upon the cure for polio–told a reporter, “I learned to think the way Mother Nature thinks.” We can transfer this perspective to team work. Whenever a meeting has been scheduled for problem-solving purposes, send out a fact sheet focused on one particular animal. Then, when the team convenes, ask how the things they’ve learned about the animal kingdom could be applied to the situation at hand. To illustrate:
Prairie dogs share their land with larger creatures, who flatten the prairie vegetation, making it easier for prairie dogs to spot enemies. But some enemies can’t be avoided: ranchers pay handsomely to have the dogs sucked into a vacuum and killed. Ranchers, despite research to the contrary, believe the dogs are devouring grass intended for cattle. They admit hating prairie dogs mostly because their granddaddies hated them. Prairie dogs are surprisingly human-like. They live in family groups, kiss, fight with each other, warn one another of danger, and have a language system all their own.
The very first fact in this passage might get a problem-solver thinking about benchmarking with a larger company. The arrangement might allow the smaller company to see dangers not yet evident at the grass-roots level. Many other extensions from the world of nature to the world of business can be made as well.
START A NEW TRADITION
Pat Conroy, author of “The Prince of Tides” and many other spectacular novels,
asserts “the human soul can always use a new tradition.” Creating a ritual of your own will be good for more souls than your own.